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What’s Sakura Wars?
Sakura Wars is a series of hybrid adventure/SPRG video games published by Sega. Each game generally follows a male protagonist sent to head up an all-female acting troupe that also doubles as a squad of mecha robot pilots who fight to defend their city against evil. The series’ strong characters, fantastic writing, great battle systems, and hilarious sense of humor have made it a genuine phenomenon in Japan. Despite the series’ immense popularity in Japan, it remains largely unknown in the West. To this day, Western audiences have only received a small portion of the Sakura Wars franchise.
Part One - General Overview
Part Two - Sakura Wars
Part Three - Sakura Wars 2: Prithee, Do Not Die
Part Four - Sakura Wars 3: Is Paris Burning?
Part Five - Sakura Wars 4: Fall in Love, Maidens
Part Six - Sakura Wars V: So Long, My Love
Kiss Me Sweet: The Sakura Wars Localization Project
What’s Available in North America?
Sakura Wars V: So Long My Love (PS2/Wii)
Sakura Taisen: Sumire (OVA)
Sakura Wars: The Movie (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
How to Import?
Games from the Sakura Wars franchise are available for a number of systems. The Sega Saturn is home to the first two games, as well as some fan discs and one of the spinoff titles (Hanagumi Taisen Columns). Imports are easy to play on the Saturn with the Action Replay 4M Plus, which bypasses the system’s region-locking features. You can also install a modchip.
The first two games are also available on the Sega Dreamcast, which is also home to the third and fourth games in the series along with a few spinoff titles. Again, imports are quite easy to play, this time with the Action Replay CDX. You can either purchase a physical copy, or, if you’re feeling bold, download an image from the internet (the Dreamcast is capable of playing burned discs). This does require swapping discs every time you want to play, so if you want to avoid this, you can also have a modchip installed.
The first two games are also available together on the PSP. The PSP is region-free, so you can play with no issues. The bundle is also available on PSN with a Japanese PSN account.
The DS is home to Dramatic Dungeon, a rogue-like Sakura Wars spinoff featuring the entire cast of the series. Again, the DS is region-free, so you can play this one straight with no issues.
Finally, a number of Sakura Wars titles are available on the PS2, including a remake of the first game (which is, unfortunately, incompatible with existing translation guides). To get past the PS2’s region locking, you can either purchase a swap disc or install a modchip.
Although the majority of the Sakura Wars games were never released outside of Japan, the series remains surprisingly accessible. The first four games are all available on Dreamcast (and the first two are also available on Saturn), and playing imports on a Dreamcast or a Saturn is quite easy. There are also high-quality translation guides available from Kayama, and the games are very cheap to purchase.
There are two fantastic starting points for the Sakura Wars franchise. The first is Sakura Wars V: So Long, My Love. This is, as of now, the only Sakura Wars game released in the West. While it is the fifth game in the series, it moves the action to a new setting, with a new cast and a new protagonist. As such, it stands apart from the rest of the series, and is a fantastic starting point for new players. The PS2 version is recommended over the Wii version.
The other great starting point is, as with any series, the original game. While it was never released in the West, there is a translation guide available. This is the beginning of the “Ogami Arc” that would follow protagonist Ichiro Ogami through the first four Sakura Wars game, and the first four games are strongly connected plot-wise, so it’s important to play the Ogami Arc in order. If you want to get into the main bulk of the series, this is the place to start.