Sakura Taisen V: Saraba Itoshiki Hito yo
Platform: PlayStation 2
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega WOW
Genre: Strategy RPG
Format: DVD-ROM
Release: US N/A
Japan Summer '05

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Chris Winkler
Preview First Look
Chris Winkler

Since its debut on the Sega Saturn eight years ago, Sakura Taisen has become one of Sega's flagship series in Japan. Following his success with Tengai Makyou (Far East of Eden), series mastermind Ouji Hiroi created a unique blend of light-hearted romantic adventure, witty comedy and mech-based strategy battles. In Sakura Taisen 2, two new members joined the original five heroines of the Tokyo Kagekidan, before the five girls of the Paris Kagekidan debuted in Sakura Taisen 3. As the last major title released by Sega for its Dreamcast console, Sakura Taisen 4 marked a conclusion, albeit an open-ended one, for the series. With the recently released Sakura Taisen V Episode 0 - Arano no Samurai Musume, Hiroi and his team are introducing fans to a new chapter of their beloved series, featuring a different setting, new heroines and for the first time, a new protagonist.

Visually, Sakura Taisen V seems to continue where the series' first PlayStation 2 installment, Sakura Taisen - Atsuki Chishio Ni left off. The visuals of Atsuki Chishio Ni, a remake of the original Sakura Taisen, already looked solid, but the beautiful setting of New York in STV looks to improve on those visuals. When added to the superb art direction and unique character designs of Kousuke Fujishima, the graphics make Sakura Taisen V yet another bit of eye candy a la Sega.

Another key member who has resumed his position in the new game is composer Kouhei Tanaka. The maestro has already composed Sakura Taisen V's main theme, titled Chijou no Senshi, and mentioned that one of the main inspirations for the score was Jazz music.

After three installments taking place in the imperial capital of Taisho era Japan (1912-1926) and one in Paris, the series' stage has moved on to New York City during Prohibition. One of the key aspects in picking this setting for producer Ouji Hiroi was the fact that New York has always been a cultural melting pot. This is also reflected in the game's cast. Sakura Taisen V Episode 0 tells the story of heroine Gemini Sunrise making her way from her home state of Texas to the metropolis on the East Coast, where she will meet up with the other members of the Shinjirou-led New York Kagekidan Hoshigumi. Gemini will be joined by Harlem lawyer Sagitta Weinberg, 11-year-old Mexican Riketta Aries, rookie doctor and Massachusetts native Diana Caprice, and the highly gifted, but arrogant Japanese Kou Kujou, who was previously with the European Hoshigumi squad.

The new protagonist, 19-year old samurai Shinjirou Taiga, who has just arrived in New York from his native Japan at the game's beginning, will be more of a nice guy than his hot-blooded predecessor Ichirou Oogami. The adventure portions of the game will place particular emphasis on how the members of the Hoshigumi react to Shinjirou's arrival and how they develop from this point on, mentally and physically.

While Sega WOW's executive producer, Norikatsu Ouba, and Sega's Sakura Taisen project manager, Tadashi Takezai, successfully managed to prevent Hiroi from giving away any details on the game's villains during a talk show event at this year's Tokyo Game Show, he still hinted at an issue potentially related to them. Due to a shortage of alternative clothing material throughout the 1920s, the Americans in the game opted for an innovative approach: Mummies from Egypt were imported and their bandages used as material for clothes. Based on this hint, it seems like the series tradition of literally ancient enemies coming back to cause havoc will continue in Sakura Taisen V.

Another returning feature will be the chapter-based format. System-wise, the LIPS system has been refined yet again and now allows players to control Shinjirou's eyes during a conversation by using the PlayStation 2 controller's two analog pads. Thereby, it will be possible for the protagonist to look at characters passing by during a conversation.

The battle system also appears more dynamic than in previous installments, with powerful combination and mid-air attacks being added to the portfolio of the Hoshigumi.

Currently 30% complete, Sakura Taisen V: Saraba Itoshiki Hito yo will be available in Japan sometime in summer 2005.


© 2005 Sega.
All Rights Reserved.

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