Released only in Japan for the Sega Saturn, Sakura Taisen is the first entry in what would become a massive multimedia franchise for Sega, known in the West as Sakura Wars. Combining strategy RPG combat with the non-battle mechanics of a dating sim, the game puts story and characters in the forefront, giving players the opportunity to forge relationships with the game’s principle cast of six: Sakura, Kanna, Sumire, Kohran, Maria, and Iris. Relationships then affect battle performance, giving characters the player is close with additional advantages.
The game is set in a fictional version of 1920s Japan, known as the Taisho era. As a member of the Imperial Combat Revue, the player must defend Tokyo from the menace of demons that have started appearing and wreaking havoc on the capitol. But there’s a twist. Despite being assigned to the Imperial Combat Revue, protagonist Ohgami Itto suddenly finds himself as the ticket clipper of the Imperial Theatre Troupe! What’s going on here?!
Sakura Taisen quickly became famous for having a wealth of voiced audio, animated cutscenes, and high-quality artwork throughout. In 1999, an unofficial translation patch was completed by the Sakura Wars Translation Project, which allows players to patch their discs with a version rendering all text into English.