RPGamer Feature - Sakura Wars ~So Long My Love~ Interview
Sakura Wars ~So Long My Love~
Developer: Red Entertainment
Publisher: NIS America
Release Date: 03.23.2010

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RPGamers never ever expected a Sakura Wars title to ever cross North American shores. We believed that this was a series that would firmly stay in the land of the rising sun. However, finally after years of waiting, NIS America is making dreams come true with the release of Sakura Wars ~So Long My Love~. Get ready to pilot steam powered robots to defend the busiest city in the world, New York!

With its upcoming release in March, RPGamer had the chance to chat with Nao Zook from NIS America to get the scoop on all things Sakura Wars. For further information, check out the official website.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Sakura Wars series, could you provide readers with a brief overview?
Nao Zook: Sakura Wars was originally published by SEGA in Japan as "Sakura Taisen." Sakura Taisen was a huge success, and it branched into Anime and live theater shows due to the huge success of the game series. Lots of people have been waiting for this series to come to the US, but for some reason this series never made it here. The latest main Sakura Taisen title was released in 2005 in Japan.

One of the most distinguishing elements of Sakura Wars is the balance between the battle mode and the interactive-adventure mode. The Battle Mode is a strategy RPG, with Ground combat (Mech) and Aerial combat (Jet). In some battles, you will start fighting in the air, and then in the middle of the fight, you must come down to the ground and fight in your Mech. And, you operate not only Shinjiro (the main character), but also all other STAR Division members, so it's entirely up to you to lead the STAR Division to victory!

The Adventure Mode is everything outside Battle Mode. You will be interacting with other characters, building relationships, exploring New York, and lots more. It looks like I will be talking more about the Adventure Mode in the following questions, so please keep reading!

Could you tell us about the plot of Sakura Wars ~So Long My Love~?
Nao Zook: The story takes place in New York, the Mecca for hope and freedom, in 1928. New York is the source of "steam power" energy created during Americaís Steam Revolution. The energy has helped New York to blossom into one of the world's biggest cities. This growing city has not only attracted hardworking people and people with dreams, but also evil entities trying to use the city's inhabitants to bring about their rise to power.

Shinjiro Taiga, a Navy Lieutenant, was assigned to the "New York Combat Revue, Star Division" to defend the city from such evils. Shinjiro is a young man burning with a samurai's pride, determined to protect New York. He strives to work hard and devotes his life to the Star Division!

The LIPS (or Live & Interactive Picture System) has appeared in all the prior Sakura Wars games. How many different LIPS modes are there? How important is it for Shinjiro to keep all the ladies of the Star Division happy?
Nao Zook: Here are the types of LIPS modes in Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love. 1. Normal LIPS: This appears when Shinjiro (the player) has to make a decision. For example, Gemini asks "Why are you here in New York?", then the LIPS appears and your options will be "To become a great man!", "To join the New York Combat Revue!", and "To find myself!" You have about 15 Ė 20 seconds to answer the question. If you choose the most pleasing answer to the other character your relationship will grow stronger!

2. Analog LIPS: This appears when the volume, speed, or tone of an action will affect the outcome. The higher the gauge, the stronger the action or speech becomes. Here you can show how enthusiastic you are about the action!

3. Double LIPS: This type of LIPS will give you a longer time limit. You will be asked to do multiple tasks or make multiple decisions. For example, Gemini explains to you the order of cleaning the floor. You must remember the order, and clean the floor as asked with the Double LIPS.

4. Stick LIPS: This appears when you have to complete a motion task, such as operating a lighting system in the theater, running as fast as you can to get to a certain point, etc. You will see two motion arrows on the screen; you must follow the arrows directions to complete the task within the time limit.

LIPS appear without warning, so be prepared at all times! This LIPS system keeps you actively engaged in the game, so you won't just be reading text as the story progresses. This is one of the many cool things about Sakura Wars!

So, how important is it for Shinjiro to keep all the ladies of the Star Division happy? Well, you know, keeping women happy is a man's life-long duty... haha joking aside, it is really important for Shinjiro to keep the women happy in Sakura Wars. The stronger relationships Shinjiro has with the ladies of the Star Division, the greater the attack damage they can inflict in battle. If they don't have good relationship you won't be able to execute effective attacks in battle, so keep in mind to be a ladies' man while you play! I must add one more thing: there are several ladies in the Star Division, and they are all different and unique, so you should take their personalities into consideration when they ask you questions.

