enfrdeitptrues

Dating Simulation

  • Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars (3DS)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars
    Developed By: Spike Chunsoft
    Published By: Atlus
    Release Date: April 15, 2014
    Available On: Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita
    Genre: Role Playing Game
    Number of Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: M; Fantasy Violence, Language, Mild Blood, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes
    MSRP: $39.99
    (Amazon affiliate link)

    Thank you Atlus for sending us this game to review!

    Dusk Circles have appeared around the world, launching monsters formed within into many populated areas, seriously threatening everyone.  Each Dusk Circle represents one of the seven deadly sins.  To combat this, the Star God, some time between a child's 16th and 18th birthday, will make a brand appear on their hand. This brand is a sign that the child has been chosen to combat the forces of evil, and has been granted special powers to do so.  They are called Disciples.  This brand, and their powers, disappears on their 19th birthday, so the government of Aterra has setup a special school where all children who have the brand are gathered and are trained to fight the monsters and save the world from this grave threat.  Female Disciples possess Star Energy, which is the main power for most magic, and males possess Ether, which can greatly amplify Star Energy, and is also a direct counter to Dusk Energy, which is what flows out of the Dusk Circles.  

    In Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars, the protagonist, named by default Wake Archus, is a male Disciple who finds out quickly after having his skills and Ether levels tested that he is more than what he appears.  While most Elite Disciples (those who show higher promise than most) have an Ether count of around 50, Wake shows a reading of at least 1500 – the highest level ever measured in the 20 years since the Dusk Circle crisis began - before promptly causing the measurement device to crash.  As a result of this, he is seen to be a fulfillment of a promise the Star God made to the High Priest – and is heretofore referred to as God's Gift.  Since you can customize the main character's name, the voice acting often refers to you as such, or alternatively, G.G.

    And the voice acting is strong with this one.  Seriously, there is a lot, and it's great.  While not every written line has a voice over, much of it is, and it's all done extremely well.  Where there is not voice acting, there often are emotion noises that convey the sense and character of the person speaking it.  Many characters follow some anime trope, especially the girls, but despite this I found them very likable.

    And the game strongly encourages you to get very close to all seven of them.  You see, in order to fight against the monsters, and ultimately cleanse the Dusk Circles by defeating the Dusk Spawner, you need to raise lots of Star Children. Much of the game mechanics revolve around ways of making stronger and stronger Star Children.  They are born by a ritual that takes place in the Church where a male's Ether and a female's Star Energy combine inside a Star Womb Matryoshka doll.  This process brings about a Star Child in every case for God's Gift; others who practice this ritual also have a very small chance to produce a Star Child, but you travel with your heroines and children.

    conception2
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Decent story; very likeable characters; fantastic voice-overs; good graphics and music; interesting party composition options; many, many hours of gameplay
    Weak Points: Dungeons get boring and very repetitive; quite a bit of grind (the bad kind...); enemies very repetitive with little variety
    Moral Warnings: RPG Violence; blood in a few places; some language, including 'sh*t', 'a**hole', and h*ll; Lots of sexual themes and imagery, including: perverted priests, bouncing breasts, girls wearing extremely revealing clothing; accentuated crevices of nearly every kind; near-nudity and sexually charged situations in a few places; silhouetted girls in extremely sexual poses; “promiscuous” (though not technically) behavior towards your 'harem' of seven girls; many, many romantic or near romantic situations; a few moments of homoerotic tension

    These children are not your physical descendents, but they are the Star God's children that you bring into the world.  Despite this, they do take on physical characteristics of their mother.  Each of them looks like a ten year old, and comes ready to fight.  Depending on the stats, levels, and mood of the mother, the Star Child's maximum level and available classes can change.  As a result, Star Children can become both disposable, and very valuable depending on their maximum level and skillsets.  Those with lower maximum levels, or are maxed out, are often made independent – where they can raise the level of the town the game takes place in, and raise the levels of various buildings and functions.  It does make for some interesting strategy, though it makes it harder to feel any sort of bond with your Star Children, despite enjoying their silly banter in dungeons.  Of course, if I let my ten year old child live on their own, I'd be in jail.

    While the game makes it clear that the process of making Star Children, called 'classmating', is in no way sexual, the developers decided to unnecessarily saddle the process with sexual imagery.  The process itself is described as touching each other in some way (holding hands is enough), along with thinking deeply about each other.  The better they know each other, and the more they like each other, the more powerful the Star Child.  But during this process, they insert a scene with a pink silhouette of the girl (or girls in the case of tri-mating later on...) in ridiculously sexual poses.  As you progress in the story and in your relationships, these scenes get longer, with poses getting dramatically more sexual, and the song (with lyrics) eventually saying 'I want to make love to you'.  Thankfully you can skip this scene, but it adds overt sexual overtones to a mechanic that, while a little odd, did not need it.  Later on there is also 'classmanting', with two guys... which is less sexual in the silhouette scene, but the game sure does play up the obvious homoerotic angle in ensuing dialogue.

