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Video Game / Sakura Wars (1996)

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Sakura Wars is a video game released for the Sega Saturn in 1996. One of the most successful games in Japan developed by Sega and the first chapter of the Sakura Wars series, this marked the beginning of the titular franchise. The animation sequences were produced by TMS Entertainment, which is also owned by Sega.

The story begins in 1923, during the Taisho period. Despite steam power being commonplace, a five-member team called the Hive of Darkness has been attacking Tokyo. A young naval ensign, Ichiro Ogami (Akio Suyama), is recruited to lead the Imperial Combat Revue's Flower Division, which consists of fellow new recruit and swordswoman Sakura Shinguji (Chisa Yokoyama), top actress Sumire Kanzaki (Michie Tomizawa), Russian markswoman Maria Tachibana (Urara Takano), French telepath Iris Châteaubriand (Kumiko Nishihara), mechanic Kohran Li (Yuriko Fuchizaki) and the Okinawan karate expert Kanna Kirishima (Mayumi Tanaka). With the help of commander Ikki Yoneda (Masaru Ikeda) and vice-commander Ayame Fujieda (Ai Orikasa), the Flower Division must stop the Hive of Darkness from causing chaos in Tokyo while performing stage plays.

The game features a new system called the Live & Interactive Picture System (LIPS), in which you must make a decision that will affect the girls' moods through a Dialogue Tree. The battle portions feature Turn-Based Tactics. Aside from the main storyline, there are also minigames.

Sakura Wars was shortly thereafter ported to the Sega Dreamcast, Microsoft Windows computers and the Playstation Portable. Eventually, in 2003, a Video Game Remake, titled In Hot Blood, was released for the PlayStation 2.

The game was also subsequently released in Russian for the PC for Russia and Russian-speaking countries/territories. In addition, it received a novelization written by scenario writer Satoru Akahori. A Fan Translation for the Sega Saturn version of the game was completed in December 2019. You can watch the trailer for it here.

Sakura Wars: The Gorgeous Blooming Cherry Blossoms, a four-part OVA series, primarily functions as a prequel to the game. The game is followed by Sakura Wars 2: Thou Shalt Not Die.

The game is not to be confused with 2019 game of the same name.

Sakura Wars provides examples of:

