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Thread: [Review] Sakura Taisen 4

  1. [Review] Sakura Taisen 4

    This'll be my first contribution to the board. I've written a few things about ST4 in various forms, but I've compiled all my thoughts here.

    And with that...

    Sakura Taisen 4: ~Koise yo Otome~
    Dramatic Adventure 1 GD-ROM + 1 Omake (ST3 drama)
    6800 Yen (Regular Edition)
    8800 Yen (Limited Edition - Metallic Straps)
    18000 Yen (Complete Box - ST 1-4 in LD-Box-looking fold-out case)
    Visual Memory (9 Blocks)
    Puru Puru/Jump Pack

    The setting: Sakura Taisen 3 brings Oogami Ichirou to France to lead a brand new team with his expertise. At the end of ST3, Oogami is called back to Teito, the imperial capital. The beginning of ST4 seems to be a little after that, as Oogami and the Teikokukagekidan try to protect the people from all these machine "accidents". That's where the story begins.

    If you have not played all 3 previous Sakura Taisen games, Sakura Taisen 4 will have lost its effect, because it makes many references to the last three games. Newcomers should try out the original Sakura Taisen or Sakura Taisen 3. Either of which would be an excellent introduction into the world. On the other hand, not playing the other games may cause you to enjoy this one more...

    Anyway, with that disclaimer out of the way... I'm going to make a lot of comparisons with the previous games, and ST3 in particular. The game is set up similarly to the previous games, yet it differs a lot as well. It's similar in that it has two main gameplay elements - Adventure mode and Battles, and maintains an anime-ish feeling throughout. But it differs in that it throws out a bunch of things Sakura Taisen fans are used to.

    Sakura Taisen 4 is, in a word, a disappointment.

    I look at every aspect of the game, and can not come to any other conclusion. I had very low expectations before receiving the game, and I'm surprised that even those low expectations were not met.

    The game looks fine. The look of the theater is slightly updated to feel a little more like the Chattes Noires. The Teikokukagekidan all have new portraits and poses, which is great. Unfortunately, it's only the Teikokukagekidan. The Parikagekidan has no new poses at all. Neither do the supporting cast members like Kayama, Kaede, Yoneda, etc who all use rehashed graphics from Sakura Taisen 2. Some ST2 poses for the 8 Teikokukagekidan girls also remain.

    Battle graphics are quite nice. They're not much different in style from ST3, except with new battlegrounds and all new redesigned mechs. All the attacks and "supers" animations were also redone, so that was a nice touch.

    All in all, if you like ST3's look, you should like ST4's. But after playing ST1-3, you'll see a lot of familiar graphics being reused.

    There isn't much FMV in this game, but I don't think that there necessarily needs to be. I personally don't care for FMV in general, but like it for certain things like opening themes, which this game has.

    I love the opening theme with Oogami ^^. I found it rather cute. The ending song is also pretty interesting as well. Aside from those two, what you have is 85% rehashed music from the previous 3 games. There's 5 new BGMs in the entire game, as well as rearranged versions of some BGM. But on the whole, most of it is recycled.

    Not that this is necessarily bad, but it's obvious how many corners were cut on graphics and sound.

    Here's one area where ST4 excels. This game unites the voice actors from the past 3 games and it's great to hear and see a lot of familiar faces we've "met" throughout the last 5-6 years of our lives. Also, nearly every dialog is voiced. There are times where you read silent text, but all in all, the ratio of voiced parts vs non-voiced is greater in this game. The voices are here, and there's a lot of it.


    This portion of the game is similar to ST3 in many respects. You can only roam inside the theater, like ST 1-2, but there's a lot more events too. The locations are pretty much the same, except they added an elevator to go below the ground floor. Interaction with characters is pretty much the same as ST3, where you'll have LIPS, Timing LIPS, Analog LIPS, etc. LIPS is basically the Sakura Taisen system where responses to the characters are timed, based on urgency. For example, if someone hits a volleyball and it's about to fall on say, Sakura, you will have very little time to protect her from the falling volleyball. So a dialog box will pop up with your possible choices, and the opportunity to react is very brief. Not choosing something is also a choice, and has its own consequences. How you answer the LIPS will give you upchimes if you say the right thing, or a downchime if you say the wrong thing. One downgrade from ST3 is the lack of secondary character interaction. In ST3, you would talk to the Mer, Ci, Father Reneau, the girl in the flowershop, etc etc. ST 4, like ST 1-2 doesn't really offer a group of support chars (aside from the 3-nin musume i guess) like ST3 does.

    Relevant to that is that ST4 only has chimes for the 13 heroines. I personally enjoyed the system in ST3 where most of the characters, be it male or female, would give you chimes. ST3 had it so that what you said to anyone would affect you, giving background character LIPS more meaning, whereas ST 1, 2, 4 just trying to make it more of a date-sim, where only what you say to the girls matter.