    But even before the first classmating scene in the intro, there are hints, some more subtle than others, that sexual tension and related humor will be present throughout.  Even before the first fifteen minutes is up, there have already been upskirt jokes, perverted priests, and a “smokin' hot tomater!”, referring to the busty lab chief Ruby.  Included are associated breast physics.  And her response is “You're an honest young lad.  I like that.  I might have a nice reward for you later.”  It is quickly clear that she likes to tease the boys.

    Despite the obvious sexual overtones, they did do a fantastic job with character interaction in general.  In the visual novel/storyline scenes, characters talk, their bodies move, and there are a lot of small details that make the characters feel alive.  And with the top notch localization job, it can be very entertaining to watch at times.

    conception 2
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 56%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 6/10
    Sexual Content - 1/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    The visual novel/storyline sequences were by far my favorite part of Conception II, despite the many appropriateness problems contained within.  It is so well polished, and the characters are all so likeable and fun to talk with and listen to, that this was the main draw, for me.  But because of the content, I felt very conflicted at times playing it.  If my wife did not offer to allow me to review this game, she probably would have given me dirty looks had I spent my own money on it...

    And I would have deserved them.  By design, you are encouraged to flirt with seven different high school girls, each at various levels of 'development', simultaneously.  In a way, it's a form of sanctioned two-timing – except it's really seven-timing.  While a few of the girls are appropriately non-sexual, and your character is always a gentleman, it's still obvious that romance is an undertone with most of them.  Near the end of three of the girls' storylines, you get to see them naked – though at least some of it is left to your imagination in each case, which doesn't really make it much better.  On the other hand, there is an ending for each girl if you choose them, and at least two of them feature you getting married, which is a pretty nice.  Now the harem ending on the other hand... (it's cute up until the last line, where they all agree to have your children!)

    While the visual novel aspect is well polished, the dungeon crawling is far less so.  Each girl has to transform into their battle suit, with a few of them being completely ridiculous outfits.  While some are actually kinda cool (girl carrying a minigun, anyone?) one in particular is basically wearing a leather bondage outfit only fit for the most risque of bedrooms.  The environment you travel together is a bunch of boring randomly generated combination of rooms and hallways in a fashion that is quickly rather predictable.  The monsters are visible and can be avoided if you wish, though not always, as some will block the exits.  Dungeons are between five and twenty-five levels deep.  Shorter dungeons aren't so bad, but the deep ones get really boring in a hurry.

    And the battle system, while not terrible, doesn't do enough to keep grinding from getting monotonous.  In theory, it should be great.  Your party is made up of you and a chosen heroine, and three groups of three Star Children, which, like you and your girl, act as a unit.  Each Star Child has skills of their own, and combinations can enable team skills which are often very powerful.  In battle, you can position your teams to attack enemies either at their weak points, or make direct attacks, which can raise a chain gauge, which once activated, can allow you to get in extra attacks on an enemy.  In practice it works, but the repetitiveness of the battles, with little enemy variety, and the same with the dungeons, makes that aspect of the game rather boring.  It also doesn't help that the first half of the game is dead easy – but near the end, the challenge ramps up significantly, which requires you to learn battle tactics, where they really didn't matter too much up to that point.

    The graphics are quite good outside of dungeons, and passably good inside. Dungeons and battle do have decent stereoscopic 3D effects, which helps some.  But based on screenshots I have seen, the PS Vita version looks much better.  While the bottom screen is used, it is also a wasted opportunity – the dungeon map, for example, would have been a great use for the bottom screen; instead, it overlays the top screen like it would have on the PS Vita.  On the other hand, the music is really decent, with some very catchy tunes.  Even the ones with the dorky lyrics can be a fun listen.

    Conception 2: Children of the Seven Stars is a really quirky game with a bit too much over the top sexuality to recommend to even our most adventurous readers. There is a good visual novel combined with a decent (but not great) dungeon crawler that makes a very long and somewhat entertaining package.  Being the completionist that I am, I clocked in over 150 hours.  Most people could easily beat it in half of that – but again, should you?  I would say that the primary target audience, men, probably should not.  With softcore porn-like imagery, and sexual humor, it's probably best to pass.  

     

  • HuniePop (PC)

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    Game Info:

    HuniePop
    Developed by: HuniePot
    Published by: HuniePot
    Release Date: January 19, 2015
    Available on: PC, Mac, Linux
    Genre: Puzzle, Dating Simulation
    Number of Players: Single-Player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated but VERY mature
    Price: $9.99

    Thank you HuniePot for sending us a copy of this game to review!

    HuniePop was successfully kickstarted in 2013 by raising more than double their $20,000 goal. It's a dating simulator with both puzzle and RPG gameplay.  While this game is not rated by the ESRB, it is very mature and is available in an uncensored and a censored version.  (We reviewed the latter.)  Even though the Steam version is censored, it still shows breasts with nipples and females touching themselves.  As you get to know the girls, they will send you more and more revealing (anime style) photos of themselves.     

    You get to meet and ask the girls questions about themselves like their education level,  height, last name, birthday, hobbies and places to hang out.  Be sure to jot down their responses as they will quiz you about their stats to see if you really care about them.  As you talk to the girls their food meter goes down a couple of bars per question.  As long as they have food (or alcohol!) in their system, they are willing to answer any question you throw at them including their weight and cup size.   Food or no food, I would slap a guy if he asked my cup size.  You can also play this game as a female and the game will change the character's orientations accordingly.  

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun match 3 puzzle game with unique characters and funny (yet salty) dialogue
    Weak Points: Can't play this game anywhere near kids or perhaps anyone?
    Moral Warnings:Unlockable alien and goddesses; even though we played the censored version there are pictures of exposed breasts and girls touching themselves; crude language; can play as a female seeking female relationships

    When you talk to the girls or give them gifts, you earn hunie points which can be used to upgrade your stats.  The stat boosts will help with the dating/love making puzzle portion of the game.  The puzzle aspect of this game is interesting as each girl has a trait/color preference that will earn you higher points if you match three or more colors.  Matching traits can be done by dragging icons in the same row or column together.   As you go on dates you'll acquire re-usable gifts that can be given to convert the negative broken heart traits to joy traits to earn you more moves.  If you run out of moves you'll strike out on the date.  If your date is successful and you do have your way with a girl, a new puzzle mode is introduced where there is no move limit, but you must make matches fast enough to fill her satisfaction meter completely (with lots of moans in the process).

    Dating is kind of backwards in this game since you earn munie from them instead of the typical process of spending it.  Even if you bomb the date/puzzle, you will still earn munie from it.   With the munie you can buy food, drinks, and gifts for your potential love interests.

    Getting to know the girls and their quirks is fun and I'll admit that I enjoyed that aspect of the game along with the puzzles.  The difficulty ramps up and the amount of points needed to complete the puzzle increases with each successful completion no matter which date number you are on.   There are three difficulty levels so you can adjust it to make it easier or more challenging.  

    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 52%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 0/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 6/10

    The dialogue between the girls is fun to read, but it is often laced with all sorts of profanity and blaspheming.  The voice acting is great and gives even more personality to the young women you're pursuing.  The background music is pleasant and adds to the mood accordingly.

    The visuals are well done and a bit too detailed for my tastes in certain areas.  While I'm a fan of anime, I don't watch "those" kind.  There are many places to visit in town and on your dates and there are many water themed locales with girls in skimpy bikinis.  Some of their outfits will show nipples and some pictures show their breasts in their entirety.  One of the sext messages I received showed a girl touching herself.  I would imagine that the uncensored version would be sans underwear.

    It should go without saying that this game is geared for a mature audience and I'm honestly surprised that it's available on Steam.  It's not rated by the ESRB and if it were, it would most like get an Adult Only rating.  (Even with the censored version!) Anyone struggling with pornography should avoid this game entirely.  HuniePop pretty much goes against Matthew 5:28 and promotes lusting after (and using) women.   As a Christian, I cannot recommend this game to fellow believers.  While the puzzles and characters are fun to figure out, there are many more appropriate match three games out there.  

  • Just Deserts (PC)

     

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    Game Info:

    Just Deserts
    Developed by: Vifth Floor
    Published by: Sekai Project
    Release Date: July 25, 2016
    Available on: Mac, Linux, Windows
    Genre: Dating simulator
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $9.99 

    Thank you Sekai Project for sending us this game to review!

    Just Deserts is a visual novel style dating simulator game where you get to date your fellow soldiers and kick some alien butt at the same time.  You have thirty days to make a good impression on your favorite girl and to defeat the alien threat once and for all.  In order to win the girls over, you’ll have to do quests and treat them to plenty of gifts and food which requires lots of patrolling of the desert to pay for it all!

