As Sakura Taisen week comes to an end, the SEGAbits writers and I look ahead to the future of the franchise. While we’re certain Japanese gamers want a sixth title, here in the West we’re still waiting for localized releases of the first four games. While there are no signs of Sakura Taisen 1-4 seeing a Western release anytime soon, that doesn’t stop us from speculating and sharing our own ideas for how SEGA could give gamers these SEGA classics. And who knows, with the recent developments of SEGA acquiring Atlus’s parent company Index and SEGA surprising us all with the localization of Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F, perhaps there is a future for the franchise in the West. Check out our thoughts after the break!
[Image credit: The Gagaman]
I was first introduced to the Sakura Taisen series when I was browsing through ADV Films anime preview disc back in 2001, and was amazed by the music and character designs. I also noticed that SEGA’s name was on the copyright info. It surprised me that SEGA was involved in producing the franchise, and after that I was really curious about the series and did tons of research on SEGA of Japan’s website.
In 2010, I finally got my hands of the fifth game, Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love on the PS2, but I was undecided on whether or not to play it due to its gameplay and newer characters that I wasn’t familiar with. When I finally decided to play the game, I was fascinated with it’s deep dramatic storyline, the dating sim gameplay, the character development, and the combat system. However, I wanted to go back to the beginning of the series by starting with Sakura Taisen. So, bought the Sakura Taisen: Complete Box Collection for the SEGA Dreamcast on ebay to experience what made the series popular in Japan to begin with. Upon completing the games from beginning to the end, I must say that Sakura Taisen was Overworks and RED Entertainment’s masterpiece.
“Namco Bandai’s Project X Zone really helped boost awareness of the Sakura Taisen series.”
It disappointed me that the first four games of the series have never been localized due to SEGA’s American and European division assuming that the series would not be appealing to a Western audience during the Saturn era. However, with SEGA West recently releasing Hatsune Miku titles to the west and purchasing out Atlus, I believe it’s a possibility for the company to localize the rest of the games digitally on PSN and Steam to reduce development costs or for SEGA of Japan to remake the first game once again with new gameplay mechanics inspired by Valkyria Chronicles. Also, Namco Bandai’s Project X Zone really helped boost awareness of the Sakura Taisen series and I think it would also benefit SEGA to branch out the series a little more by having its main character (Sakura Shinguji) along with other Japanese influenced SEGA IPs represented in the next Sonic & SEGA All-Stars crossover game. After all, the series has played a huge role in SEGA’s history.
Barry the Nomad
Like many American SEGA fans, I knew very little of the Sakura Taisen franchise when it was at its peak during the Saturn and Dreamcast eras. I was aware of it, but only to the point of recognizing the name and the main characters from artwork with occasionally appeared in American gaming magazines, typically when they reported on the happenings in Japanese gaming. If the series was mentioned, it was brushed off as something we’d likely never see in the West. As such, I assumed Sakura Taisen was just another silly Japanese dating sim. How wrong I was.
In early 2010 I picked up the Playstation 2 collector’s edition of Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love, mainly because a collector’s edition of anything SEGA related is rare for the West. Suffice to say, the game drew me in with entertaining dialogue, and an interesting combination of RTS gameplay and dating sim mechanics. Now that I’m caught up on the fifth game in the franchise, I would love to see the first four titles localized. The easiest solution would be translated ports of the Playstation 2 versions released to PSN for PS3 and PS4 owners. Simply give the games a worldwide release, offering the East yet another way to purchase the games, and allowing Westerners to finally see what all the hype was about. A second, more complicated, release method would be to release the series on iOS devices. As somebody who has been addicted to Phoenix Wright HD, I could easily see the four Sakura Taisen titles working well on a mobile platform. The one downside to this is, of course, the effort that would need to go into mobile ports as well as downgrading the experience from the home TV screen to a smartphone.
[Image Credit: StudioZEL]
With the Western release of Hatsune Miku, it seems like SEGA is seeing a potential with their Japanese games going stateside, and with digital distribution becoming a much safer method of releasing games, Sakura Taisen could benefit from a collection of the first two games to see if anyone is interested. Interest in the series is definitely out there, though SEGA is missing prime opportunities to capitalize on the general anime or manga fanbase in western territories. For example, Funimation re-released Sakura Wars the Movie on Blu Ray in October of last year. Other potential cross promotion would be free DLC for their All-Stars games like Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, especially since the Japanese version recently came out and is showing no hints of Danica Patrick in sight. (Though she wasn’t replaced either.)
