Every week, we will present a new game to be nominated for the Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame and Hall of Shame. These nominations will occur every Monday and Friday, respectively. Our standards are just like the Baseball Hall of Fame: every game will be voted on by members of the staff, and any game that gets 75% of the vote – with a minimum of four votes – will be accepted – or thrown – into their respective Hall.
Game: Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love
Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software
Release Date: 3/30/2010
System Released On: PlayStation 2, Wii. The PlayStation 2 version is the one that is up.
Genre: Role Playing Game
Who Nominated The Game: Bebito Jackson
Why Was It Nominated: It should be no surprise that this game was nominated, considering we’ve been extremely high on it around here. In fact, I feel like I’ve written about this game so much that I am tempted to just cut and paste together everything I’ve written in the past. Needless to say, we generally love the game – and for those of us that have played other games, the series – here at Diehard GameFAN.
After all, what is there not to love? You have a strategy game, dating simulator and all-around good time all in one package, in a perfect-world Steampunk setting that no other game has dared to try in this way. You have some borderline absurd characters who are expertly written in a way that endears them to you as you’re playing, which is important since personal interactions play heavily into gameplay. You have the LIPS system, which adds a new level of interaction that causes people to pay attention and contextualize. You have a wonderful game with a wonderful system, and if Lucard is to believed, this is the least of the five Sakura Wars/Taisen games. That’s something to behold.
With that said, we’re tough around these parts. Is all of this enough to get So Long, My Love into the Hall of Fame?
All in Favour:
Alex Lucard: I completely agree with Bowen that SKV is too new in North America for people to be able to properly vote on the title (Editor’s note: See under “All Opposed”). It’s the same reason I voted nay for Arkham Asylum. It hadn’t even been out for a year when we had to vote on it. However, since I’ve played this game for five years now (See why you should know Japanese if you’re going to work in this industry?), I can safely vote YAY and know I’m talking from experience and time with the game.
So let’s be honest here. From a Japanese perspective there is no bigger series under Sega’s belt than Sakura Taisen. It made them more money than even Sonic. From a Japanese perspective, Sakura Taisen outsold Final Fantasy, Megaten, and Dragon Quest. The series has recieved more GOTY nominations and awards than any of those above series. it recieved a mainstream acceptance that no video game series has except for Pokemon, even getting its own store, multiple manga and anime adapations and basically setting every employee of Red Company up for life. It is the only series where every single game has made it onto Famitsu’s “Top XXX games of all time” list. The ONLY series. From a Japanese perspective, pretty much every Sakura Taisen game should just be given a free pass into the Hall.
But that’s Japan. This is North America where only one game has made it stateside and it it took until 2010 to do so where the game recieved critical praise, but horrible sale figures. So which do we go with as the success and acceptance of the game very, VERY, different.
For me the two cancel each other out and so you have to look at just the quality of the game itself. Yes, SWV is the worst game in the series, but considering it won three awards from us in 2010 (PS2 game, RPG of the year and Best gameplay), saying it is the worst game of the series is like saying being left a metric ton of gold by an obscure relative isn’t as good as getting a metric ton of platinum.
The characters are wonderful. Everyone of them gets their day in the sun and a lot of depth to them – not something you would normally think of in regards to a “dating sim.” The tactical gameplay is wonderful and it eschews the usual grid based SRPG combat for something that feels more open. The music is as memorable as it was when I first picked up the game. Most of all I think I love this game for reminding me of a time when Steampunk was cheery and brightly coloured and HAPPYFUN instead of the grimdark angsty goth shit it’s become in this country. Sakura Taisen was one of the originators of steampunk and it’s the version I grew up loving. Screw you modern American warping fun shit into angst and emo.
So yes, a big yay for Sakura Taisen V. It’s an amazing game. It’s the tail end of one of, if not the, most successful video game series of all time, and it’s the only one you’ll ever get in English. For me, putting more awards and accolades on this game is giving Sony yet another “Fuck you SCEA middle management” for denying SW I and II to come stateside for the PSP. Eventually awards and outcry will hopefully change their mind. It worked for Megaten – let’s see it work for Sakura Wars.
Aileen Coe: When I first fired up this game, I was immediately hooked. It can get campy and cheesy at points, but instead of being grating those traits are part of its charm. The visual novel/dating sim aspects managed to be more engaging, from the timed responses that force you to wing it (especially if it’s your first time through the game) to the little minigames at some points. The SRPG portions tie in neatly with the dating sim parts, given that stronger relationships mean stronger units in battle, and you can also build up said relationships during battles as well.
Even though it’s the last game in the series, it’s the first in the series to be released outside of Japan. Thanks to SCEA, it looks like it’s going to be the last, at least for the foreseeable future. OK, my vote’s partly motivated by a desire to stick it to SCEA for killing the release of PSP port of the first two games here (for whatever good that’ll do) with some hypocritical reasoning (they were too much of a visual novel, but Disgaea Infinite wasn’t?). But it does deserve the acclaim due to its quality.
Christopher Bowen: I’m effusive in my love of this game. It’s among the best JRPGs I’ve played in a long time, on a shortlist that includes Persona 4 and a teenage girl-like wailing for years gone past.
But I need a little more time before I can say if this is among the greatest games or not. We need some perspective as to where this fits in history. So far, the news isn’t encouraging. Sales for this title – the last great PS2 game – were relatively poor, and the game had such an effect on people that Sony rejected the Sakura Wars compilation set for PSP because it was a “visual novel”, in their words. Are you fucking kidding me!?!?!? Yes, it’s the fault of the stupid idiot who was in charge of approving it for not playing more than five minutes of the game, but it’s also partly the fault of the series. If Sakura Wars had done better at retail, there’s a chance that the guy playing the game would have went “Oh, I know what this is, it did OK on the dying PS2!”
As of right now, Sakura Wars is too new – on American shores – to consider for the Hall of Fame because I value a game’s history just as much as a game’s quality, if not more. In a couple years, I will probably say that the game didn’t make the dent that it needed to to be considered. And to me, that’s a Goddamned tragedy.
Mark B.: Let it be known that, first off, I love this game quite a bit. I was completely down for owning it the exact second it was announced for a US release, I ordered the PS2 special edition from NIS just so I could have the art book they were shipping with it, and I enjoyed my time spent with it with little complaint from beginning to end. It’s easily the best dating simulator I’ve ever played, it’s easily the best NIS-published game I’ve ever played (Disgaea can drown in a river), and it’s full of personality and style to a point where it’s one of the rare games that actually made me smile while I was playing it for reasons not related to particularly impressive dismemberments of enemies. Also, I have no particular problem with a game needing to sit for a while before considering it worth adding to the Hall of whatever on a base line level; if someone nominated Mass Effect 2 tomorrow I’d likely be able to cast a confident vote for it with no issues about a lack of time to ruminate on the game.
That said, I have two issues with the game that prevent me from considering its acceptance:
1.) I can’t look at the game and say it’d be on my list of the five best RPG’s of all time, and it might not make a top ten. While it’s a fantastic DATING SIMULATOR, the RPG elements are somewhat basic, and while that isn’t terrible so to say, the game is basically both of these things at the same time, and falls into comparison to both genres as a consequence. Even if we were to pare that down to “five best turn based strategy RPG’s”, to be honest, I don’t think it’d make the list either. That’s kind of problematic. Of course, this is likely because…
2.) After beating the game once, I never felt the need to go back to it. Now, yes, the game is quite lengthy, but I played through Persona 4 twice in a row and I’ve played through Lunar, Phantasy Star, Phantasy Star IV and Final Fantasy VI multiple times each, and I just don’t feel the need to do this thing with Sakura Wars V just yet, even a year after the fact. I will likely feel the need to do so at some point, and when that day comes I may well change my mind about the nomination, but after a year I’ve never felt the need to do this thing, and as a consequence, I don’t see it being worthy of the Hall of Fane because of it.
Result: 2 In Favour, 2 Opposed, 50% Approval = REJECTED
Conclusion: This is another one of those cases where everyone here loves the game, but we’re split on whether or not it deserves that kind of praise. Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love is undoubtedly a great game, but something – replayability, converging interests or just simply a lack of perspective – held it back from the one vote it needed to get into the Hall of Fame. Maybe in a year, we – or more specifically, I – will see things differently. Until then, while great, Sakura Wars just doesn’t have enough to win over our notoriously tough crowd.
Next Week: After decades of being a strictly “kid friendly” publisher, Nintendo finally put their big boy pants on in the beginning of the Gamecube era. The result is arguably the greatest horror game to grace consoles.