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   Sakura Taisen 3 - Reader Retroview  

Ooh la la! Paris Mademoiselle, trés magnifique!
by JuMeSyn

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Mild
COMPLETION TIME
~40 hours
OVERALL

5.0/5

Rating definitions 

   Bonjour! Sakura Wars 3 takes place in Paris, trés magnifique! And in the fine tradition of Sakura Wars games, it is trés bien! For the import RPGamer in search of a superb title to behold in all its grandeur on the Dreamcast, this is it! Those new to Sakura Wars will have a splendid time, and those coming from the exemplary heritage of the earlier games will not be disappointed. Sacré bleu!

   Sakura Wars 3 begins one month after Sakura Wars 2 ended, with Ichiro Ohgami sent to Paris on a special mission. Not long after he debarks from the train in Paris, what he’s doing becomes apparent: as the Captain of the Paris Kagekidan, he and his all-female fighting troupe must protect the city from the forces of evil via the Koubu steam-powered robots that are ready for his command here as they were in Tokyo. Seems that the successes of the Teikokukagekidan were noticed elsewhere, and the French government is constructing its own Kagekidan in the sincerest form of flattery. Au chante!

Lobelia hails from Transylvania.  I’m not sure if all Transylvanians become master criminals, but there’s a precedent here…. Lobelia hails from Transylvania. I’m not sure if all Transylvanians become master criminals, but there’s a precedent here….

   Sakura Wars’ format being akin to an interactive anime with tactical combat, an introduction to the cast is in order. Ichiro Ohgami is the same fellow who, because of his unique status of being a male with strong spiritual powers, is once again called upon to guide his all-female troupe through their duties. Erica Fontaine is possibly the clumsiest Sister in the Catholic Church, and somehow she wields a machine gun…. Glycine Bleumer is the prideful scion of a long French aristocracy line. Coquelicot is a circus performer originally from Vietnam, with bonus points for being adorable. Lobelia Carlini is a master criminal who would spend the rest of her life, plus many other lifetimes, in jail without the Paris Kagekidan recruiting her. Kitaoji Hanabi is Glycine’s longtime friend, who seems to have a very morbid incident upon which she dwells. Outside the Kagekidan’s fighting members are Grand Mere, the woman who heads the Chattes Noires establishment that serves as a front for the Kagekidan’s activities and commands Ohgami; Ci Caprice and Mell Raison, the maids who run much of Chattes Noires; Jean the master mechanic responsible for upkeep of the Koubu; Ambassador Sakomizu who introduces Ohgami and Grand Mere; and Inspector Evian of the Paris Police. Naturally villains will be introduced, and they’re an anthropomorphic lot: Nadel the scorpion-woman and Leon the lion-man come to mind. And the members of the Teikokukagekidan do make appearances later on….

   As in the first two games, Ohgami will frequently have to answer questions from his troupe and anyone else he interacts with. Sometimes these interactions are automatic, sometimes they result from Ohgami having free time and finding someone doing something of interest. A change in Ohgami’s movements from the first two games is that, while Chattes Noires is a large establishment, he can leave it to wander the streets of Paris also. True, the streets of Paris aren’t nearly as large as they could have been, but it adds a nice ambience. The actual interactions still have the timed responses being required, with silence being an option also – without a translation handy only people familiar with Japanese will be able to cope well in these situations. Sometimes the answers change as a little time passes, with the new answers not always being improvements. There is also the potential for timed questions to occur within a larger time limit that must be met. New twists to this system include the ‘conversation’ parts, wherein Ohgami is trying to get a group of people to do something and must talk to each of the people within the group in an effort to get everyone in concordance. There is also the Analog portion, where what Ohgami will say is set but how he says it must be determined by the player’s pressure on the analog stick. As in the earlier games, Ohgami will win favor or disfavor with the five female members of the Paris Kagekidan by his answers. Unlike in the earlier games, he can win favor or disfavor with important characters he does not command – this can come into play with certain situations that will only occur if characters trust Ohgami greatly later on.

   The favor of the Paris Kagekidan members directly translates into improved battle statistics, when those portions of the game arrive. Battles are turn-based, but look rather different than the Fire Emblem/Shining Force-derived battles of the earlier Sakura Wars titles. Upon the beginning of the turn, a character has a seven-level gauge (improved statistics can add a level or two to the gauge). Taking actions will drain the gauge. Moving will drain it, attacking will drain it. Attacks have changed also: any character can use between one and five levels of the gauge at once in attacking. Using one level will produce a very weak attack, using more will cause the attacks to combo into each other for greatly increased damage. This applies to enemies also, causing enemies in attack range to become much more dangerous than distant ones. Characters will randomly assist each other in attacks on the battlefield, and can also preempt enemy attacks in a random defensive maneuver. Special attacks can be used at any time and use only one gauge level. Recovery (healing) can also be used at any time so long as the appropriate gauge level is met. Ohgami can still protect members of the Kagekidan thrice in battle with a command of his own: protecting another member increases trust. Ohgami can also alter the battle plan on his turn, which changes how many gauge levels are needed to perform actions and makes certain actions (depending upon the strategy he chooses) unusable.

A Japanese naval officer leads two French lasses in steam-powered robot combat with the British flag in evidence.  Some captions write themselves… A Japanese naval officer leads two French lasses in steam-powered robot combat with the British flag in evidence. Some captions write themselves…

   Challenge is not high for the most part, with the Pawns the populate battlefields being easily dispatched. There are some battles that will require attention, and for the first time I actually lost a battle in a Sakura Wars game while playing 3. The game’s story takes awhile to play though, around 40 hours, and shortening that length isn’t feasible. Replay value is, once again, through the roof. While there are ‘only’ five endings for each of the five members, there are scores of scenes that must be located when Ohgami wanders the streets of Paris – many of which occur concurrently and cannot be viewed in the same play. There are also character-specific events later on that only occur when Ohgami chooses a Vice Captain.

   Visuals outside of battle look about the same as in 1 and 2 on Saturn, which is not a detriment. About the only difference from what was capable on Saturn is how seamless the FMV interludes now are, and some noticeable color enhancement. Inside of battle the Dreamcast’s capabilities are fully used, with impressive special attacks and fluid movement of all the participants. Detail is not lacking either.

   Aurally Sakura Wars 3 is outstanding. Kohei Tanaka has somehow managed to compose music outside of battle that has a French feel, and he is to be commended. Inside of battle and during dramatic moments the music is also superb. Voice acting encompasses a large cast once more, and once more the voices are perfectly matched to the characters. Voice acting is not omnipresent but quite plentiful.

   To anyone familiar with the Sakura Wars titles, I need say no more. Sakura Wars 3 carries on with the tradition of the series while adding tasty pieces and casting another glorious spell over the player. To anyone with a Dreamcast and an affinity for imports who has somehow not heard of this title – get on it. The fact that the game never had an English translation keeps its audience down greatly, but to any who play it the beauty will be apparent. Sakura Wars 3 is an outstanding title, worthy of play by anyone with the slightest interest. Au revoir!

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