This is supposed to be a compact enthusiasm-sharing celebration of the first two games in a series I’ve personally loved for about twenty years now, these two and their related spin-offs chosen in particular as they form a wonderful little capsule of content that sets up the rest of the series and all that came from it without getting (too) lost in a never-ending haze of sequels, movies, manga, OVAs, stage shows (although we will kind of end up looking at two of those anyway), model kits, action figures, capsule toys, t-shirts, limited edition Game Boys… *inhales* …posters, albums, watches, bowls, guide books, art books, book-books, audio dramas… you get the idea. We’re here for the cast and their stories, for the catchy songs and the brave last stands, for the fun of it. I hope you find this an enjoyable tribute to Sakura Wars 1 and 2.
A few quick notes before we begin: First off: There will be spoilers everywhere. Secondly, as a series that’s had two (2) games officially released in English in the past twenty six years nobody, including me, has really got a firm and fast list of official terms to work from and while I can’t personally solve the issue overnight I am going to make this series of articles if not right then at least consistently wrong as far as names and so on go.
- 🌸Games will be referred to by the English title written on their spines where such names exist.
- 🌸Named entities will be referred to by their existing Japanese terms (ex: Shougeimaru, Koubu), mostly because literal English translations sound weird and more natural creative terms, in this context, are unhelpful.
- 🌸Groups will be known by translated English names (ex: Flower Division, Moon Division).
- 🌸Full names will be written exclusively in first name>family name order. However I will be referring to characters by the name they are most commonly called by the rest of the cast/the script, ex: Maria (first name), Yoneda (last name).
The first Sakura Wars debuted in 1996, which was happily a pretty good year for the Saturn in any region. This was the year gamers the world over could have walked out of a store clutching a brand new copy of Guardian Heroes, NiGHTS into Dreams, Panzer Dragoon II, or Fighting Vipers. It was a time of bullish home console defiance, trendsetting arcade hits, and Sega still having a real chance. This can-do attitude is found in every aspect of Sakura Wars: It was not only a new IP for the long-running developer-publisher but a strange new genre mash-up too, one that despite the many problems it apparently ran in to during development still appeared on shelves giving the impression it was a game determined to kick off not with a toe-dipping “Let’s see how this goes” but a full-on assault; a two disc extravaganza filled with a large quantity of high quality animated sequences, beautiful artwork, popular voice actors (to give just two examples: Sumire is played by Michie Tomizawa – Sailor Mars, and you might have heard Kanna – Mayumi Tanaka – as either Dragon Ball’s Krillin or some pirate named… what was it again? Monkey D Luffy) and strategy-lite battles using pre-rendered graphics. It shouldn’t have worked at all, never mind come out looking so confident it would never be anything other than a complete success, but it did anyway – and continued to do well on every format (Dreamcast, PC, PlayStation 2, and PSP) it appeared on.
The second game released two years later, a time when the pack-in marketing was advertising Dragon Force II, The House of the Dead and Shining Force III‘s second scenario (as well as the stage show, “Sakura Wars Song Show 2” – there really is no escaping them) and the Saturn was effectively dead everywhere but Japan. It sold even better than the first by quite a large margin in spite of the shorter development period, the increased costs that no doubt accompanied the expanded content now capable of filling three CDs, the fact the game released the same year Japanese fans could also play Sonic Adventure on their Dreamcasts while PlayStation owners were busy getting to grips with unstoppable monsters like Resident Evil 2 and Metal Gear Solid. How did it do this? The answer’s as simple as it is hard: The first game sold well and deserved to do so, making a second helping an easy buy. But Sakura Wars 2 was also brave enough to be itself, to change what needed changing and go over the original with as much a critical eye as it did a commercial one.
Oh! And if you were hoping someone who’s played every version of Sakura Wars 1 and 2 available would tell you which were the best ports to go for, you’re in luck! I recommend… whichever one’s easiest for you to buy and play! I know you probably wanted a definitive answer, but it’s the truth. The Dreamcast and PC versions look a little crisper than the Saturn originals, the PSP release sounds a little worse (the unavoidable result of cramming five CDs worth of content onto a single UMD), and the PlayStation 2 remake of Sakura Wars is so different it’s a beast unto itself (you can read more on that if you follow the Sakura Wars vs Atsuki Chishio Ni link below), but they’re all good and “authentic” and everything I say about either Sakura Wars applies to any and all releases with none so much better or so much worse any other’s rendered obsolete. And if you were worried and/or confused by the whole “save carrying over to the next game” thing – don’t be! Every version of Sakura Wars 2 comes with a lovely opening scenario where Yoneda asks Ogami if there’s anyone he’s looking forward to seeing built in (this also saves you the trouble of playing the first game over and over again to see all the alternatives too).
With that all said, it’s time to dive in! These parts are meant to be standalone pieces (albeit with sensible references to each other) and I’ve included the following links at the bottom of every piece, so please read them in any order you like.
🌸Sakura Wars 1 and 2
🌸Fan Discs and related frippery
Sakura Wars Hanagumi Tsushin (Saturn)
Sakura Wars Steam Radio Show (Saturn)
Teigeki Graph in Sakura Wars (Saturn)
Sakura Wars Denmaku Club 1 & 2 (Windows)
Ogami Ichiro Funtouki (Dreamcast)
Sakura Wars Online (Dreamcast)
Sakura Wars Kinematron Hanagumi Mail (Dreamcast)
[I know I say this a lot but now more than ever this is true: This Sakura Wars Corner would not exist in any shape or form without the support I receive from the kind people who have donated/subscribed to my Ko-fi. Thank you everyone!]