Sakura Taisen 3: Is Paris Burning? is the third installment in the popular dating sim / tactical combat series Sakura Taisen. Unlike Sakura Taisen 2, which was basically "more of the same, only better", much of the formula from the previous games is changed up for this one, giving it an unexpectedly fresh yet polished feel. The usual cycle of adventure-battle-adventure is still very much present, but the setting is totally different, the combat system is substantially altered, and the previous entries' kitschy aesthetic has been polished to a blinding sheen.
Following on from the previous games' storyline, the game sees protagonist Ichirou Ogami assigned to the newly-formed Paris Assault Force, complete with an all-new cast of characters and a couple of returning, uh, favorites. It seems Paris is under attack from what appear to be a group of demented cartoon characters driving giant robots. Ogami's *ahem* experience and leadership skills will be instrumental in helping the five female pilots and various other members of the Paris Assault Force to counter the threat, operating from their secret HQ underneath a Parisian cabaret - the distinctly Moulin Rouge-esque Chattes Noires. Will Ogami find yet another "special someone" among his fellow pilots? (You bet.) Will he get away with it? (Like hell.) What is the dark secret behind the peculiar menagerie of foes they face? (Play the game and find out!)
Once again, the story of the game is divided into episodes, lending it a very distinct "interactive anime" feel, and the bulk of each episode is the adventure mode. This time, though, Ogami isn't confined to a single building, and at least once per episode there's the opportunity to wander the streets of alternate-history Paris. The timed conversation options from the previous games are still present, and in addition there's an "analog" conversation type where the player has to decide, for example, exactly how hard to shake another character's hand.
It's in the combat sections, though, that Sakura Taisen 3 really stands out as different from its predecessors. Gone is the 2-D grid of the previous games, replaced by a full 3-D battlefield which allows the player to direct the Koubu mecha in a free-roaming manner. It's similar in some ways to the later Phantom Brave and, of course, Sega's own Valkyria Chronicles, and players will find that the system is far more carefully fine-tuned to reduce the efficacy of exploitative tactics.
The Dreamcast version apparently makes full use of the Dreamcast VMU to display additional information.
A number of characters, including Ohgami (of course), return from earlier entries in the series. The following major characters appear for the first time in Sakura Taisen 3:
Birthday: August 15, 1909
Weight: 45 kg
Blood Type: A
Erica suffers from the unusual position of having not only a double but a triple identity. She is a nun in training at the local convent by day, a cabaret dancer at Chattes Noires by night, and one of the pilots in the Paris Assault Force. To make matters worse, she's extremely ditzy and clumsy which causes nothing but trouble at Chattes Noires and her convent. Oddly enough, she's actually fairly competent fighter in the Paris Assault Force.
Birthday: April 18, 1907
Weight: 46 kg
Blood Type: B
Being the "Sumire" to Erica's "Sakura", Glycine hails from a wealthy Norman family, with all the haughtiness and airs that implies. However, where Sumire is elegant and bitchy Glycine comes across as straightforward and unnervingly aggressive. She even challenges our hero to a duel with poleaxes.
Birthday: May 22, 1906
Weight: 46 kg
Blood Type: O
Hanabi is the daughter of Duke Kitaoji, a Japanese noble. Besides being the token Japanese girl in the group, she's also timid, depressed, and just this side of gothy. Not long before the events of the game her fiance, Philip, died in a shipwreck. Hanabi's story in Sakura Tasiden 3 has to do with her coming to terms with Philip's death and moving on.
Birthday: October 10, 1914
Weight: 36 kg
Blood Type: A
The Sakura Taisen series seems to have a rule that every game must have a small girl in the cast and Coquelicot fills that role for this installment. Of Vietnamese extraction, she was orphaned at a very young age, and later taken in as a performer in a traveling circus. Coquelicot is in many respects the polar opposite of Iris, the little girl from the previous two games. Iris is stereotypically feminine, girly and prone to emotional explosions. Coquelicot on the other hand is tomboyish and fiercely independent. She seems to regard Ogami as purely a big brother and nothing more but she still gets awfully defensive when their relationship is threatened.
Birthday: November 13, 1903
Weight: 64 kg
Blood Type: AB
Lobelia probably has the most unusual background of any Sakura Taisen character so far. She's an extremely dangerous criminal, utterly without compassion at the start, and is capable of summoning fireballs by sheer mental power. She joins the group for purely self-centred reasons, but by the end of the game, things are a little different...