10:34 hours - not finished.
First things first - if you're playing the Wii version (as opposed to the Ps2 version that comes with Japanese VO) turn off the voices. Life is so much better when you're a ninja blo...I mean when you turn off the dub. The dub is awful.
So - Sakura Taisen is one of my favourite series. I love the first two games and I'm fond of the third. Never played the fourth but it's more like an expansion pack anyway. This game is the only one that was translated - lord knows why, and it was released 5 years after its release in Japan. So this game is actually from 2005. Oddly Idea Factory did the work on the Wii port.
Set in 1920s New York (with a Sinatra song subtitle) - SWV stars the nephew of original protagonist Ogami, known as Shinjiro Taiga (Shin, Shiny, Tiger, Shinster, Kid...etc) who is sent to lead (join) the New York branch of the Revue corps. The TLDR of the world is that it's a steampunk 1920 universe with demons, the Meiji restoration never happened, Japan is the good guy, and its all very very anime.
As the precursor to Valkyria Chronicles (as Shenmue was to Yakuza) the game is split into 3 sections. Visual Novel style elements, action scenes and VC style tactical gameplay. Oddly, these three elements work very well together - your relationships with the 5 girls determine how powerful their stats are during the combat phase. Whether they like you or not actually means something beyond romance...as you (eventually) become their captain it makes sense that a belief and trust in their captain would improve their abilities as pilots. It's a great system and the combat is great too.
Like VC you have a limited amount of pips that act as both movement and attack. These amounts can change dependant on the above mentioned relationships between Taiga and the ladies. Movement, healing and supers cost one pip (with supers and healing dependant on a mana gauge that fills via gameplay) while attacks can take from 1-5 pips. More pips = more damage. There are also combo attacks that power up dependant on the friendship levels between characters. Unless you're a complete idiot/bastard to everyone you should have a pretty good crew by the end of the game.
Speaking of which - lets talk about the characters.
Taiga is your typical MC who's job it is to reach everyone, break through their difficulties and raise their trust in him. He's not the most interesting character but I should think that's intentional. Even though he's 19 he does act like a 16 year old at times.
Gemini is the main girl (a la Sakura) and is from Texas. She's a samurai cowboy because of course she is. Her VO is the second worst in the game but she's a good character. She's the first girl you meet but the last that joins. I should note that each of the chapters focuses on one of the girls until they've all joined. Gemini's story is straight up anime bullshit, but fun.
Chae..Ch..Saggi...Karen is the next of the girls. She's a lawyer from Harlem and her chapter plays out like a bad Phoenix Wright case. She's a cool character though once she stops spouting nonsense every 30 seconds. Her mech is kinda cool too, with dual whip like things.
Next up is Rosita. Gem is 16 (I think), Karen is in her 20s, Rosita is..er...11. Now, before you get on your Lolihorse it's made pretty clear that it's nothing like that (though that's the US version) and that the relationship is sibling like. Even so..it's a bit weird (just like the French girl in the original games...) Anyway Rrrrosita is I guess Mexican? Has the worst, most annoying VO in the game and is just a super hungry, gun wielding cartoon character with a sad past. Nothing to see here.
I think Diana came next - Diana is in her 20s, Blonde and begins in a wheelchair due to a terminal illness (she's got too much power and it's killing her..spoilers). Her story leans on Hamlet and the 'to be or not to be' nonsense. She's a doctor but far too straight laced. Even so, she's a nice girl and ranked second in my list. Her wide attacks as a mech and healing are pretty great.
Next is Subaru. Subaru is Subaru and is also best Subaru.
I adore Subaru....and I'm mildly shocked by the characters inclusion in a game from 2005. Even today it would be interesting...and also problematic.
Why is Subaru problematic? Well..Subaru themselves aren't problematic. The thing with Subs is that they're gender fluid. When you originally meet Subs its not entirely clear whether they are male or female. In fact it's one of the characters favourite wind ups to be vague about their gender. This is rather undone by the fact that everyone refers to Subaru as 'Miss' or by the pronoun 'She'. 2005 remember? Also, given the nature of the game it's pretty obvious that Subaru is biologically female, but as she says to Taiga (and everyone) Subaru is Subaru and it doesn't matter.
If that was all to their character, well, Subs would be a interesting and great inclusion - but oh, there's so much more. They begin as the 'Spock' of the group - being hyper logical and stand offish. Viewed as a genius, they tend to be the character that works out whats going on first and it's nice to be able to share this knowledge with someone else. At times they're literally eye rolling at how dumb the storyline is. Once you hit their (do you know how difficult it is to write about someone without using standard pronouns?) story episode - they move from being interesting to being GREAT. The pulling down of the walls around their heart is fantastic - the date is fantastic and the ending (pick whatever you think I look best in, it doesn't matter to me) is just...the best.
The problem is...Subaru may say that Subaru is Subaru but the game doesn't leave it vague and kinda overwrites their proclamation with a 'hey, don't worry about it kids shes a she' just in case anyone was getting worried there. Just remember this is 2005/2010 and respect it for what it is.
Subaru is literally one of my favourite characters of all time now.
So. I should state that I didn't finish the game - I got to the last chapter and realised that the ending was just 8 or so battle sequences after another, and here's the rub. While the mechanics are fine, the actually mission structure and battles are ridiculously boring - especially given that they have time limits, spawning enemies, and multiple zones. Yup, you have to go from map to map like in VC and that just annoys me. So I gave up at the end and watched the endings on YT. I finished the game as far as I'm concerned. Like Shadow of War it just overdid it
So TLDR - okay story, good to FANTASTIC characters, good battle system, boring missions. Still not as good as the first two games.
4 'I swear I've killed Nobunaga more than any other historical person ever, even Hitler has nothing on total Nobunaga deaths' /5
Subaru best Subaru