    The story is simple, but serviceable.  Thankfully the rest of the game’s dialogue is pretty entertaining. You’re a genetically modified male who has been deployed to a secret base in the desert to gather intel on the aliens that are attacking nearby.  Because of your genetic tweaking, you’re not affected by the coma inducing attack of the aliens and are the only hope to figuring out their weakness.  Upon arriving at the base, you discover that you’re the only guy and that your fellow soldiers are attractive and single females.  

    The female soldiers are pretty welcoming and have no problems with you staying in the same barracks as them.  Jennifer is the most outgoing and asks you point blank if you’re a virgin.  The other girls tend to be a bit more reserved, especially Eve who barely talks at all.  Each of the soldiers has a different personality and unique taste in food and gifts that they like to receive.  Even if you make a bad habit out of giving them gifts they do not like, your relationship status will never dip below Normal.  The other relationship statuses include Like, Love, and Infatuated.   In order to graduate to the next level, you have to earn enough points and then go out on a date.

    Just Deserts
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun dating simulator with intriguing female soldiers; funny dialogue and situations; decent battle system
    Weak Points: The voice acting is hit or miss; you cannot purchase items in multiple quantities; at least one typo; broken Steam achievements 
    Moral Warnings: Lots of language including the F word and blaspheming; sexual references; girls are shown in one-piece swim wear; alcohol references

    Relationship points are awarded by giving food, gifts, completing quests, or by doing activities with the girls.  Some of the free activities include working out or doing shooting practice together.  Those activities plus swimming can increase various stats permanently.  Boosting your energy allows you to do more activities before requiring a meal or resting for the day.  Other stats to increase include your health, speed, and accuracy. 

    In order to succeed in this game, you’ll need a lot of money (Bz).  The only way to make Bz is to go on patrols.  You can have soldiers on the base accompany you and there’s the option of using repellent to reduce the chances of alien encounter if you have any on hand.  Even if you don’t fight any aliens, you’ll still get paid 40,000 Bz for your effort.  If you do battle an alien, you’ll earn even more Bz.  The aliens sometimes drop items that can be sold or given as gifts to the girls.  

    There’s a nearby city with a nice mall, swimming pool, and a restaurant. Inside of the mall is a store that sells various gifts ranging from flowers to exercise machines.  Most of the quests have the girls asking for a specific item or food/beverage.  Other quests require you to do certain activities with them.  No matter what quest you accept, you’ll have to have it completed within a couple of days.  Thankfully, the quests are rated as Easy, Normal, or Hard to let you know your chances of completing them in a timely manner.  Stocking up on generic food items like mineral water and instant noodles is recommend.  In fact, you can get Steam achievements for passing out a lot of mineral water and instant noodles.

    While most of the Steam achievements I earned unlocked as expected, others did not.  I never received the Steam achievement for getting paid the first time, which of course happened.  Even creating a new game save on a different computer failed to unlock that achievement.  Another nitpick is that this game doesn’t let you purchase quantities of items which would make the shopping experience much easier.  I did encounter one typo (loos instead of looks) in my play through which lasted seven hours.  There’s plenty of room for replayability by pursuing the other females, but the last boss is such a pain that I’ll stick with the ending I got.  

    Just Deserts
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 51%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 2/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    In order to defeat the last boss: be sure to have enough Bz to call in for battle support, healing kits, armor, shield de-activating grenades, and powerful weapons.  The knife is the only weapon that has infinite uses but it’s the least effective.   The more powerful weapons like machine guns and grenade launchers have a limited number of uses before having to pay to have them recharged.  

    The aliens vary from metallic cubes and diamonds to elemental ones that hurl slime or fire.  The 2D artwork is nicely done and the female soldiers show a lot of expression and detail.  Their clothing ranges from uniforms to sleep wear and one piece swimsuits.  There is DLC available for purchase to unlock even more outfits. 

    The audio is a bit of a mixed bag as some of the voice acting is a bit off.  The commander Cornelia has a botched up British accent that is gruff and harsh on the ears.  Cecile’s French accent is inconsistent at times too.  The rest of the voice acting and dialogue is great, especially during the date events where you get to learn about the girls’ pasts.  

    Sadly, much of the dialogue is laced with profanity and blaspheming. Between the harsh language and sexual references, this is not a game that should be played by children.  There are sexual encounters, but I did not see anything other than some compromising positions that took place with clothes still on.  

    If you like romantic visual novels or dating simulators then Just Deserts is an interesting option.  While it doesn’t have any nudity, there is plenty of cursing and sexual references to make this a title for older audiences.  The price is a reasonable $9.99.  

     

  • Kitty Powers' Matchmaker (PC)

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    Game Info:

    Kitty Powers' Matchmaker
    Developed by: Magic Notion
    Published by: Mastertronic
    Release date: April 22, 2015
    Available on: Android, iOS,  PC, Mac
    Genre: Simulation
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $9.99 PC, $2.99 mobile
    (Amazon Affiliate Links)

    Thank you Mastertronic for sending us a review copy of this game!

