For those of you who missed Part 2, it is available here
The Heavenly-Prince does not himself
Lead by his own august presence his troop to battle.
For to command that men shed blood of men,
And die following the beastly path,
And tell us death be the glory of men,
If his Highness’ heart be compassionate,
How could he truly think it so?
Oh young brother mine in battle,
Prithee you mustn’t die.
-Akiko Yosano, Prithee Do Not Die
By 1997, the popularity of Sakura Wars had taken off in Japan. In July the game’s cast performed their first live stage show, and that December saw the release of the series’ first OVA. The series’ growing popularity meant a sequel was practically guaranteed, and on April 4, 1998, Sakura Wars 2: Prithee, Do Not Die was released to the world.
Taking its title from a controversial anti-war poem by Akiko Yosano (written to her brother, who at the time was fighting in the Russo-Japanese war), Sakura Wars 2 proved to be the series’ most popular title, selling over 500,000 copies. To this day, it remains the 11th best-selling Sega Saturn game of all time and, according to Famitsu readers, the 36th greatest videogame of all time. Like its predecessor, the game is a highly unique character-driven experience similar to titles like Atlus’ Persona 4.
Set one year after the events of the first game, Sakura Wars 2 once again follows Ichiro Ogami as he takes command of the Teikoku Kagekidan after returning from a long naval voyage. The Teikoku Kagekidan soon comes face to face with the Kokkikai; a threat far greater than that represented by the Kuronosukai, the Kokkikai wreak havoc on the capital, and it soon becomes clear that they have friends in high places.
Sakura Wars 2 expands upon the original in every respect. Everything is on a much larger and much grander scale. The plot is far more exciting than that of the original, and manages to avoid the very few missteps the original made. There are some incredible plot twists on display here, and some insanely epic moments. The game’s eighth episode, which is focused almost entirely on story, is the possibly the most intense and exciting in the series history. The game’s plot is also expanded, and plays a much larger part than that of the original.
At the same time, however, Sakura Wars 2 manages to keep a leisurely and relaxing pace. The exciting, action-packed moments are, as always, interweaved with slower, more personal moments focusing on character. The game now occupies three discs instead of two, and has twelve episodes instead of ten, meaning that there’s plenty of time for both character development and plot.
Sakura Wars 2 brings back the entire cast of the original (minus the villains), and adds a number of new ones as well.
The first new squad member is Soletta Orihime. A former member of the Star Division, an experimental squad of Koubu pilots established before the Teikoku Kagekidan and based out of Europe, Orihime is the proud daughter of a noble Italian family. Like Sumire, Orihime’s wealth means she has a highly abrasive personality. Extremely arrogant, Orihime oftentimes believes she can win battles on her own. She also detests Japanese men (she has a reason for it), which leads her to verbally abuse Ogami throughout the game. However, she softens considerably as the game progresses, and eventually becomes very likeable. Her episode is also one of the most interesting in the entire game. She speaks in a comically over-the-top accent that is obvious even to those who don’t speak Japanese.
Reni Milchstrasse is the other new squad member, and was Orihime’s comrade in the Star Division. Hailing from Germany, Reni is a bit of an enigma; she is cold, distant, and emotionless, a stark contrast to the rest of the series’ characters (which is in large part due to her troubled past). She is also concerned only with defeating the enemy and is unwilling to back down to save lives. Reni opens up quite a bit after her episode, and she gets along very well with Iris; the two are basically best friends. She also learns to value the lives of the citizens of Teito.
Kaede Fujieda is an addition to the Teikoku Kagekidan’s support staff. The younger sister of Ayame Fujieda, Kaede is similar to her sister in many ways. Like her sister, she aids Yoneda in running the Teikoku Kagekidan, providing tactical support in battle and serving as a voice of wisdom outside of it. Like her sister, she cares deeply about all the members of the Teikoku Kagekidan, but she is far less flirty with Ogami.
Yuuichi Kayama is one of the game’s best new additions. An old friend of Ogami’s from the naval academy, Kayama wears a white suit with a black-and-white tie, and is almost always carrying around his guitar. He has a tendency to show up out of nowhere and in the weirdest places (sometimes even hanging upside down outside of Ogami’s window). He’ll generally show up to give Ogami some advice after strumming his guitar, on which he only knows how to play a single chord. He has a tendency to make everyone uncomfortable, but he’s also capable of being a complete badass.
