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volume 3 issue 4

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Sakura Taisen 4 ~ Koiseyo Otome ~
Sega Dreamcast (Import)
1 Game Disc
1 Drama Download Disc for ST3
Red Entertainment
Grand finale of Sega's most successful game series.
Overall Rating:

Animefringe Reviews:
Sakura Taisen 4 ~ Koiseyo Otome ~
By Ever Cheung

...For five minutes after the game ended - with the kanji 'Kan' (meaning "The End") on a blank white screen, I just sat and stared. Maybe it was the way the ending was presented with all the memorable scenes from the very beginning to the end, maybe it was just the drag of actually having to accept that the series was over, maybe it was the way those famous sentimental dialogues Oogami had with the girls were displayed at the end, or maybe it was the ending song, I couldn't help but sigh.

Unlike the previous chapter of the saga - Sakura Taisen 3 (ST3) (whose release date was pushed back twice from the original release scheduled for September 2000 all the way to late March in 2001), I was surprised when I got my copy of Sakura Taisen 4 (ST4) from the hands of the delivery guy early Friday morning on March 22nd. Surprisingly, it actually made it here on time; the official release date being March 21st (exactly one year after the release of its previous chapter).

I can still remember vividly that immediately after the information regarding the specifications of ST4 was released on the Sakura Taisen official website in Japan, moaning and grinding can be heard literally across the globe on the internet, which is well justified, with the final chapter of the greatest game ever released exclusively on Sega game consoles being only one disc (with an additional "Drama Download Disc" for ST3). With the fear of seeing my favorite game title being ruined, I started playing ST4 that evening. If you live somewhere near my house, you probably heard a loud scream (not a girly scream though), sorry, that was me. Although I did expect disappointments, I never expect to experience it so early in the game - in the opening sequence for crying out loud... why? Because it was Oogami Ichiro who sang the opening song, that's why! Don't get me wrong, the voice actor was great, but I'm sure there are many others who would agree with me when I say using Oogami in the opening just doesn't feel right.

With only one year for development, it was no surprise to see familiar battle and conversation systems (such as the "LIPS" system used during certain scenes to test player's ability to make up their mind in critical situations) showing up again in ST4. The entire story told in ST4 is divided into four parts without distinguishable titles and dividers between each of the parts (such as "Previews") as ST1 to ST3 did. For gamers who had been loyal fans of the ST series, one can more or less finish the entire game in approximately ten hours time. Since the game itself had been restricted to be fit on a single disc, the relationship adventure portion of ST4 was much narrower in terms of diversity in the number of choices the player can select. Right off the bat, players can boost up the romance points that the girls have toward Oogami by simply replying to two of the questions asked by Commander Yoneda early in the game. Even though ST4, much like ST3 offers a "Combine Data" option for players to add more romance points toward their favorite heroine through the combination of system data obtained by playing previous chapters of the Sakura Taisen saga, it does little to enhance the gaming experience that had been greatly disabled by its limited volume even before the player started playing the game itself.

However, with all the disappointments aside, ST4 can still serve as a considerably pleasant encapsulation of the whole Sakura Taisen saga for the faithful ST fans who hand been following the series every step of the way since the release of ST1 back in 1996. But be warned, if you never played any of the previous titles, buying ST4 is no different than reading the last chapter of a book without knowing anything from the chapters that came before.

Despite the lack of diverse plot development, some parts of ST4 still offer some great romance comedy moments. One such moment would be the hilarious misinterpretation of what Oogami meant towards our heroines when he asked each of them the same question regarding their opinion on marriage after he was entrusted with the task to produce the upcoming show. What Oogami wanted was opinion on how he should decorate the scenery and arrange the dialogue to make the last scene of the show - a wedding, more fascinating for their audience. And of course, as many romance comedies have shown us before, the girls misinterpreted Oogamiís questions, in every case, as an actual marriage proposal! =D

The story of ST4 itself began with the emergency dispatch of Oogami's Imperial Strike Force (Teigoku Kagekidan - Hanagumi) to stop two steam-powered passenger trains that had gone berserk on the street, speeding along their tracks in the city streets. Strange gold dust near his mecha Koubu Nishiki (Koubu 2nd Model) was then discovered upon their return to the underground base. Suspicious of the strange gold dust, Oogami and the rest of his team began an investigation on its connection with the recently increasing cases of steam-powered machinery gone berserk in nearby areas... what is this golden dust? How is it related to the recent machine-gone-berserk incidents? And will Oogami be able to find his one true love among all of the thirteen girls? Play it and you'll know! =D

Playing ST4 had been a fairly enjoyable experience with the memories of the previous chapters dancing in my mind (needless to say, ST4 would be a bust if the player never played the previous chapters), although I truly wish that Overworks would've spend more time in developing ST4 and make it at the least, as good as ST3, personally I'm still happy about having a copy of ST4 in my hands. If I have to rank all four chapters of the game, I would say ST2 is still the best among all four chapters of this great game series in terms of both volume, artwork, possible diversity in story development and gameplay.

The bottom line is, if you have already prepared yourself for the downsides and disappointments I mentioned above, Sakura Taisen 4 ~ Koiseyo Otome ~ can still be a fun game.

...After the somewhat poetic ending song "Kimi yo Hana yo" ended my five minute stare at the screen, I pressed the B button to save my clear file and said to myself, "One ending down... twelve more to go."

"Hey, Iíve gotta get my money's worth somehow, right?" I thought to myself, grinning and feeling better already, since the game wasnít going to end as early as I had expected after all... Oh, there's the Drama Download Disc for ST3 too! =)

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