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 Outdated Hip-hop references aside, most recently, we've seen many patches released, with plenty more in the works (you can see a megathread of all of the upcoming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.

Unfortunately, for those who can't speak Japanese, the only English text in the entire game is "PRESS START BUTTON" on the initial title screen, and after that, everything else is a shot in the dark. A game of columns is easy to follow for anyone who has an understanding of how the game works, so Sakura Wars Columns 2 is a decent enough import as long as you stick to the core puzzle modes. But if you just wanted a game of Columns, you could just play Columns. This is still a Sakura Wars game at heart, and so its story and characters are half of what make the experience so enjoyable. Derek et al.'s translation now finally allows English speakers who can't speak Japanese to enjoy this title for all that it offers, and for this we at the Junkyard thank him and his team for all their hard work. Everything in this release is translated, from in-game text to art assets, even the VMU icon has been changed to a custom English version of the logo. On a more technical level, the game has been modded to work with VGA, which will be a great help to those burning the game to a CD-R.

The game’s DLC has also been restored, and can be accessed in a translated, cached form via an option in the main menu. This is an important feature that Derek recommends you install from the offset. Not only are the game’s DLC puzzles made available this way, but there is also a save file that can be downloaded to your VMU to unlock everything in the game. Without this, a considerable amount of the game is gated off to new players, requiring them to grind through and unlock it all. Derek and his team have worked hard to translate the game, so it’s only natural that they’d want you to be able to see all of it! The instructions on how to install the DLC puzzles and the 100% completed save file are in Derek’s readme, so follow those steps after you boot the game up for the first time.

Another useful feature for those downloading this translation patch is that it comes with its own nifty patching utility so you don’t even need to go hunting for patching software. Derek told me that his intention for this utility is for it to be reworked by other translators to patch other Dreamcast games in the future. Just select a compatible GDI of Hanagumi Taisen Columns 2 in the tool, then click "Apply Patch" and you're away! More info, again, is in the readme.
All images featured in this article (custom art/screenshots, etc.) were supplied by Derek.
Finally, with all that out the way, please find links to everything you need below. There’s links to download the patch, the Readme (be sure to read it before playing!) and also a link to the project page on Derek's GitHub. We have also included download links for already patched CDIs and GDIs. After 21 years, Sakura Wars Columns 2 is finally playable! We can't wait to dive into it!

As we always want to give thanks to the wonderful people responsible for bringing us projects like this, thanks goes out to Derek Pascarella, and the following people who worked on this project with him: Chanh Nguyen (Burntends), Natsume38, Danthrax4, HaydenKow, esperknight, VincentNL, nanashi, SnowyAria, NoahSteam, TurnipTheBeet, YZB, cj_iwakura, Ozaline, Matatabi Mitsu, ItsumoKnight, Samantha Ferreira, LettuceKitteh, JoblessFloppy, GriffithVIII, Patrick Traynor, AnimatedAF, Small Nerd and Einahpets.


Tom Charnock said...

As someone who has never played a single Sakura Wars game, this is really cool news. I now have no excuse not to give this a go. Thanks for all your work Derek and team, and nice write up Lewis :)

Jc said...

This is splendid. I now have a good reason to take out my Dreamcast.