    Kitty Powers is a video game drag queen that's starting up a dating service and you're in charge of its success.  Clients will be lining up and looking for love.  Will you help them find their soul mate?  In this game, same sex marriages are allowed and your clientele will include hetero, homo, and bisexual individuals.

    Before you begin playing cupid, you'll be asked a bunch of questions to determine your personality/love type and your avatar will be mingling with other players online.  If you run into a girl named Anita Bath, that's me.  And no, that's not my real name.  

    The clientele will have different tastes and unique traits.  They will start by telling you what gender preference they have (if any) and their favorite hair and eye color that they are attracted to.  Depending on their tastes and affluence, the selection in Kitty's black book of eligible mates will be limited, no matter how many pages you have unlocked.   In other words, it's highly unlikely that you'll be able to pair up a millionaire with a hotel toilet cleaner.  As your matchmaking reputation grows, you'll be able to attract more affluent clients.  While they are harder to please, they do make it worthwhile financially.

     

     

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun to navigate your way through awkward dating mishaps
    Weak Points: Not a fan of the gibberish, real voice acting would have been better
    Moral Warnings: This game promotes homosexual relationships and marriage

    You will virtually (through cameras and ear pieces) accompany your clients on their dates, selecting the food and conversation topics in an attempt to steer the couple towards a relationship.  In the beginning, the restaurant choices are limited and you don't want to take your date to the same place twice.  Picking the restaurant is a two part process.  You first have to select it and then you have to try and pick it again after a game of shuffle.  Whatever you pick after the game of shuffle becomes the destination.  

    There are many mini-games of  chance in Kitty Powers' Matchmaker.  Topic conversations are chosen through a jackpot style machine.  Again, you don't want to have the same conversation twice, and this rule carries over to subsequent dates.  If your jackpot results are not in your favor, you can nudge it (for a fee) to offer a different conversation topic.

    When it comes to ordering a meal, your date will have some restrictions that you'll have to take into consideration when ordering.  If you're unsure about a dish, you can ask a waiter about it for a small fee.  There are Steam achievements for learning about all of the meals from every restaurant.     

    Having a successful date takes a lot of work, especially during the unexpected events.  For example, you never know when flatulence will strike. To effectively hold it in, you have to win several rounds of a higher/lower card game.  There will also be times when the couple disagrees.  I like how this game gives you the option to and rewards you for telling the truth.  If you do decide to lie, you'll have to spin a wheel to determine if you can pull it off or not.   

     

    kitty powers matchmaker
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 81%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 3/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7.5/10

    At the end of the date you'll sometimes have to flag down the correct waiter (be sure to pay attention!).  Also, keep a calculator handy if you're not good at math for calculating the tip amount that your date specifies.  When the taxi pulls up to take you home, you have to make a decision to go steady, go on another date, or just be friends.   You only have three chances for a successful relationship or else the client will take his business elsewhere and your reputation will get dinged.  

    As you level up, your office will undergo renovations and unlock new features like the ability to kick a client to the curb if you so desire.  The business will also advertise to various locations and attract new types of people.   You have to make romantic connections with hipsters, geeks, sporty, and edgy people.  There are Steam achievements for making unusual matches like a practical and an artsy person.  If you manage to hook up fifty same sex couples, you'll earn the gay pride achievement.

    When a couple decides to go steady, you'll see a scene with them in a hot tub (wearing a bikini if applicable).  They'll do some air kisses and make smooching noises.    That's the extent of the love scene.  I wish this game was voice acted as the gibberish noises are a little silly.  

    Despite its quirks, Kitty Powers' Matchmaker is a charming yet funny dating simulator.  If you don't mind blatant LGBT overtones, there is a lot of fun to be had here.  The $9.99 price is reasonable on PC and it is available for even less at $3 in its mobile forms.   

     

  • Sakura Wars (PS4)

     

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    Game Info:

    Sakura Wars
    Developed By: SEGA CS2 R&D
    Published By: SEGA
    Released: April 28, 2020
    Available On: PlayStation 4
    Genre: Action Role-Playing, Visual Novel, Dating Sim
    ESRB Rating: T for Teen: Blood, Violence, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes
    Number of Players: Single-player
    Price: $59.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you, SEGA, for sending us a review code!

    Sega tends to have a whole host of intellectual properties that many players have never heard of before—Sakura Wars being one of the dozens out of Sega’s list. Even though for most people outside of Japan (including me), Sakura Wars 2020 will be their introduction to the franchise, this is actually a long-running series that started back in 1996. This soft reboot is a revival of sorts to a dormant franchise that hasn’t had a mainline entry since 2005. The sixth mainline entry is actually the second of the series to be released worldwide, with the first one being Sakura Wars V: So Long, My Love released for the PS2 and Wii.

    Sakura Wars is what you would call a cross-genre series. It takes two or more genres and combines them. In this case, it is the storytelling and narrative structure of visual novels, the romantic nature of dating simulators, and the clashing of steel expected of action games. Sakura Wars takes place in a steampunk version of 1940s Tokyo, where a task force utilizing steam (and spirit) powered combat armor protect the city from demons that threaten humanity. During moments of peace, the task force will go about in their day-to-day activities. In this case, you’ll be following the Reveue’s Flower Division who protects Toyko while performing theater on the side. Unfortunately, the Flower Division is not only really bad at defending their city— to the point where the Shanghai Combat Revue has to pick up the slack for them (and the Shanghai group will gladly let them know of that), but their theater performances are commonly seen as the laughing stock of the area. The group is in the red and barely makes enough money to pay their employees.

    The manager and commander of the Great Imperial Theater and Flower Division, Sumire Kanzaki, takes it upon herself to hire Seijurou Kamiyama (who happens to be one of the few male characters in the female-majority cast) to act as the captain of the Flower Division in hopes of training the group in combat prowess so that they can compete in the Combat Revue World Games. They also must win the event against overwhelming odds to avoid being shut down. Besides Kamiyama, the Flower Division consists of Sakura Amamiya, Hatsuho Shinonome, Clarissa “Claris” Snowflake, Azami Mochizuki, and Anastasia Palma, who is specifically brought in to refine the team’s acting as she is a world-class actress.

    One of the defining features of Sakura Wars is its LIPS system. Standing for Live & Interactive Picture System, they are the various choices (a max of three) that Kamiyama will make throughout the numerous cutscenes. What makes these kinds of dialogue choices different from others in visual novels are that the choices are set on a timer. If you don’t choose before the clock runs out, Kamiyama will say nothing. Sometimes, saying nothing is the best course of action so it’s not always a bad thing to let the timer run out. Pay attention, as nearly every cutscene in the game prompts LIPS. It’s best to observe the people Kamiyama is talking to and their personalities to choose the best (or worst) answer. Answers can range from positive, neutral, and negative, and some choices can be outlandish in nature. However, the outlandish choice can be the correct one. The LIPS system adds a nice layer of interactivity and choosing goofy answers can lead to hilarious moments. The narrative does have a tendency to nudge your choices towards Sakura as she is the most fleshed-out character of the cast (to the point where she even hijacks another character's chapter) and has the most plot relevance. It does slightly annoy me when a developer gives you choice, but makes it feel like that any other choice you decide on is "wrong."

    Sakura Wars
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Adorable, humorous, and heartwarming moments between characters; great character, mecha, and scenery design; lovely music that matches the tone of every scene; LIPS system and multiple dialogue choices are well thought out
    Weak Points: Some scenes lack voices and it can be fairly inconsistent; combat is simplistic to a fault 
    Moral Warnings: Most violent moments are mecha-to-mecha action, but there are a few moments of human-on-human violence and one particular bloody moment where a character gets slashed across her chest; language ranging from “h*ll”, “d*mn”, “a*s”, and stronger language such as “b*st*rd”, “b*tch”, and “sh*t”; numerous bathhouse scenes where the main cast are naked with the bath steam, water or camera angle covering their more sensitive areas; dialogue choices can get quite perverted in nature if chosen like Kamiyama gazing at the female’s body parts with an accompanying zoom in by the camera, although some are unavoidable such as Reiji wanting to install hidden cameras in the combat armor, while Kamiyama objects, or another scene where Hatsuho orders chest wraps as she is running low on them, and Kamiyama ponders if she is currently wearing them on their mission; there is a brief kiss between two female characters, although in the context of a play; a character utilizes magic via grimoires and tomes

    Navigating through Tokyo takes place in a 3D space where Kamiyama can walk around the area and interact with the various side characters and other non-player characters. Controlling Kamiyama in the overworld can feel a bit stiff at first, but takes little time to get used to. Scattered throughout are bromides (pictures) of the main and side characters, as well as characters that were featured through the previous entries. The main area is the Great Imperial Theater where you can access side content through characters marked with a blue exclamation point to build up trust, while the green exclamation point is to continue with the story. The LIPS system intertwines with the trust system as the more good choices you make, the higher trust level you gain with the characters, which is represented by a cute animation on the intermission screens. As for the five main heroines, if their trust is high enough, you can unlock scenes that are marked with a heart to see special moments between Kamiyama and the selected heroine. Most of these scenes are the dating sim elements where Kamiyama gets to know each heroine on a deeper level. All of these scenes are sweet like candy and make you appreciate the girls even more.

