I’ve been waiting to say this for a long time (13 years, to be exact!): Imperial Defense Troop, move out!
Earlier today, Sega fans gathered in Tokyo for the “Sega Fes” fan event. During the show, it was announced that an all-new Sakura Taisen (Sakura Wars) game is in the works. A teaser visual for the project, which carries the working title of Shin Sakura Taisen (New Sakura Wars) was also released.
According to the presentation, the game will “inherit the DNA” of previous entries in the series. The game will be set in Tokyo in the year 1940 (Taisho 29, in the game’s lore, as the Taisho era only lasted 15 years overall). Further details will be announced at a later date.
Sakura Taisen is an original project by Sega CS2 R&D (later Overworks) and Red Entertainment. Ohji Hiroi (Moeyo Ken, Far East of Eden), Satoru Akahori (Saber Marionette J, Martian Successor Nadesico), and Kosuke Fujishima (Ah! My Goddess, You’re Under Arrest!) are listed as the original creators of the franchise.
The first title appeared on the Sega Saturn in 1996. The initial entry, while released only in Japan at the time, was estimated to have a 200,000 lifetime sales goal. The title sold 205,270 units in its opening week, which was roughly 57% of the launch shipment. At the time, the title was seen as having the largest debut for a Sega title to date. It would go on to move 359,485 copies throughout the Saturn’s lifespan.
A sequel, Sakura Taisen 2 ~Kimi, Shinitamou koto Nakare~ (Sakura Wars 2: Thou Shalt Not Die) launched on the Saturn two years later, in April 1998. The title sold 355,000 copies in its debut week (70% of launch allocation), and 509,000 units across the Saturn’s lifetime.
Both Sakura Wars and Sakura Wars 2 would go on to be released on PC in Russia in 2006. Both titles also received enhanced ports to the Dreamcast. The first Sakura Wars received an enhanced remake in 2003, subtitled Atsuki Chishio ni (In Hot Blood).
Sakura Taisen 3: Paris Moeteiru ka? (Sakura Taisen 3: Is Paris Burning?) hit the Sega Dreamcast in March 2001, and brought the game’s visual style and combat into the third dimension. The title saw 216,000 copies reaching customers (70% of launch-week allocations) in its first week. The game would go on to move 304,000 across its lifetime.
Sakura Taisen 4: Koiseyo Otome (Sakura Wars 4: Fall in Love, Maidens) launched on the Dreamcast just a year after Sakura Taisen 3, in March 2002. The title shifted 207,000 copies in its launch week (80% of initial shipment), and went on to push 257,000 copies across its lifetime.
Sakura Wars 5: So Long My Love (Sakura Taisen V: Saraba, Itoshiki Hito yo) launched on the PlayStation 2 in July 2005. The title topped the charts in its début week, selling 112,000 units. The game would go on to sell just 144,600 copies in its lifetime in Japan. The title received a western release by NIS America, which hit the PlayStation 2 and Wii in March 2010.
Most recently, series leads Sakura Shinguji, Ichiro Ohgami, Erica Fontaine, and Gemini Sunrise appeared in the Project X-Zone franchise for Nintendo’s 3DS.
The franchise spawned the following over its 22-year history:
- Fifteen spin-off games
- An anime TV series by Madhouse
- Five anime OVA series
- Seven manga and light novel adaptations
- Sixteen live stage shows
The Sakura Wars anime TV series loosely adapted the events of the first two games in the franchise. Ryutaro Nakamura (Serial Experiments Lain, Kino’s Journey) served as series director for the 2002 title, while Takashi Asami (Initial D: Third Stage) took the director’s chair at Madhouse. Hidenori Matsubara (Ah! My Goddess TV, In This Corner of the World) and Hideyuki Morioka (Kizumonogatari, Zan Sayonara Zetsubō Sensei) provided character designs for the title, while co-creator Satoru Akahori took charge of series composition.
Sentai Filmworks currently holds the rights to the Sakura Wars anime TV series, which they describe as:
It is the 1920s, and Japan is under attack by demonic invaders. The government has designed sturdy, albeit steam-powered, robot armor suits for the impending battle, but only young ladies with the proper combination of virtue and spirit can pilot the robots successfully. Enter young Sakura, arriving in the Imperial Capital from the countryside to join the Imperial Flower Combat Troop.
Editor’s note: Apologies for the history lesson! It’s hard to stop talking about this series. -SF
Update 4/14/2018: Minor translation hiccup. Taisho 29 should place us in 1940.