  • Action Prologue: The first 85 seconds of the game are spent showing Sakura Shinguji entering Tokyo, only to encounter a Wakiji threatening a few civilians and slicing it in half with her sword Arataka.
  • Adaptation Expansion: In Hot Blood has the updated LIPS and battle systems from Is Paris Burning? and Fall in Love, Maidens. It also has an exclusive chapter that was added on for the sole purpose of 1) providing a Kohran-centered chapter which the original version of the game lacked and 2) to provide the Three Star Division pilots who appear in later sequels with an early cameo to keep their fans happy. Though this addition proved to be controversial, see Flanderization below.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: In chapter 6, Crimson Miroku invades the Imperial Theater so that the Hive of Darkness will cause chaos in Tokyo.
  • Bait-and-Switch Credits: The intro for In Hot Blood features Sakura and Ogami launching into space using a rocket and engaging in combat with Kamui. Nowhere in the game does this happen.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Sakura and Ogami share one in her ending when she sees Ogami catching up to her.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Flower Division defeats Satan, Tenkai and their minions and Tokyo is saved, but Ayame ascends into the heavens as her true form Michael.
  • Bookends: The game opens with Sakura getting off the train to Tokyo. In Sakura's ending, she goes back onto the train heading for Sendai, only for Ogami to catch up with her.
  • Casting Gag: Kohran Li is voiced by Yuriko Fuchizaki, who frequently played Meganekko characters such as Kimiko Higuchi in Gunbuster.
  • Catapult Nightmare: At the beginning of chapter 3, Maria wakes up from a nightmare in which she witnesses her captain being killed in the Russian Revolution.
  • Climactic Battle Resurrection: In the first game, each member of your crew (except your Love Interest) dies while killing a member of the Knights of the twilight. The traitor, Ayame severely wounds your LI (she gets better), then Aoi Satan came and either tempts you to kill Ayame or kills her himself. Yoneda rams the Mikasa towards Seima Castle and after defeating Satan the first time, Ayame comes in her true form, Michael, and resurrect all your friends for one final battle against Satan.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: It seems like the main antagonists will be Tenkai and the Hive of Darkness, although it turns out that Aoi Satan/Shinnosuke Yamazaki revived Tenkai so he can cause chaos in Tokyo.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The rivalry between Sumire and Sakura is evocative of the Shochiku and Takarazuka Revues. Not only did the Shochiku Revue became their first major rival to the Takarazuka Revue, but they even share the same flowers (the cherry blossom for Shochiku and the violet flower for Takarazuka).
  • First Girl Wins: Sakura in her ending scene. She's the only member of the Imperial Combat Revue shown in the game's cover art and discs, as well as the first member to meet Ichiro Ogami.
  • Flanderization: The Kohran scenario from In Hot Blood proved to be controversial among fans for taking Kohran's love for machines too far. In this scenario, she gets upset at the rest of the Revue for treating machines as disposable. However, the things she's upset with (the Koubu having to be deployed before the maintenance is finished due to an attack, Ogami taking a blow meant for her with his Koubu and destroying an immobilized enemy mech) makes her seem completely unreasonable. What's worse, Kohran's inventions blow up all the time, so the idea that she hates her machines being destroyed seems to come out of nowhere, not to mention she has no problem with destroying enemy mechs in all scenarios before this one.
  • Godzilla Threshold: The Imperial Combat Revue uses the Mikasa as a desperate measure to infiltrate the Satsuma and thwart Satan's plans.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: In Sakura's introductory scene, she slices a Wakiji in half to rescue some citizens.
  • The Hero Dies: A subverted example occurs at the end of the game. The rest of the Flower Division's efforts to buy Ogami and the top girl time lead to their deaths, but Michael revives them.
  • Heroic BSoD: Maria gets two. First, she had one bordering on Despair Event Horizon when her captain in the Russian Revolution was killed. Then, she has a major one in chapter 3 when Ogami is seriously injured.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In the final chapter of the game, the rest of the Flower Division sacrifices themselves to allow Ogami and the top girl to fight Satan and Aya-me. This is subverted when Michael revives them soon after.
  • Immediate Sequel: Ichiro Ogami's meeting with Sakura Shinguji starts immediately after the third episode of The Gorgeous Blooming Cherry Blossoms.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Maria when she sees her captain getting fatally shot in her flashback.
    • Maria again when she falls into Setsuna's trap and when Ogami is about to be killed at the end of chapter 3.
    • Sumire and Kanna when they respectively encounter a spider and a snake in chapter 5.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: After Iris decides she's had enough of being treated like a child in chapter 5, she bails from the Imperial Theater in her Kobu. Fortunately, the Flower Division is able to find her.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: In the opening theme animation, Maria aims her gun towards the screen and fires.
  • Secret Test of Character: Ogami's cover as a ticket taker turns out to be a test by the combat revue to prove his worthiness as the team's leader.
  • Time-Limit Boss: If the demons aren't destroyed fast enough in chapter 2, they will destroy Tokyo Tower and force you to restart the level.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The first trailer premiered on the Flash Sega Saturn demo disc, which came with the Saturn console back in March 1996. Towards the end, however, it spoils Sakura's ending, in which she leaves on a train and eventually leaps into Ogami's arms.
  • Trash the Set: At the end of episode 6, the Imperial Theater gets trashed after the Flower Division's battle with Miroku.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: The Flower Division foils Tenkai's plans to attack Tokyo. But there is one problem: Satan is planning to summon the Seima Castle and overrun humanity. Uh-oh.

Alternative Title(s): Sakura Taisen 1996