    With a series that prominently features mecha and threats that constantly throw the world off balance, Sakura Wars doesn’t focus on combat in the slightest, as you won’t even enter your first battle until after the two-hour mark. With people who have at least a vague familiarity with the series, the biggest change they’ll notice is the swapping of tactical turn-based combat to action combat. On the field, you’ll control Kamiyama and another heroine based on the chapter that you are in. Combat, in most cases, comes at the end of the chapter where you’ll go through areas, fighting hordes of enemies. Light and heavy attacks are executed with the Circle and Triangle button respectively, while a special attack is used by the Square button if your special meter is filled up. If Kamiyama has gained enough trust with the heroine accompanying him in battle, they can execute a team attack (that plays a humorous, yet heartfelt scene) which greatly increases attack power.

    I would say the closest Sakura Wars’ combat is similar to is musou-styled (Dynasty Warriors) combat. Musou combat does get a bad reputation in many corners of the action community for being “brainless” but even musou combat can have some inner depth and a huge amount of content behind it. It’s not that Sakura Wars’ combat is bad (and trust me, I’ve played some awful games with dreadful, buggy combat before), it’s that within its core, is a very simplistic system, even for musou standards. There is competency in the mechanics as it rewards you with dealing damage and avoiding damage with a morale system that boosts your attack and defensive capabilities and these features do work—sadly it just never does much with it and the combat barely evolves throughout the game. Most enemies barely pose a challenge and your characters are so powerful that there is a high chance you’ll defeat all the enemies before dialogue is fully exhausted. Even the level design is simplistic. The level aesthetics look great, but navigating through them consists of simple paths or platforming segments that lead to huge arenas with hordes of enemies. You rinse and repeat that until you get to the boss of the mission whom you also easily defeat. Unfortunately, Sakura Wars’ combat is arguably its weakest feature from fear of taking risks with it. On a positive note, it doesn’t overstay its welcome—unless you want to collect all the bromides, that is.

    Fortunately, this steampunk rendition of Tokyo is wonderful to look at. The colors of the world pop out fascinatingly and take an interesting spin on the Taishō era of Japan. The aesthetics are just amazing to look at and the steampunk aspects aren't out of place. The architecture of the buildings, streets, and clothing represent that era. There was a ton of care and effort put into the designs to make everything look as authentic as possible while taking some liberties here and there to make the steampunk parts feel like a natural part of that period as well.

    Anyone with a basic knowledge of anime and manga can take a look at the main characters and feel that many of them look familiar. That’s because the main character designs were done by Tite Kubo of Bleach fame. I’ve always felt that one of Kubo’s best aspects is the way he designs characters, and he takes this expertise with him to Sakura Wars. Although some of the main cast look just like certain Bleach characters, they are all still magnificently designed. They say a good trait of great character design is that you can tell a part of the character’s personality by the way they look. By looking at each character, you can easily get a good feel as to how they will act within the context of the story. This even extends to the guest designers and their characters. If you're familiar with series such as K-On!, Sword Art Online, and Persona, you'll be able to easily tell who was designed by who. The combat armor takes this to the next level with their stocky and powerful designs, while further representing the pilot that controls them. The humanoid-shaped robots shine with brilliance and look imposing, even though they are only two to three times the size of the person controlling them.

    I was warned that the opening of Sakura Wars was quite infectious. To sum it up, the opening theme got stuck in my head for three days when first starting up the game. Although it is played a lot throughout, whether it is a remix, a cover, or used as the climactic moment for a scene, I never got tired of it. With bombastic usage of piano, wind, and string instruments, it’s hard not to like! It, along with most of the soundtrack reminds me of 80s anime music that greatly embodies the tone or character the scene is trying to portray, all along with lyrics that are just as catchy, if not more than the actual music.

    Emotions are also portrayed with exceptional execution as all of the voice actors and actresses do a great job whether it is for silly moments, serious moments, and everything in between. (Sorry dub fans, this one is in Japanese only.) Every character has a distinct voice and frankly, there wasn’t even one voice that I disliked. A rather strange choice, however, was that not every scene was voiced so you’ll get that awkward moment or two where the characters are moving about with their animated movements, while nothing is coming out of them. It doesn’t seem there is much rhyme or reason as to what scenes are voiced and what are not. You’ll have a scene that is voiced, with it directly leading into a scene that isn’t, just to go back into a scene that is voiced. The absolute most important scenes are all voiced, but some scenes that could have had a stronger emotional impact were not and do end up feeling slightly awkward.