    One irritation came up as I played my first free-roam session - Load time. I'm not talking about "Now Loading" screens, but basically anytime you go up or down a floor, there is a noticeable delay. In fact, it seemed like every transition sequence took longer to load up than ST3. Everytime when you shift from dialog-mode to map-mode, there's a small delay. It's not that bad, but you'll notice immediately, if you've spent any time playing ST3.

    But the big thing is... for a character-focused series like Sakura
    Taisen is, this game sure has the shallowest interaction of all the games. Having 2 casts together may have been an ideal concept, but in execution, things were botched. Nearly all interactions in ST4 felt extremely artificial. All the characters were reduced to their lowest-common denominator archetypes. For instance, Sumire, Orihime, Glycine became merely your standard ojousama.

    And if you were a Parikagekidan fan, you were screwed. The Parikagekidan has so much backstory to them that was briefly touched upon in ST3, but didn't use this game to further their characterizations. They were hardly in the game at all, and even what little interaction you have with them was disappointing. It's not just the Parikagekidan though. You don't really learn anything about the Teikokukagekidan either. Initial reaction was "Wow... it's kinda neat to be back!", but that quickly soured when all the characters seemed to act somewhat like drones. I was so disappointed in the wasted potential.

    My only solace in the adventure portion of the game is the very end of the game, which resolves more of the loose ends than any of the previous 3 games.

    The battles are pretty much the same as ST3's. In fact, maybe a little too much like ST3's. I found a lot of similarities b/w the bosses of ST3 and ST4, as well as the layouts of the battles. But it's basically the same as ST3's, so if you liked the ARMS system, you should like it here. I don't notice anything different about ST4's engine. Some Teikokukagekidan members have different attack ranges this time. For instance, Orihime now has a cross pattern (like Erica's healing super) instead of her "+" with a hole in
    the middle.

    But the problem is... there's so very few battles in the game. There's a total of 3. Yes, three. They spent so much time creating new animations for all the hissatsu/supers, for all the normal attacks, new designs for the Teito koubu.. and for what? Three lousy battles.

    The interesting thing is that the feature they've been hyping about ST4... creating your own "gumi"... is such a joke. Yes you can choose your party of 5 from all 13. For -one- battle. I was expecting this feature to be the key element of ST4, but instead was severely let down.

    There's not a lot of extras either. There's one minigame in the entire game, "Sakura Taisen Jong: Ronseyo Otome". It's a very simplified version of MJ with entirely new rules. It plays more like Hanafuda than MJ, except that the various hands depend on Sakura Taisen 1-3 knowledge, as well as how you played Sakura Taisen 4. It's almost all "pon"-based(3-of-a-kind), where combinations are made by pon'ing specific tiles. (for instance a pon of Sakura + pon of Oogami).

    The problem with ST Jong is that the game is so limiting that skill does not really play a role. Basically, in order to win, you have to have a pon that matches one of the 1-3 tiles placed in the center. Well, that doesn't sound bad in of itself but when you finally understand the game, that is its greatest weakness. It means that you always go for the cheesy win, because that's all you can get. It's not like real MJ where if you have a cheesy-win hand, you can toss parts of it away to get a huge-scoring hand. Since you absolutely have to match the tiles in the center, that restricts what you can or can not do. You can have the highest possible 1-in-a-google-chance hand, but you can not play it if you don't have a pon that matches the center tile. That's why this game is based way more on luck than on skill.

    Another issue is this game has hissatsu. Nearly every pon you get allows you to do "supers" against your opponent... but the computer can't do them on you. The game is so biased toward you winning, it's not even funny. Some of the super effects range from cancelling the cpu's win, to next-turn win for you, to resetting the entire game.

    ST Jan is a nice variation and diversion at first, but I believe once you finally understand and master it, the game breaks down.

    Replay Value:
    Here's where the game might shine for some people, as there are multiple endings, and many paths one can take through the game. While the general setup of the game would be the same everytime you play, the outcomes of the endings will differ. Also, since there are very few opportunities to grab things like bromides in the game, you need to play it again and again to acquire them all. Because of the lack of length in the game(I'll get to this later), they made replay value the highest priority in this game.

    I've mentioned a lot of things throughout the review:
    1) Load time
    2) Rehashed graphics
    3) Rehashed music
    4) Game length
    5) Shallow characterization

    But #4 seems to weigh the most heavily at this point. The game is short. I knew that before receiving the game, and it was even shorter than I thought when I finished it. But the problem is, because of the length, a lot of things were affected. I said that the characterization is more or less non-existent in this game. Part of that has to do with the short game length. I criticized the lack of battles, especially only 1 battle with your chosen team. That is another result of a short game. They also did away with things like the episode previews, episode titles, etc. The game definitely does not have the polish the other games did.

    The ending result was a feeling of, "That's it?"

    I've been pondering about this game for quite some time now, and my conclusion is... it's a sorry excuse for a ST game. Sakura Taisen, I believe, is defined by four elements.

