You take the role of "Shinjiro Taiga" and fight for peace in New York alongside the New York Revue Star Division.
The game is split into two components:
Shinjiro will walk around the Littlelip Theater and the city of New York, interacting with other members of the Star Division and various other characters. Depending on your interactions with them, their "Trust" in you will change or they will form "Bonds" with each other, affecting their skills in battle.
Sakura Wars features a Strategy-RPG battle system where you control each member's unit (STAR) and destroy enemies.
If Shinjiro's unit is defeated or other defeat conditions are met for any particular stage, the game ends and you will be given the option to retry or call it quits.
To add immersion and enhance replay, Sakura Wars features a system in the game called "LIPS" (Live & Interactive Picture System).
Events will occur throughout the game that demand you choose Shinjiro's next action within a period of time, putting you into his shoes and forcing you to make important decisions quickly.
Your choices will ultimately cause the story to arc into varying paths.
During Adventure Mode, Shinjiro can move around New York and interact with characters or take part in events. While traveling, you take control of the current character(s). Shinjiro is usually alone, but at times he will have company in tow.
Shinjiro carries around an item called the "Camratron." With it, you can take photos while you travel around New York.
Set the Camratron into Camera Mode and focus on the object using the controller to decide the layout. You can photograph non-human objects as well! Several events will revolve around utilizing this feature.
After you decide on the perfect shot, you can view the photograph you've just taken.
At the Littlelip Theater, Plum (Cherry) is always looking for good photos for the theater's pamphlet cover pages. She gives themes for photos periodically, and if you bring a photo that fits well, you will get a bromide (photo) as a reward.
The Camratron has a radio function as well. You can hear the most up-to-date news of New York and themes of photos the Littlelip Theater is looking for.
The battle system of Sakura Wars employs a unique battle system called "ARMS" (Active & Realtime Machine System). The player will come up with strategies and control the STAR of each member of the Star Division in order to meet the victory conditions.
1) Mobility gauge - Needed for the STAR to perform any actions. The STAR can attack, move, etc. using this variable. As long as there is Mobility remaining, the STAR can perform as many actions as you want, but each turn the STAR is allocated only a limited amount of Mobility. In this photo, the STAR has 7 Mobility.
2)HP, SP - The green bar indicates the STAR's HP, or the sturdiness and physical condition of the STAR. If this hits 0, the STAR must retreat from battle. The red bar indicates SP, spirit. SP is spent everytime you perform "Healing," "Supermove,""Joint," etc. actions. If you perform "Kiai" or receive damage from an enemy, it increases.
3) Current action and attack mode - The character "技" indicates the name of the stratagem, "gi." The wheel around it contains the various attack modes. There are "Normal," "Supermove," "Healing," and "Joint."
4) Area window - Displays the whole layout of the battlefield.
Most battles are fought on the ground (Ground Combat), but STARs can also transform into their flight forms and duke it out in the skies (Aerial Combat). Aerial battles are similar to Ground battles, but each STAR has its own unique attack style.
In some battles, the field is divided into several small areas. You can see your location on the Area Window located on the right side of the Mobility gauge (the star symbol represents the location of the STAR). Each area has certain points that allow you to access the other locations.
* Only Shinjiro can use this command.
If Shinjiro needs the assistance of a distant member, you can use the "Help Me!" command to send another member right next to his STAR. This skill can only be used once per battle.
* Only Shinjiro can use stratagems.
You can choose among three stratagems: "Shin", "Gi", and "Tai". "Gi" is selected by default. When changing stratagems, the members' abilities will also change based on the stratagem's characteristics. The amount of Mobility required to perform each action varies as well. Some actions may also be enabled or disabled, depending on the stratagem. Choose the best stratagem for the situation at hand.
* Only Shinjiro can use this command.
When selected, Shinjiro will guard a Star Division member for a few turns.
The protected member will receive no damage and their trust will increase. To undo "Protect," simply choose "Shinjiro" as the protected character.
An enemy is about to attack Rosita (Rika).
Then Sagiitta(Cheiron) cuts in.
"Friendship Counter" executed!
A "Friendship Counter" happens when an ally is being attacked and another member cuts in to defend them. This happens only occasionally, but when it does, neither of the members will receive any damage and the enemy's Mobility gauge will be emptied.
Joint Attacks allow you to simultaneously strike all monsters between two STAR members. Executing a joint attack taxes both member's SP, but the attack strength is higher than normal. The Bond between the two members alters the attack's effectiveness.
Joint Attacks affect all units between two characters, but if another member with high trust is nearby, they may also join the attack. A Trio Attack is even stronger than a regular Joint Attack!
This panel displays the strength of bonds between Shinjiro and other members. You can see this at save points.
This panel displays the strength of bonds between members of the Star Division. The stronger the bond, the thicker the line.
The main heroine of the chapter, or the heroine you have chosen as your final partner, will be able to perform the "Duo Attack" with Shinjiro when certain conditions are met. To use the "Duo Attack," it is necessary to spend both Shinjiro's and the partner's SP.
These powerful combos are infused with each character's unique personality!
Gemini fires a fast ball at the batter, Shinjiro. Wait, are we playing baseball now?!
Shinjiro successfully connects with the bat.
How'd the baseball game turn out?
...And what happened to the ball?
At the Littlelip Theater, musicals are performed regularly. These are all acted by the Star Division, which is where their other title, the New York Combat Revue, comes from. They spend most of their time working here under the guise of musical stars.
The famous tale of Cleopatra, an Egyptian pharaoh who has a child with Julius Caesar of Rome: Ratchet acts as Cleopatra, Sagiitta acts as Caesar, and Subaru acts as Mark Antony.
A Jungle Revue
Rosita's debut play, "A Jungle Revue." Cheiron, as "Leopard," and Subaru, as "Peacock," please the audience with their graceful dance moves.
A story revolving around life in Harlem. Cheiron plays the part of a wealthy man, while Rosita plays a less fortunate young boy.
Diana plays Ophelia in her favorite play, "Hamlet." Has the last scene been changed...?
There are 60 Bromides in total. You'll receive them during certain story events and as a reward for completing some tasks. The most common way you'll obtain them is by taking good pictures with your Camratron and turning them in to Cherry at the Theater's Drink Bar. Pay attention to the themes she announces to collect them all!
"A Free Day in New York" is an extra chapter that you'll unlock at a certain point in the game during which you can listen to the game's soundtrack, view movies, or look at bromides. You can also play a Sakura Wars cult quiz game, view secret events, and look at graphics from previous events.
Shinjiro photographs Ratchet with the Camratron. On "A Free Day," you can take a Star Division member out for a modeling shoot. Of course, you can have her strike your favorite pose!
This is the quiz mode screen. Before time runs out, you have to consecutively choose the correct answer. If you beat the game, you'll be rewarded handsomely. The questions are easy for hardcore fans. Aim for 100%! You can do it!
You can browse bromides you've collected during the game.
In addition to the regular bromides, you can also find some rare bromides by entering passwords that can be obtained through the Sakura Wars or NISA websites.
During "A Free Day in New York," this event happens at the bathroom after you've entered a special password.