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Sakura Wars review – heartfelt, over-the-top anime romp

Originally conceived back in 1996 as a way to offer an RPG franchise on the Sega Saturn, the original Sakura Wars series was a mix of visual novel, dating sim and round-based strategy combat. It follows an all-female theatre troupe based at Tokyo’s Imperial Theatre, putting on shows as the Flower Troupe to keep the spirits of the populace high, while also acting as the Imperial Combat Revue, a paramilitary operation tasked with defending the capital from monsters. To do so, they use mechs called Kobu, powered by the strength of their spirit.

With its anime stylings and a cast of lovable protagonists, the franchise became a wild hit in Japan before its fate was sealed along with the Dreamcast. The west only saw the localisation of the last Sakura Wars game, Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love, its New York setting and all-new cast considered a good entry point into a series often deemed to be too Japanese.

This new Sakura Wars constitutes a soft reboot, set a decade after the events of the originals and using established gameplay but featuring a completely new cast. You take the role of Navy ensign Seijuro Kamiyama, who becomes the Flower Troupe’s new captain. It’s your job to help restore the Imperial Theatre to glory and keep Tokyo safe. In order to make a gaggle of women into a real team, you need to get to know them, help them overcome personal struggles and realise their true potential.

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