The game has seen several re-releases on different platforms, but mobile devices have the benefit of being much cheaper to obtain compared to game consoles, especially with the likes of the Xbox and Playstation consoles, and Nintendo has already soured third parties from working with them on their consoles ever again. Sakura Wars’ gameplay can benefit from short bursts from the dialogue system to the real time strategy elements of the game. With the Playstation Portable version, SEGA has converted over the first two games. If they wanted to simplify the translation process further, they can look into bringing the game to iOS or Android platforms and find ways to save on space by simplifying FMV scenes and taking out the voice acting. This will likely hurt the game’s presentation, but for low cost efforts, this is the safer bet.
I may not know much about the series, but it does seem charming, if a little over the top, but there is definitely a base SEGA can cater to, and they seem more willing than ever to experiment with their classic franchises. There are also several other publishers who are pushing as much as possible to bring the series over, but the chances grow higher and higher as time moves on.
[Image credit: Horikiri]
Having never played or known much about Sakura Taisen myself, there’s not a ton I can say about how I would like to see the games localized, which ones I’d want brought over, and on which platforms. Instead, I’ll use this Round Table to rant a little about titles not being localized in general.
“…studios like NIS America, and even Atlus, have managed to find their niche among Western gamers.”
It’s true that there are some types of games that simply do not work everywhere; a strategy RPG with dating sim elements may very well be one of them. Quite plainly, it was not a series developed with Western gamers in mind, and I understand that. But in the age of digital distribution, which should theoretically allow such games to be brought to the West with far less risk than they otherwise would have been, I don’t see why SEGA can’t give it a try just once.
Chances are, the games would not find a huge audience in the West, but then again, similar games from studios like NIS America, and even Atlus, have managed to find their niche among Western gamers, so I don’t see the harm in trying. SEGA would of course have to spend some money on a localization and whatever other fees are associated with a Digital release; I wouldn’t encourage the company to try a full retail release unless there was a definitive interest among the gaming community, but digital seems like an appropriate platform for such a strange game.
Should a digital version prove to be successful, it would hopefully pave the way for more titles that may have in the past been deemed “Too Japanese” for Western audiences to see release over here, and I can’t see that as being a bad thing. If it fails, it fails, but at least it’ll have been given a shot.
[Image credit: wooshiyong]
“…rather than waiting until Hell reaches absolute-zero, I’d like to see the Sakura Wars franchise receive a PSN release…”
In a perfect world, SEGA would release localized versions of all four Sakura Wars games for the Dreamcast, so that I could finally play these games on a proper SEGA platform. Of course, this is about as likely as Nintendo releasing a console without horribly restrictive DRM. So rather than waiting until Hell reaches absolute-zero, I’d like to see the Sakura Wars franchise receive a PSN release on all three of Sony’s platforms, complete with cross saving features. Given that Sony is strapped for Vita games and is now running a program specifically to answer requests from Playstation users, this not only seems like the best option, but the most viable option. Playstation consoles already have a built in potential user base given the moderate success of Valkyria Chronicles, and on top of that this route will also make the franchise available on current gen, next gen and handheld platforms! Ideally, I’d like to see SEGA itself localize the franchise, either through its western branch or through Atlus. I’d really like to see SEGA test the waters with potential localizations of old games that never made it over, and Sakura Wars would be a great place to start.
That said, I’d gladly settle for a budget, subbed localization from Sony or NIS America. Alternatively, if Sony or another publisher doesn’t see the potential, the Sakura Wars franchise also presents an opportunity for Nintendo to get some exclusive, high quality out on their own software-strapped platform, the Wii U. The success of Fire Emblem clearly demonstrates that there is a market for Japanese strategy games on their platforms. The fact that the Wii played host to the only iteration of the franchise to make it stateside should certainly help.
Personally, I’m holding out hope that one day some hackers will see fit to release an english patch for the Dreamcast and Saturn versions of these games. It’s been great seeing games like the Japanese only Shining Force 3 scenarios and SEGAGAGA get fan-made patches. Hopefully, Sakura Wars will one day get similar treatment, especially if SEGA continues to neglect it.
Thank you for joining us for Sakura Taisen week! It has been a lot of fun looking back on the franchise. If you missed any of our features this week, you can refer to the handy links below: