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Sakura Wars Columns 2 has been Translated into English!

This year in Dreamcast has already been one for the books. The indie titles, the Easter eggs, the unearthing of massive franchise entries once thought to be lost. One of the biggest deals for me personally has been the current surge of translation projects gracing our favourite system. Just like House of Pain back in '92, Dreamcast translation fever is in effect, y'all. Outdated Hip-hop references aside, most recently, we've seen many patches released, with plenty more in the works (you can see a megathread of all of the upcoming projects here). One individual in particular, Derek Pascarella, has been particularly busy in the first quarter of this year, releasing translations of Neon Genesis Evangelion -Typing E Keikaku-, and the infamous French-exclusive Taxi 2. While the translations of those games were more of a solo effort on Derek's part, he decided to take it up a notch for his next project, so much so that he had to recruit the talents of a whole team. This brand new patch is an English translation of Japan-exclusive Hanagumi Taisen Columns 2. Derek was kind enough to send me some early builds of the translation prior to the public patch release, so thank you, Derek.

Released in 2000, Hanagumi Taisen Columns 2 is the second instalment in a short-lived Columns spin-off series to the Sakura Wars franchise. For those not in the know, Sakura Wars (aka Sakura Taisen) is a Sega franchise that was ridiculously popular in Japan, where it remained exclusive for a very long time. The mainline entries in this series are known for their fantastic steampunk plots set in the Taishō period of Japan (with the plots of later entries finding their way to other countries), as well as a seamless combination of tactical RPG gameplay with visual novel sections, where building up relationships with members of your squad strengthens their morale in battle. If you want to read a bit more about Sakura Wars I've covered it on the blog twice now, with the most recent coverage being on the very good PS4 reboot that was released in April of last year. I've also chatted about it a little on the DreamPod too. 

At face value, Sakura Wars Columns (as the game's title was localised by Derek et al.) appears to simply be a Sakura Wars reskin of the classic Sega falling-block puzzler Columns, which probably saw its most prominent success as Sega's flagship puzzle game for the Mega Drive (or Genesis for you Americans!). But Sakura Wars Columns 2 stays true to the roots of its franchise, with story modes available in the game incorporating its signature visual novel/date sim-style gameplay in between blasts of gem stacking puzzle mayhem. All 12 characters of the Imperial Combat Revue's Flower Division have their own dedicated storylines (all of which are extremely charming - as is typical of the writing in Sakura Wars), as well as various strengths and weaknesses when it comes to column stacking. And with a tonne of different modes, unlockables and extra content, it's a really great package. I imagine Japanese gamers who picked this game up back in 2000 weren't disappointed, especially since it contained a network match service that allowed players to face off with each other online. These network capabilities have long since been retired, but let’s hope the release of this translation inspires the awesome peeps over at Dreamcast Live to restore them. Knowing them, they're probably already working on it.