    Sakura Wars
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay 14/20
    Graphics 9/10
    Sound 9/10
    Stability 5/5
    Controls 5/5

    Morality Score - 58%
    Violence 5.5/10
    Language 2.5/10
    Sexual Content 6/10
    Occult/Supernatural 5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical 10/10

    Now with Sakura Wars being an anime game that isn’t specifically targeting a child audience, there are many moral concerns to be mindful of. Violence is a given, with the context of the narrative. Most of it is mecha-on-mecha action, with many of the demon enemies being robots and some of them are organic in nature. There is a lack of blood in most violent scenes except for one where a character is slashed across her chest and her blood sprays on the ground—with that particular scene being the most violent Sakura Wars gets. There is mild language uttered throughout by many characters consisting of “h*ll”, “d*mn”, “a*s”, with some stronger language in a lesser frequency like “b*st*rd”, “b*tch”, and “sh*t”. There also is the usage of magic by a couple of characters; one in particular uses grimoires and tomes. There is a brief moment where two female characters kiss, but considering it is done in the context of a play, it’s hard to think of it in a sexual nature.

    Many sexually moments and references are sprinkled throughout as well. Of course with the game being a Teen rating, it can only go so far. Kamiyama can have quite a perverted nature and your choices can influence that. Good/positive choices will, of course, go for the more respectful path while negative choices will fully unleash the inner delinquent. Kamiyama will constantly comment on the girls' breasts, legs, butt, and everything in between if given the option to. The camera will even zoom in for some moments. Kamiyama is reprimanded for his lecherous behavior and get what is coming for him for a lot of the scenes. The numerous bath scenes also show off partial nudity whether it is from the girls or Kamiyama himself if he makes the more immoral decision and decides to either peek on them or even join them in the bath. Kamiyama’s friend Reiji is much less reserved about his feelings on girls as he blatantly states his desire to install hidden cameras into the girl’s combat armors, orders pornography magazines through the business, and will shamelessly ogle the girls.

    There is another bath scene where Sakura wonders about the superstition that if rubbing “them” (her breasts) will help them grow bigger after thinking about Anastasia. A moment where Hatsuho and Kamiyama stop demons from stalling a shipment as part of the shipment had Hatsuko’s chest wraps as she was running out of them—with Kamiyama wondering if she was even wearing them on that mission. One other moment is where Claris bends over to look for a book, with Kamiyama struggling to not stare at her butt and legs. The character designs can get pretty sexualized, with Anastasia being the worst offender. As she is the most well-endowed maiden, she is also the one that wears a form-fitting dress with her top showing off a lot of side boob. Hatsuho also shows off some cleavage (with many scenes featuring her and Kamiyama pointing this out). If you opt for the DLC costumes whether it is through buying them separately or from the deluxe edition, the conservatively-dressed Sakura and Claris can have more revealing swimsuits—with Anastasia’s swimsuit being more revealing than both of them.

    If I had to break down Sakura Wars, I would have to say it is 60% cutscenes and dialogue, 25% world navigation, and 15% combat for everything that is required to beat it. If you are someone who is expecting intense hotblooded robot action, you’ll want to look elsewhere. Sakura Wars mainly focuses on its character interactions and narrative structure with beautiful scenery to accompany it. The gameplay isn’t just robot action, it’s also the interactions with the characters, the choices made, and exploring the world. There are plenty of reasons to come back after finishing the game, such as the minigame Koi-Koi Wars (which is the card game Koi-Koi) and the ability to replay missions to earn higher ranks and builder further trust with the five heroines, as well as their respective endings. It’ll take anywhere between 20 and 25 hours to reach the ending, and more time if you decide to do everything that there is to offer.

    What makes Sakura Wars a strong entry is the cast of characters who are sublime. With each interaction, you’ll grow to love and understand them more with every passing moment. For the few who have managed to play the previous entries expecting more of the same may feel some disappointment through how they handle the classic set of characters. Sakura Wars is a story about a group of underdogs that form close bonds with each other, defy all odds set against them, and become the people they knew they could be deep down. There are plenty of touching, hilarious, pleasant, and lighthearted moments to go around. No matter how much they are beaten down, they’ll just bounce right back up with more determination than the last. Sakura Wars is also not ashamed in the slightest of being an interactive anime and proudly wears it on its face, even through its cheesy and somewhat cringy moments. Of course with it being an anime there are plenty of moral concerns to be mindful of if you do decide to take part in this, most of it being sexual in nature. Deep down, what Sakura Wars does is something that most with a flavor for a sincere anime adventure can cherish.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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