Sortie! Imperial Assault Force! (檄!帝国華撃団)

by wfgodbold

Sakura Wars: In Hot Blood (the original Saturn release was not subtitled) was the first in a series that achieved cult popularity in Japan; it had four direct sequels and a handful of spinoff games. Not bad for a series set in a divergent 1920s steampunk Japan (even the oddly shaped mecha run on steam (and spirit power, of course)).

The main character, Ichiro Ohgami, has just graduated from the Imperial Naval Academy and his first assignment is to report to the Imperial Theater, in the Ginza district of Tokyo. Upon doing so, he’s crushed to discover that instead of serving his country as a second lieutenant, he’s going to be punching tickets for the Imperial Opera Troupe (an all-female theater group inspired by the real-life Takurazuka Revue).

Eventually, though, his misconceptions are rectified; the opera troupe is a cover for the Imperial Assault Force, a group of young women who pilot steam and spirit powered mecha against the demons that have been plaguing Tokyo. Ohgami’s day job might have been punching tickets; when the city is under attack, he pilots his own mech and commands the rest of the squad.

Originally combat consisted of tile-based strategic battles, but with the PS2 remake, the grids were done away with in favor of a more dynamic system; mecha were able to move in any direction, instead of being limited to positions on the grid.

When not engaged in combat (which occurs once or twice per chapter), the player controls Ohgami as he makes the rounds in the theater and talks to the rest of the cast. Depending on the dialog choices you make, the other members of the troupe will grow to trust you (and so become more powerful for the combat sections) or distrust you (making them less powerful and the combat more difficult).

The opening for the games plays out like the opening of an episode of anime; each of the characters makes an appearance, as do the villains; this is continued throughout the game. After each chapter, a next-episode preview style animation plays, giving a hint of what’s to come.

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