Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love is unlike many other games in that it is as ridiculous as it is great.
As the fifth installment in the franchise's main series, Sakura Wars ventures outside its oft-used Tokyo setting in favor of a laughably inaccurate late-1920's New York. Each of the game's eight chapters is littered with decision points not unlike the multiple choices often presented in Bioware games, with the exception that Shinjiro's must respond within a time window, sometimes as brief as three seconds.
From a turn-based standpoint So Long, My Love's combat offers a level of versatility not often seen in SRPGs. While many will find this mobility system easy to figure out by the end of the first chapter, each episode presents its share of unique challenges where going for the direct, offensive approach is hardly the way to go. Assuming the player does not skip past the dialogue and replays just a couple of the battles, one can expect a 22-24 hour playthrough. Miguel ConcepcionGaming Lifestyle ExaminerMiguel Concepcion is a San Francisco-based 13-year game industry vet, as a writer & video producer. The main character, Shinjiro Taiga balances wide-eyed ambition with humility as his transfer to New York is initially greeted with skepticism by the established New York Combat Revue. Those familiar with Japanese-developed dating simulations are correct to assume that pleasing one particular gal will lead to a relationship by the end of the game; and while this is true, finding a way to please all the girls in the troupe is just as important, as your interactions with them affect their performance in battle. Each team member is given a mobility gauge were a set amount of actions can be performed during a turn. Some missions involve defending multiple targets, while others require creative approaches to finding an enemy's weak point.
In keeping with its anime influence, each chapter is presented episodically, along with an obligatory Christmas episode.

The player gets the first taste of the series' dating sim gameplay as Shinjiro has the chance to win over the team, most of whom are attractive women by moe-anime standards.
Added to the mix are numerous gameplay scenerios that require the user to input various analog stick motions. These battles can take as long as 90 minutes and thankfully the player has the option to save in the middle of the skirmish without the save deleting after reloading. The first hour of most chapters allows the plot to play out in the visual-novel style that many game importers should be familiar with. Whereas many consoles' twilight years sees releases littered with sports games and movie tie-ins, the PS2 gets an anime-themed send off (not counting the upcoming Lord of the Rings: Aragron's Quest) similar to how Working Designs finished off the Sega Saturn's library with Magic Knight Rayearth. These are just a few of the preposterous examples that litter this NIS America-published title. Attacks can be performed with combos of up to 5 blows where each sequential hit compounds to a more damaging assault overall. The majority of the graphics are still images which might be off-putting to many Western gamers; then again, the relatively static images in Phoenix Wright did not hurt that series. Any anime fan who appreciates the medium's slapstick comedy and harem genre romances should consider this a must buy.
It goes all out with its absurdity that many gamers would be too busy laughing to be offended. One other meter that the user should be aware of is the character's spirit, which is spent when they heal, use the super attack, or perform a joint attack.
At least the plot developments of So Long, My Love are entertaining enough to keep most players amused at a pace of one chapter a day.

Others who are resistant to the charms anime aesthetics would also do well to check out Sakura Wars as it offers an emotion-teasing choose your own adventure element with a challenging and easy to understand SRPG mechanic. Beyond this is a title that gives English speaking gamers an arguably rare glimpse into the not-too-often translated sub-genre of dating sims. Aside from delivering an effective blow, super attacks uses up little mobility but a lot of spirit. It should also be noted that the game does feature a New Game+ where battle abilities from the previous playthrough can be carried over and the player has an opportunity to pursue another female character. This is coupled with a sometimes-challenging SRPG combat mode, making it worth checking out as one of the last superb games on the PlayStation 2. Joint attacks can be even more powerful, and involve pairing up with as many as two other teammates for a synchronized assault.
This particular maneuver is particularly important to master in order to clear the game's final chapter. If you get the best ending you'll receive a love letter from Minako (instead of a regular letter which means you failed to win her love) asking you for a date.

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