A few months ago on April 22nd it was announced that the mobile game spinoff of Sega’s Sakura Wars series, “Sakura Kakumei” would be shut down. Once this shutdown was announced there were many rumors spreading around the web, ranging from anonymous sources talking about how Hideo Baba was secretly working on the game and sabotaging it, to people who had never played the game celebrating its failure. It was the usual kind of internet discourse.
However there’s one voice that wasn’t heard at all: the voice of Sakura Wars fans. This article wasn’t something I originally planned to write, I was happy slightly helping the Kakumei Archival team (more on that later down) and watching the ship sink. However, as every day I see people who had never played Kakumei or Sakura Wars dance on its grave, I feel the need to get our voices out there. Now that the game’s shutdown has once again been delayed, this time to July 20th, it’s time to write what I should have written months ago: a post-mortem review of Sakura Kakumei.
Full disclosure, I’m a fan of Delightworks’ Fate/Grand Order (the twelve Fate articles I have put out is more than enough proof of that). So I was excited for Sakura Kakumei from the moment it was announced as it seemed it would play similarly. When there were Sakura Wars fans around me who were pessimistic about the series turning into a mobile game, I did what I could to dispel those fears by talking up Delightworks’ other work. I even feel a bit of guilt now for raising people’s hopes only for everything to be shut down. As I am an FGO player this review will be mostly a comparison between Kakumei and FGO and what makes Kakumei different.
Although I will be comparing the two games in this article there’s one major difference that should be kept in mind: The difference in dimensions. Fate/Grand Order is a 2D game in all aspects. The battle system is done with 2D sprites, you view your characters 2D art when upgrading them, the story is done in the style of a visual novel. Sakura Kakumei however is a 2D game with 3D models. The characters are 3D models and the game takes full advantage of this, with multiple camera angles in battles, manga-styled cutscenes, and viewing the 3D model as you upgrade them
No matter what I say or what comparisons between the two games I make, this difference in dimensions is what gives Sakura Kakumei its separate identity from FGO. Whenever I bring up something about Kakumei, just remember that this makes a huge difference and the only reason I’m not mentioning it every paragraph is to avoid repetition.
Anyway, let’s talk about how the game plays. From the first trailer I thought things would play similar to FGO and for the most part it’s true. You select five of your own characters and one support unit either picked from story-determined NPCs or one of your friends. Each character has in-battle skills that you use materials gained in battle to level up, and there is a large amount of element types assigned to characters that determine who is strong against what in the world’s most complicated game of rock, paper, scissors.
However while the skeleton of this system is just like FGO, the rest is quite different. In FGO, you select 3 out of 5 attacks per turn that can all be one character or from three characters depending on your luck, while Sakura Kakumei has you select one attack for each of your three frontline characters. The three attack types you can choose are an attack that moves you forward, an attack that keeps your position, and an attack to move back a space. Each battlefield is composed of around 6 spaces for you or the enemies to move forward and backwards on.While most generic enemy battles end up being boiled down to just charging toward the enemy with characters who are strong against that element type, boss battles become more tactical as you need to avoid attacks that will target specific spaces.
The battle system of Kakumei is fine, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t prefer FGO’s slightly more complicated system. Kakumei also has an auto-battle function and while that’s great for what Kakumei is, a battle system that can be broken down enough for an auto battler to be built into it isn’t enough to keep me engaged.
Outside of battles, the game’s menus are practically 1:1 FGO, with a few things moved around. You have your home base screen where you can select story chapters to move too (Kakumei’s chapters kept in one folder to avoid cluttering the screen, something that FGO didn’t implement until after Part 1), daily grinding missions to get either exp or materials for your characters, a shop screen, and button to access the gacha menu.
A nice difference in Kakumei’s menus however is that unlike FGO where you can only select one favorite character to be on your My Room screen, Kakumei allows you to select three favorite characters to always be on your home screen.
Since I mentioned it at the end there, let’s talk about the gacha. Unlike FGO where 1 and 2 star characters exist alongside the typical higher rarities there exist only 3 star, 4 star, and 5 star characters in Kakumei. Kakumei’s system works on a 300 gacha material per ten pull as opposed to GO’S 30 material formula, however don’t let the numbers confuse you, that extra 0 is just for show the number needed for a pull is the same as there is no way to get a singular digit of material.
However there is one major number difference between Kakumei and FGO’s gacha that changes the entire game: the character pull rates. Compared to FGO’s 0.8% pull rate on Rate Up 5 Star characters, Sakura Kakumei has an extremely generous 2.250% chance of pulling a Rate Up 5 Star. With these odds, getting units was practically a guarantee with every gacha pull, even if repeat units were common. Our Sakura Kakumei Archival team were able to get every single character in the game before closure without bankrupting ourselves, an amazing feat (though maybe this generosity is another contributor to the game not making money, but that’s neither here nor there)
However there is a singular, though minor, downside to this, the rate at which you are given gacha materials. This is a factor that went under many people’s noses in the circles I usually frequent, as we all pre-registered and were given 3 free ten pulls at launch. Getting that gacha material early-game is a lot more time consuming than early game FGO. FGO’s early game is infamous for not being super well written and short, but because of that players obtain a lot of gacha material fast and can get themselves a good amount of ten-pulls for an early game roster.