Tell us about Shinjiro's special item the Cameratron? Can it be used to help build bonds with the ladies of the Star Division?
Nao Zook: The Cameratron is just like a cell phone. It has the functionality of a camera, phone, radio, and watch. It also helps you establish strong bonds with the ladies of the Star Division. For example, Gemini asks you to take a picture of her. You better take a good one, or she won't be happy with your lackluster camera skills! :)

Combat is also a huge aspect in Sakura Wars. For those who are unfamiliar, could you explain the Active and Real-time Machine System (ARMS)?
Nao Zook: Active and Real-time Machine System gives you complete control of your characters during their turn; it's sort of like a turn-based action game. The commands "Move", "Attack", "Supermove", "Heal", "Defense", "Joint" are all available. You can do whatever you want as long as you have enough Mobility on your Mobility Gauge, which is used to move around the map and execute the aforementioned commands. Once you used up all Mobility your turn ends.

Thereís lots more to the Sakura Wars battle system though. For example, there are three different types of stratagems: "Shin" (spirit), "Gi" (skill), and "Tai" (body). Each stratagem has different pros and cons, so you will need to choose the best stratagem for the situation you are in at the time.

With Sakura Wars being a Sega licensed property, and considering that none of the prior games have made it over to this side of the pond, how difficult was it for you to obtain the rights to Sakura Wars ~So Long My Love~? Why the decision to bring over the fifth game?
Nao Zook: Well, releasing Sakura Wars in the US was the dream of Red (developer of Sakura Wars), and they haven't given up on their dream even 4 years after the release in Japan! Red and Idea Factory have known each other for years, and Idea Factory told them how much we were interested in publishing Sakura Wars in the US. This project came to life when three companies realized they had the same passion and love for this title!

Without Idea Factory's involvement, this project wasnít even close to seeing the light of day. It is interesting how these projects come together, isnít it?

We've also heard that the game will feature both English and Japanese voice acting. What made you decide to include both languages instead of just one and what challenges did this pose?
Nao Zook: The premium box of Sakura Wars will include Japanese voice disc as one of the bonus items. We have decided to include the Japanese voice acting disc as a bonus item because we respect the huge following for the Sakura Wars series. We wanted to please the fans that have been waiting for Sakura Wars to land on this side of shore.

I've heard the English voice acting for Sakura Wars, and it's great! So, even if you are not really a fan of Japanese voice acting, you will enjoy the game as much as those who appreciate the original Japanese voice acting!

There were tons of challenges for adding Japanese voice acting disc. The game is so huge that we couldn't just fit English and Japanese on one disc, as we usually do when we can. So we have to have two separate discs for English and Japanese, which means we have to debug the Japanese voice disc as well. We also wanted to match the English text to the Japanese voice acting as much as we could, so we went through all the text over and over and made the necessary changes. For example, we changed a couple of characters' names for the English version; Sagiitta to Cheiron. So for the Japanese disc, we went through all the characters' names, and change them back to the original names because thatís how they are called in Japanese. There are lots of hardships and challenges that come with adding the Japanese voice disc to the package, but I think it's all worth it in the end.

Taking into consideration its strong Japanese following, do think Sakura Wars will strongly appeal to RPGamers in North America?
Nao Zook: I believe Sakura Wars will appeal both RPG fans and Anime fans. As for RPG fans, Sakura Wars will be a lot different from usual RPG titles you have gotten used to. But, I believe RPGamers in NA are always welcoming something different and unique, so this title might just be a perfect fit to fill the void in your RPG library. :)

Final question before we wrap this up, but who is your favourite member of the New York Revue Star Division?
Nao Zook: Hmmm, my favorite character of Sakura Wars is Anri. She is such a tough girl to understand. Whenever I picked an answer to her question in the game, I believed she would be happy with my answer, but she always got mad at me! But I really liked her because she was not the easiest one to please.

RPGamer would like to thank Nao Zook at NIS America for taking the time to answer our questions. Once again check out Sakura Wars' official website, and keep checking back with NIS America as they will be hosting a contest very soon! Sakura Wars ~So Long My Love~ hits stores March 23, 2010.

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