Sakura Wars is perhaps the most anime game that I’ve ever played. There are plenty of games out there based on popular anime, yes, but when it comes to feeling like you’re an active part of an ongoing, episodic adventure filled with quirky characters, dramatic action, and satisfying melodrama, Sakura Wars has everything else beat. Its structure, charming cast, and whirlwind story help set it apart from other colorful anime-inspired adventures, and, much like the characters whose stories it tells, it manages to overcome many of its flaws to become a satisfying experience in the end.
For the uninitiated, the entire concept of Sakura Wars is rather offbeat. This particular game is a semi-reboot of a long-running Japanese game series of the same name, set in an alternate 1940s Japan where steam technology quickly surpassed electricity and history took a very different path. The world’s nations, rather than fighting each other in World Wars, took arms against demonic invaders with armies of steam-powered fighting robots called Spiricle Strikers. Oh yes, and these armies also operate semi-covertly as theatre troupes whose members consisted mostly of young women.
It’s a lot to take in, and it’s compounded by the fact that only one other Sakura Wars game has made the voyage Westward, though some related media (like anime and manga adaptations) have seen release here. Still, if you’re coming in totally blind to the Sakura Wars concept and mythos, you might find yourself rather confused, particularly when references to previous titles crop up.