    1) The characters. Here we have the entire cast combined, but it also seems to be the greatest weakness because you can't get a decent conversation out of any of them.
    2) Adventure mode. The only thing added to this rendition of the game is load time. Whee~.
    3) Battles. Despite only having 3 battles, it's funny that even those felt like they were ripped straight out of ST3.
    4) Minigame. While other ST games generally had 10 or so minigames, this one leaves you with 1. And while fun for a little bit, the flaws soon become apparent once you analyze and begin to understand it.

    ST4 does provide closure to some areas of the Sakura Taisen universe, but also opens up new possibilities, in some ways, as well. If you're a Sakura fan, you can't miss ST4 for that reason alone. In fact, the only satisfaction I got from this game is the last 20 minutes. I felt the ending, and particularly the ending credits, was extremely well done.

    But does a good ending make a bad game, good? No way. It's simply a bad game with a good ending. In the same way, I felt ST4's "game" was filler crap up until after the last boss dies.

    Sega spent probably about 11 months on this game because they set an artificial release date for it : "It will be out March 2002! We'll remove parts of the game if we have to!" (That's actually an accurate paraphrase of some announcement). Looks like 10 months were spent on creating the ending, and the last month, they scrambled around to stick a "game" in there too.

    As it is, I'm incredibly angry at how this "grand finale" panned out. For a series that had so much, they sure wasted little time driving it into the ground. It was more like an append disc than an actual game.


  2. Nice review. Its a bit long though.....Do you understand japanese or did you play through a FAQ?

  3. Nice review. Its a bit long though.....Do you understand japanese or did you play through a FAQ?
    Sorry about the length, but it's actually a topic that's been on my mind for a while. Also, I figure it's better to have more info than less, in a review.

    As for Japanese, yeah, I do understand a bit. By no means am I fluent, but a few years of language courses, and a hefty dosage of anime and import gaming help me to learn.

  4. Great review! I'm glad(?) too see that I wasn't the only one who was disappointed with ST4.

    The way I see it, ST4 is more like a decent side-story for Sakura Taisen series, but not even close to being the "Grand Finale" that Sega/Red/Overworks claimed it to be. As a long time ST fan, I was sorely disappointed with it.

    Btw, I hope you didn't get suckered into getting the Limited Edition like I did. Talk about disappointing (not to mention useless) junk they packed in with LE...

  5. I guess I enjoyed the game more than either of you. Heck, I even compiled a LIPS guide. The level of customization was outstanding in this game. What other games out there offer you your choice of 14 endings? All I would ask for more is ending FMVs

  6. I guess I enjoyed the game more than either of you. Heck, I even compiled a LIPS guide. The level of customization was outstanding in this game. What other games out there offer you your choice of 14 endings? All I would ask for more is ending FMVs
    Hrm... what do you mean by "customization"?

    As for the endings, I knew someone would mention that but my counter argument is... what's the point of 13 + 1 endings if I never want to play it again? I know I'm harsher than most on this topic, but you know... I didn't really like ST2 but I played it 4x before I felt like never touching it again. Amazing that with ST4, I felt once was enough.

    I just didn't feel like there was much of a "game" in there at all, only the endings. And I have no desire to play the "game" again, even if to see the other character-specific endings.

    As for FMV, that would have been nice, but on the other hand, if the silly endings on ST1-3 are anything to go by, (save Sakura's in first game, which was the only one that wasn't pointless) maybe it's better they kept it this way ^^.

  7. Originally posted by Tsubaki
    what's the point of 13 + 1 endings if I never want to play it again?
    I just didn't feel like there was much of a "game" in there at all, only the endings. And I have no desire to play the "game" again, even if to see the other character-specific endings.
    Again, that's exactly the way I feel about ST4...

  8. #8
    How exactly would adding more FMV clips to ST4 make the game better?

  9. I just finished this game last night. I had heard alot of bad things and disappointed reviews, but I picked the game up for like $15 a while ago and finally got around to playing it this week.

    I have to say, I was pleasently surprised by the game. I did notice all the rehashed graphics and music, but I really was never bothered by it in the slightest. The length didn't phase me either, as it told a complete story, with a satisfying conclusion, and like the review said, it wrapped up the series nicely. Also, when all was said and done the game still took me like 9-10 hours which isn't horribly short in my book.

    I didn't see the game as having shallow characterization, as much as that it just didn't feel the need to go out of its way to add characterization, but rather that the game assumes you already know the characters, and so proceeds at a quicker pace. None of them ever seemed out of character to me.

    The whole Paris Kagekidan being absent isn't true either. There's alot of scenes with the various characters you need to explore to find. Also, whoever the first member to arrive from PAris is gets alot more screen time, and these extra scenes add replay incentive also.

    Really, after all the negative hype, I'm really glad I got this one. Yes, you need to have played the others on DC, so you can import your save and all, and yes, it's nothing more than a "finisher", but the series needed a good closer and I'm glad they made one, and I'm glad they got it out on DC, so the whole Oogami arc could be on one system to preserve the continuity by carrying over saves.

    Anyway, good stuff. Now that its cheap any series fan who didn't get it yet should.


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