There’s also the Bara-gumi (Rose Division), a group of three highly effeminate males who are constantly flirting with Ogami. Yes, all three of them are men, although the members of the Teikoku Kagekidan definitely get confused on that point. The three of them are flamboyant and over-the-top, and provide the game with a major source of comic relief. Initially brought on to “protect” Teito while Ogami and the others go on a hot springs vacation, their true purpose isn’t revealed until later in the game, and, like Kayama, they prove extremely useful in difficult situations.
Finally, there’s Tsubomi. Initially brought in to run the gift shop while Tsubaki is away on a secret mission for Yoneda, Tsubomi takes on various jobs throughout the game. Her catchphrase, “Smile, smile!”, reflects her highly optimistic nature. She’s clumsy and has a tendency to talk a little too much, but she becomes an important member of the Teikoku Kagekidan’s support staff.
Of course, there are also the new villains. The Kokkikai do an admirable job of taking over the role of the Kuronosukai from the previous game, and they have one major advantage over the previous crop of villains: their leader, Oni-ou. Oni-ou is mysterious, striking, and all-around. His demon mask hides his true identity, and his skill with a sword makes him one of the most formidable foes the Teikoku Kagekidan has ever faced. He is easily one of the game’s most memorable new additions.
Somehow, Sakura Wars 2 manages to top the original from a character perspective. Due to the game’s increased length, there is a greater amount of character development. The existing characters have their characterizations deepened even further, and we learn some tragic details about some of the characters’ pasts. The new characters are also fantastic, and bring a lot to the table. Reni, in particular, is fascinating. The game also pulls off the rare feat of having a near-perfect ending, providing a great sense of closure from a character perspective. There are also some great segments where the main plot takes a backseat to character development, including an entertaining hot springs vacation and an absolutely amazing Christmas episode that features no battles and no threats to the safety of Teito. It’s entirely focused on the Teikoku Kagekidan putting on a Christmas play, “Miracle Bells”, and is possibly the greatest example of the series’ prowess when it comes to characters. It also contains one of this author’s favorite songs from the series, “Miracle Bells” (it shares a title with the Christmas play).
And speaking of music, the soundtrack is improved as well. The game brings back much of the music of the first game, but each character has a new theme, with Sakura’s and Reni’s being the highlights. The ending theme is also fantastic, and the game, of course, contains the aforementioned song “Miracle Bells”.
In terms of gameplay, not much has changed, but Sakura Wars 2 still manages to be a step-up from its predecessor. In battle, selected units now have a large character portrait displayed. Special attacks are flashier, and there are now special combo attacks that Ogami can do with certain girls at certain points in the game. The number of covers that can be used per battle has been reduced to three, but boss fights now occupy their own separate battles.
In the story sections, a couple improvements have been made. The minigames tend to be more fun this time around, with some really great ones on display (Kanna’s minigame is especially good). New features have been added to the LIPS system as well; there is a new type of LIPS event where the options will change when half of the timer has run out. Furthermore, there is now a bar representing Ogami’s personality. If Ogami gives serious responses, the bar will become more blue; if he gives joking responses, it will become more pink. This bar gives an indicator of who Ogami is as a person, but it also leads to differing dialogue options at various points in the game.
Overall, Sakura Wars 2 manages to be a major improvement over its already fantastic and already mega-popular predecessor. The gameplay is refined, the soundtrack is better, and the villains are great. But best of all, Sakura Wars 2 manages the feat of expanding the plot to action-packed heights without forgetting about its characters, which are better than ever before. Indeed, Sakura Wars 2, depending on who you ask, may very well be the pinnacle of the entire series, and is certainly the best of the games revolving around the original cast.
Like its predecessor, Sakura Wars 2 is available on both Saturn and Dreamcast, and is incredibly easy to track down. Again, Kayama has a translation guide available over at Gamefaqs. The massive guide allows a much greater amount of player choice when playing the game, translating many different dialogue paths at many different points of the game, and is also compatible with four of the eight girls (Sakura, Kohran, Sumire, and Orihime) instead of the original guide’s one (Sakura). And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and let Sega and any other publishers know that you’re interested in seeing this seminal series come to our shores.
Scenes from Next Episode:
A new console brings a new era for the series,
A fresh start with a new cast and a new setting.
Sakura Wars 3: Is Paris Burning?
Beneath the banner of love,
Paris Floral Assault Squad, go forth!