As reported by Anime News Network, FUNimation made an interesting announcement at Kamikaze Con:

Funimation also announced that, at upcoming cons, they would be circulating petitions in order to bring the Sakura Taisen games to the US.

Personally I’ve still associated FUNimation with bad Dragon Ball Z anime episodes, but I’m seeing that this is no longer the case.  Because of a discussion over on Matthew’s Anime Blog, I remembered I had a copy of the first volume of Fruits Basket, which was put out by FUNimation.  Fruits Basket was brought up as a really nice release because it came out on only 4 DVDs, even though there were 26 episodes.  Having gotten a DVD burner recently I’ve really learned how low bitrates can really destroy a video, even on DVDs.  Most companies (anime and otherwise) still seem to prefer DVD5s, which hold about 4.7GB.  On these, if you have extras taking up space as well, 4 episodes is about the max you can get on it and have really good bitrates and video quality.  If the company’s willing to fine tune the encoding, 5 is also possible, but this is unfortunately rare.  DVD9s on the other hand are dual-layer and can hold a littler over 9GB of data.  You can pack more episodes on these discs and keep a high bitrate for a quality picture.

So, I wondered which FUNimation had done.  Was it 6 episodes + extras crammed on a DVD5 with noticeable video quality problems, or had they used a DVD9?  A quick check and it was clear, the first volume contains 6 episodes and is around 7GB.  Additionally I checked the bitrate through the first episode or so and it became clear it had been fine-tunes quite a bit.  The rate varies quite a lot, I’ve seen it around 2mbps, and as high (so far) as 7mbps.  I’ve yet to see any noticeable video quality degradation.  In fact what I watched looked simply stunning!  When the video needs the higher rates it has it, and when it doesn’t (and there are a lot of low/no motion scenes in these episodes) the rates goes down to save space.  The only real problem I can find with it is the audio is only encoded at 256kbps.  I suspect this is done to save space for the inevitable volumes with 7 episodes and they wanted to keep the audio encoding consistent across volumes.  That I can live with.

So back to the main point now.  It’s obvious to me now that FUNimation is not the company I remember, they’ve changed quite a bit and are doing quality work.  What impresses me the most here is that this is on a shoujo title, something other companies seem to treat like an unwanted stepsister compared to their other titles.  Add to this that they’re trying to get the Sakura Taisen games brought over and, well, wow, what a change!

For those who don’t know, the Sakura Taisen games aren’t exactly like standard dating sims, but there are components of that in them, something that no one seems to think a US audience would be interested in except the bishoujo H games.  Personally I think there’s a market for dating sims in general here, at the very least there’s lots of guys who don’t have any luck with women who would likely enjoy them.  I think there’s a bigger audience than that though, they can appeal on many levels: trying to win the hearts of the girls  you like is fun, and in a game it’s not nearly as painful if you goof things up; most are set in high school, I know to me there’s a LOT of appeal to being back in high school again when things were much simpler; and many would enjoy the different culture as well.  Anime fans can relate to this one, not only is it a dating sim, but it’s a return to high school and a chance to experience virtually a bit what it might have been like to go to school in Japan.  (Granted it’s not very realistic, but it’s a game and it’s the closest we’re going to get. ^_^)  Do note I’m not talking about H games here, I’m talking about the non-H dating sims.

Sakura Taisen though adds in the whole story that we’ve only seen bits and pieces of in the OVAs and TV series.  I understand there’s much more to what’s going on and the whole story is quite intriguing on its own, even without the dating sim aspects.  I think they would do well here.  Not blockbusters, but they’d do pretty well, certainly enough to cover localization costs.

Incidentally I do know of one game released in the US with dating sim aspects.  Thousand Arms for the PS1 is a RPG.  In it you’re a “spirit blacksmith” and you forge skills into your weapons, along with one of the girls.  What skills can be forged depend on your relationship level with the girl.  You have to go on dates to change the relationship levels, and you have options you have to pick to try and get the best date possible.  Annoyingly you really have to tick them off sometimes too to lower the relationship level to add skills to new weapons you acquire.  Still, the dating sim aspects were there.

Too bad I will most likely not be attending any cons, I’d like to sign the petition, I urge everyone else to do so as well!  Even if the Sakura Taisen games aren’t your favorites, if this is successful it may lead to other titles being brought over that we never thought we’d see.  I know I’d like to see Tokimeki Memorial come over sometime, from what a friend’s told me about it I think it’d be great fun. :)

(Please correct me if I’m wrong, I haven’t played them but have seen them in action and have a good friend who’s played them all, but I do not claim to be an expert by any means.)

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Comments

Saotshi on 30 March, 2005 at 5:27 pm #

I’ve got the PS version of TokiMemo 1 – imported from Japan. I still one of the mousepads that came with it, although I’ve only been able to play the actual game itself on an emulator.

TokiMemo 3 apparently has a capability to actually ‘speak’ your name – you put in the kana/kanji and the tonal variation, and it will be spoken more-or-less naturally along with the rest of the dialogue. In the first (and second?) game, the characters would kinda skip over your name. It’d be like “Hello, [pause]. Going home now?”

(And yes, it’s 3d..well, cell-shaded 3d.)

The game itself was a lot of fun…it really is interesting seeing how many different ways you can develop your character. And the last couple semesters are pure torture, since by then you’ve met a lot of the girls (unless you somehow managed to avoid it, like only studying science on weekends so you don’t run into Yuina). And at that point one misstep can cause a whole truckload of gossip raining down on you… :p

Thanks for the info on the Sakura Taisen game. I’d previously thought it was a mecha action game, but that’s just the impression I have of the series as a whole. Will be interesting to see how this all pans out.


Satoshi on 30 March, 2005 at 5:27 pm #

Bah, I spelled my name wrong. That takes talent, of a kind.


Maestro4k on 31 March, 2005 at 4:48 pm #

I have most of the regulars for all sets of Tokimeki Memorial trading card series believe it or not.  I even have favorite characters from what my friend’s told me about them, I really wish I could play the games. ^_^  I’ve even seen the first OVA, although it’s confusing as hell, even with some explanations from my friend.

You’re welcome, I know it’s not just mecha action, although I’m not sure if there’s any of that in it or not.  I remember that when choices come up you not only have to make decisions that will affect relationships, you’re timed.  You don’t get too long either, making it next to impossible to play if you can’t read Japanese quickly.


Anime! on 4 April, 2005 at 12:28 am #

FUNimation Releases

Has FUNimation improved? This blogger thinks so….


Jehuty on 9 May, 2005 at 7:04 pm #

:O did any of you guys played a game called “Double Cast” back in the PS days? =] I think the newest Sakura taisen has nothing to do w/ the TV series tho, and the old ones are in dreamcast / PS formats http://sakura-taisen.com/


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