Being LeftStickRight’s Most Eligible Bachelor is a tough gig; especially when it’s because your lady-attracting skills are as shaky as an over-caffeinated maraca player on a wooden roller coaster.
I have turned to my favorite medium for tips to improve my romantic life, but video games have so far not been as helpful as expected. The Harvest Moon method was looking promising for a while, but after the 42nd consecutive day of giving that girl a single fresh egg, the only token I received in return was a restraining order. Maybe she would’ve liked wool better.
But lo, my spirits are renewed as I play through Sakura Wars: So Long My Love. This is my first experience with the largely Japan-based franchise and I’ve been surprised to discover the title concentrates less on the “Sakura Wars” tactical fighting than I expected and more on the “So Long My Love” dating sim elements as main character Shinjiro Taiga learns how best to work with his new teammates at the New York Combat Revue. But in such surprises come lessons, and if a video game about getting along with a group of steam mecha-operating anime girls who masquerade as Broadway performers in 1920s New York City can’t teach me anything about the intricacies of real love, I don’t know what can!
Lesson 1: Women with ‘pornstar names’ are actually relatively kind and innocent
The names of many characters in the game have an almost stellar quality to them. But whereas Cheiron Archer is a good name for the lawyer and Diana Caprice is a good name for the wise, motherly character, “Gemini Sunrise” sounds slightly more dubious. Fact is, however, she’s a modest, friendly Southern cowgirl who cleans the theater/base, daydreams about samurai and keeps a horse in her apartment. In this game, that qualifies her as the “girl next door.”
Consider myself humbly taught in keeping an open mind, then. Just because a woman has a name like “Venus Starr” doesn’t necessarily mean she has an occupation of ill repute. Maybe if I approach such a woman and ask her what she likes to do, I’ll end up pleasantly enlightened!
On a side note, you may think that women named after cars would be wild and fun-loving. If they’re anything like Subaru Kujo, however, they really are like vehicles: androgynous and mechanical. I would cancel that date with Mercedes if I was you.
Lesson 2: Women regularly find themselves in compromising situations — including just being in the same room as you
It’s really amazing how often fate causes the fairer sex to end up, say, lying on the floor covered in water or just about to lift their shirts over their heads when a male walks in. In fact, being one of only two guys in the entire theater, you would think Shinjiro would more often end up the one caught with his pants down, but the world just doesn’t work that way.
Thankfully, So Long My Love provides a helpful guide on what to do in these situations. Such as in the above-mentioned incident, when you are helping Gemini clean the theater and she falls over, spilling water over herself, the two most natural choices will arise: “Wipe the floor” or “Wipe Gemini.” In this instance, the game teaches, it is the best general principal to wipe objects that are incapable of kneeing you in the groin.
I must admit, however, that I’m still a little confused as to what the game wanted to teach me when a conversation with one of the characters suddenly turned into some sort of point-and-click examination. I mean, it wasn’t like playing doctor or anything, but I accidentally stroked her hair and it understandably freaked her out, considering it was about the second time she had met Shinjiro. I will try my best to avoid accidentally stroking a woman’s hair in real life.
Speaking of mixed signals…
Lesson 3: What you mean to say can and will be taken the wrong way
So Long, My Love offers a multitude of choices for Shinjiro to speak or act upon. Many of them have obvious implications (“Wipe Gemini”) but some are more unpredictable.
In one of the scenes where you’re actually fighting, two of your teammates begin to argue. One of the responses to this is to tell them there are more important things to be doing right now. Very practical, right? And it does reunite them… by having them turn on you.
I would come up with some sort of joke here, but this is exactly what you should expect as a guy trying to get between two arguing women. Very real. A++++. Would learn again.
Lesson 4: Women love sharing sexy photos of each other
One of the workers at the theater, Cherry Cocker (see Lesson 1), requires Shinjiro to take photos of backdrops for the theater’s program. Find one she likes, and her reward is handing him a candid photo of one of the other girls — usually in a different outfit an in an attractive pose. Oddly enough, whereas Shinjiro flushes and stammers any other time something the least bit scandalous comes up, he is more than happy to take these photos off Cherry’s hands.
This must mean that it is a well-known practice among females to trade mildly revealing photos of each other to boys. I will have to inquire about this, but if… you know… you just happen to get around to asking first — like, anytime in the next year or two — let me know how it goes, ok?
Lesson 5: As bizarre as it all is, it’s hard to turn away
Make no mistake: So Long, My Love is steeped in all matters of anime crazy. The “episodes” the game is divided into really have felt like individual shows, with lots of interaction and plot leading up to a big battle at the end. And while the action can be laughably ridiculous, it has been so in an entertaining way.
For all I’ve said about awkward situations, there has been nothing that has gone too far — the game is rated Teen, after all. You will likely feel a bit skeezy in some situations, but it’s not a constant sleazefest by any means. The writing and voice acting have been rather good so far and I actually find myself wanting to continue the story just to see what the game will pull next for poor Shinjiro.
It’s definitely not for everyone — most notably those who don’t enjoy a lot of conversation and text between their action — but Sakura Wars: So Long My Love should be tried by anime fans and those seeking a potentially fresh experience.
Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love is produced by Sega and published in North America by NIS. Feature based on completion of first two “episodes” in about 5.5 hours of playtime. Game available for Wii and PS2; Wii version rented through GameFly.