Acclaimed as one of Sega's finest series', Sakura Taisen has never hereto seen the light of day in the West, though it has garnered a cult following of importers in the domestic market. In Japan, the series has spawned three sequels, a handful of derivative titles and a plethora of merchandise from keychains to plush dolls. Originally developed by Red Company, the series began its life on the Sega Saturn in 1996 and has enjoyed great popularity in the Land of the Rising Sun ever since.
Long after the demise of the Sega Saturn, Red Company and Overworks went on to re-release the first two games of the series on the Dreamcast after the phenomenal success of Sakura Taisen 3: Is Paris Burning? and Sakura Taisen 4: Maidens, Fall In Love. Now, Overworks brings Sony PlayStation 2 owners a full remake of the original that started it all: Sakura Taisen: Atsuki Chishio Ni. Unlike the two originals remade on the Dreamcast, which only received minor facelifts, improved FMV and sound quality, Atsuki Chishio Ni will feature a complete overhaul of aesthetics.
Improved features include the introduction of the ARMS (Active & Real-time Machine System) battles first seen in Sakura Taisen 3, replacing the standard isometric strategic system from parts 1 and 2. In addition, there are all-new FMV anime and CG cinemas, revised graphics for menus, new character art by Fujishima Kosuke (the series' character designer), and to top it off: all new conversation segments in the script.
Fans of Sakura Taisen already know that the series features an enormous amount of voice acting. All key scenes have voices accompanying the text, and the series has had a history of top-notch vocal performances. The series is also well known for its vocal and orchestrated music, especially its introductory theme, "Geki! Teikoku Kagekidan!" With improved sound quality, Sakura Taisen: Atsuki Chishio Ni is set to be more aurally delicious than ever.
The heart and soul of Sakura Taisen is often hard to pin down, but one of the key features is the relationship simulator which helps determine one of several bonus endings you can acquire, not to mention how the main character, Ichiro Oogami, will develop. In addition, the strength of Oogami's relationships with other characters also determines how well your team will perform in battle. Whether they'll fight with all they have or be forced to take a lesser stance on the field is tied to how much they care for Oogami. Of course, you can't have your cake and eat it too, now then can you?
Oogami has to choose from one of the six girls as to who is his favorite and closest teammate. They include the traditional and naive Sakura, the brash and loyal Kanna, the haughty and classy Sumire, the cold and sentimental Maria, the brainy and goofy Kouran and the dainty and lovable Iris. Mind you, not all of these are necessarily romantic interests, but rather your teammates with whom you have to forge close friendships. In addition, these friendships are based on what choices you make, using the innovative LIPS (Live & Interactive Picture System). What you answer, when you answer, and to whom you answer all come into play, and the result will raise or demote your affinity with whom you're talking.
The look and feel of Sakura Taisen is also a key element to its success. In Atsuki Chishio Ni, the character art is more refined than ever, and fans can expect the same quality animation during conversations and events they've come to enjoy. The character designs are by the renowned manga artist Fujishima Kosuke, responsible for the manga series' Ah! My Goddess and You're Under Arrest! From the screenshots released thus far, the 3D Kobu mecha on the PS2 are a definite improvement over their Dreamcast predecessors.
In essence, the Sakura Taisen series is a complex mix of strategy RPG, dating sim and mini-game collection all wrapped into one. Atsuki Chishio Ni recreates what the original started and looks to build upon that legacy with a plethora of new features. Sakura Taisen: Atsuki Chishio Ni Is slated for released on February 27th in two forms: a collector's limited edition box and the standard version. The limited edition version will include a bonus DVD of the making of Atsuki Chishio Ni, a placard featuring the Sakura Taisen girls and a timepiece. This version will retail for ¥9,800 (79.74 USD), while the standard version without the extras will cost ¥6,800 (55.33 USD).
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