Retro Review: Sakura Taisen 2

After the first Sakura Taisen game was met with commercial and critical success in 1996, a sequel was inevitable. The SEGA Saturn, though successful in Japan, was hemorrhaging money abroad, making a sequel to one of the company’s few late 90s success stories all the more important. So, SEGA collaborated with RED again to produce a sequel.

Sakura Taisen 2: Kimi, Shinitamou Koto Nakare, which roughly translates to “Beloved, You Must Not Die” was released for the SEGA Saturn on April 4th, 1998 as a three disc set. Introducing two new characters and improved game play, it remains the most successful game in the series. It sold over half a million copies, making it the second best-selling dating sim of all time. It was re-released for the SEGA Dreamcast two years later with brand new features that showed what the system was capable of.

Here is our retro review of Sakura Taisen 2 for the Saturn and Dreamcast.

Story

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Sakura Taisen tells the story of Flower Division, a squad of female mech pilots who defend the Japanese Imperial capital of Teito from various demonic threats. The story of Sakura Taisen 2 starts a year after the defeat of Aoi Satan, the main antagonist of the first game. Ogami Ichiro, the Captain of the Imperial Assault Force, returns to the Imperial Capital after completing his duties as an officer in the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Sakura Taisen 2 also introduces two new members of Flower Division: Orihime Soletta, a half Italian/Japanese young woman who despises Japanese men, and Reni Milchstraße, a young but emotionless girl from Germany. This time, it’s the Black Demon Society that has it out for the Imperial Capital, and it’s up to the Imperial Assault Force to protect the Imperial Capital from evil once again. The plot has some twists and turns, and can be both serious and funny: one of my favorite scenes in the game is where the Imperial Assault Force members take a summer vacation and have a pillow fight afterwards. Sakura Taisen 2‘s plot is ceaselessly optimistic and has several cute little moments like this.

Gameplay & Graphics

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Sakura Taisen 2 plays similarly to its predecessor, though with some improvements. If you have a cleared game save from Sakura Taisen 1, the data carries over to Sakura Taisen 2. Everything that you did in the first game is acknowledged and the lady you ended up with in the previous game even welcomes you back. In Adventure Mode, the characters and background artwork are visually amazing and sport a much cleaner look.

The LIPS system, which allowed Captain Ogami to have conversations with the members of Flower Division and built up a trusting relationship with them, returns from the previous game with some additions. There is now a personality gauge added below the dialog box, which uses color (Blue for strict/Pink for kindness) to demonstrate whether a player’s LIPS decisions are kind or strict. Another addition to the LIPS system is the Double Lips feature, which gives player more time to make decisions and changes up the answers when the timer reaches halfway.

The best new feature introduced by Sakura Taisen 2 is the ability to make strategic decisions before entering Battle mode. These decisions will affect how entire missions play out, and also add a nice incentive to come back and replay the game later with different decisions.  For example, in one chapter Ogami can choose to either protect Army Minister Kyougoku from the enemy, or to create a decoy to help him escape. The Dreamcast version brings some additional improvements. Animations will appear on the VMU screen on certain occasions, such as when you perform deathblows during combat. It will also display the expressions of the various Flower Division members when Ogami is talking to them in Adventure Mode when he earns trust points.  The Dreamcast version also adds a new idle animation. Leave the game sitting for too long, and an army of chibi Sakuras will come marching across the screen!

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Battle Mode uses the grid battle system from its predecessor, though with some neat improvements added to the mix. Your troupe can now work together to attack an enemy at the same time, which can be used as great strategy tactics. All Koubu mechs have new animations and design changes to give the pilots more character in battle, along with new special attacks that display the Koubu mechs in full 3D. Best of all, when you have a lead lady with the most trust points, the Couple Attack will be initiated with a unique visual anime cutscene, dealing a devastating blow to all the enemies on screen.

Long Day Mode returns with nine new mini-games and many other features that the player unlocks during Adventure Mode.  The player can revisit them by conversing with a member of the Imperial Assault Force. While some minigames are enjoyable to play, others are not casual player friendly, like Sakura’s mini game. It requires the player to slash a stack of straws by pressing the X,A, & B buttons. The straws come by a bit too fast for me when they’re in groups, which usually results in me failing the mini-game pretty quickly. In addition to the mini games, players can also listen to music and re-watch story/battle cutscenes by talking to a member of the Flower Division staff in the Imperial Theater.

Music

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Kohei Tanaka, who worked on the first Sakura Taisen as well as several anime productions, returns to compose the original soundtrack in the sequel. My favorite song would have to be during the battle sessions, because it gives me a relaxed yet determined feeling, pumping me up for the fight. The music also brings life into Adventure Mode with its themes of sadness and excitement. Some of the vocal songs in the game are performed by the voice cast, who sing their own catchy and peaceful character theme songs.

 

Conclusion

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Sakura Taisen 2 would have to be one of my favorite titles in the series, tied only with the third game due to its lengthy story, amazing soundtrack, improved battle system, and character development. It’s a huge shame that this game never received a localization because it really is one of SEGA’s greats. Still, that doesn’t mean the game is completely inaccessible to English speaking gamers, because there is an extensive guide for this and the three other games over at GameFAQs. Players who want to experience the best game in the series can jump right in, because even though the save files from the first game do carry over into the second, it isn’t necessary to enjoy this game.

This game can be found quite easily for both the Dreamcast and the Saturn, and there is even a PSP port that bundles the first two titles together. They can be found at most video game import outlets and eBay. There is also a PC port, but it’s quite rare. Sakura Taisen 2 is one of the best classic dating sim/tactical strategy games out there and I recommend it to any retro gamers curious about SEGA imports.

Positive:

  • Improve game play features
  • Longer storyline then the first game
  • CG Special Attacks
  • Amazing Soundtrack
  • Continuing saves from the last game

Negative:

  • Mini games can be difficult at times
  • It isn’t in English

A“If you’re interested in a Japanese import with high replay value, or if you’re just a hardcore SEGA fan who’s curious about Japanese-exclusive titles, I recommend checking this game out.”

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