Kakumei in comparison has a long prologue and then a first story chapter where every node has multiple sections before you get 10 of the 300 material needed for a second ten pull after your first free one. It takes a long time to get a good roster in Kakumei even if the gacha is extremely generous. It can be a brick wall for new players trying to get into the game.
I enjoyed my time with Kakumei and the characters from what I could gather of them, but at the end of the day I couldn’t fully enjoy Kakumei the way the experience was intended. Why? For one simple reason: language barrier. I don’t know any Japanese so I wasn’t able to experience Kakumei’s story any deeper than hearing the voice acting and music.
So to get a second opinion on Kakumei from someone who was able to experience the game on a deeper level I have asked friend and fellow member of the Kakumei Archival team, LettuceKitteh, to give her thoughts on Kakumei.
LettuceKitteh’s thoughts on Kakumei:
Kakumei was my second real gacha game – I got through the initial launch of the (English) Revue Starlight gacha before losing my data to a phone switch, but that was about it for experience. And I wasn’t in it for the gacha, anyway – I was in it because it was Sakura Wars. (I believe ‘Sakura series’ is the official way to refer to the combined Taisen and Kakumei world.)
It was a unique experience being around for a game’s pre-launch experience – Kakumei had several video events leading up to launch, ranging from interviews with Shino’s voice actress to notes on the setting – Taisho 100 – and musings from Tanaka (Kouhei)-sensei, who did the majority of the game’s music. They did a good job at getting me hyped, at least!
The game itself was nice enough – easy to navigate even through a language barrier, lots of voiced lines, beautiful character models and fun battle animations – but in the end, I was there for the story (which I could understand about 30-40% of) and the characters. The story itself, language issues aside, seemed to be a pretty typical adventure story – Shino Sakura, swordswoman and aspiring actress, accompanies you on a journey across Japan to find out the truth behind the miracle energy source, “Mirai Energy”. (It turns out it’s literally turning people into monsters, if you’re curious.) Along the way, you meet numerous other maidens with strong spirit energy who agree to join you on your quest for justice. Eventually, even the opposing force BLACK realizes they’ve been misled and truth wins the day. Sakura Taisen has always had the overwhelming optimism of a 90s anime, and it’s on full display here.
And the character work was, honestly, really good. There were moments in events where characters got space to breathe and develop (my favorite girl, Souka the aspiring astronaut, became my favorite when she cheerfully chided me on ‘rockets’ versus ‘rocket boosters’); each chapter gave its set of girls (organized by location) moments to shine; everything, in the end, related back to the stage, the plays these girls put on, and their bonds with each other. Sakura Kakumei felt like a new Sakura Wars game to me, which was, in the end, all I ever wanted.
Thank you Lettuce, I’ll take back over for the end, and unfortunately end is the best descriptor. As stated at the beginning of this article, on April 22nd it was announced that Sakura Kakumei would be ending service. This announcement came out of nowhere and shocked us all. Rumors began to spread about why the game failed and people would claim that Hideo Baba was secretly working on the game and caused the failure. I try not to pay too much attention to the rumor mongering as it’s just depressing.
With the announcement of the shutdown it seemed there was nothing we fans could do but play until the end. That was until Samantha Ferreria, the face of the Sakura Wars fanbase, said she wanted to archive the game. From there the Sakura Kakumei Archival team was formed.
We won’t be able to save the game in a playable state, what makes the game function is Delightworks’ servers, the APK itself doesn’t have anything more than a few models. However what we can do is save screenshots and videos of all aspects of the game and an archive of all web advertisements of the game, including any Twitter post Sega or Delightworks have made on it.
Our goal is to prevent Sakura Kakumei from being forgotten, for it to just be written off as yet another failed gacha game in a sea of mobile applications. If any new Sakura Wars fans were to look into the series we would want them to be able to learn about Kakumei as it was and not what some rumor mongers say it was. And that’s all I really have to say on that. Sam has a much better write up on our plans to archive Kakumei here.
I wish I didn’t need to write this article, I had so many potential plans with Kakumei as a huge Sakura Wars fan and a huge FGO fan. I had hoped I would be able to write about this game many times and be able to contribute something to the Sakura Wars fandom, but that just wasn’t meant to be. It’s a bitter pill to swallow but at the end of the month Sakura Kakumei will be gone aside from our memories, screenshots, and videos online. However the one thing that will never disappear is our love for the series, thank you for reading.