AKA: Sakura Taisen ~IN SPAAAACEEE~
It sounds more than a little glib but my internal filing of Broccoli’s multimedia extravaganza isn’t all that far off the mark, as a quick glance at the colour-coordinated cast on this page will hopefully show you. Scratch the surface however and… actually, all you’ll initially find are more similarities: Well meaning but inexperienced male captain? Yep! Pink lead lady who’s very lovely but also the generic ‘safe choice’? Absolutely. Ultra-cute psychic? Tough gun-nut leader? Food loving fighter? You can match up almost any main Galaxy Angel character with a Sakura Taisen equivalent with no real difficulty – except Vanilla, who replaces Sumire’s ‘top star’ style with Anime Cliche #2141: ‘emotionally vacant young girl’.
At least the bad guys look like they’re going to very very briefly possibly maybe please add an unexpected grey area to the mix as the instigator of a coup d’etat with claims of being the true ruler of the magica-sorry, ‘Lost Technology’-powered space empire – until a microsecond later when they’re shown wearing full-on Evil Ruler garb in marauding black and red spaceships, like they bought their entire Evil Guys fleet on discount from Darth Vader’s Totally Evil Spaceship Catalogue. The good news is you’ll soon realise that none of this really matters, as Galaxy Angel is a charming and engaging ride with a sharp focus on Gettin’ Things Done™
I’m sure you’ve noticed that so far I’ve compared Galaxy Angel to Sakura Taisen in a rather unfavourable light, so here I’m going to turn the tables and point out some significant ways in which Milfeulle and gang outdo Sega’s popular steam powered theatre group.
Let’s start with the pacing: Sakura Taisen, much as I love the series, always takes a while to really get going and even when it does remember that there’s more to the plot than Nice Man Does Nice Things With Nice Ladies there are still days where Ogami doesn’t do much other than bumble around a theatre or the streets of Paris chatting to people about nothing in particular. Galaxy Angel still offers optional interactions with the crew of the Elsior but these sections are significantly shorter and more to the point, more often than not boiling down to simply finding your favoured lady’s icon on the map and clicking on the room to get started. Of course there’s some personality lost with this abrupt approach but on the other hand I never found myself picking ‘whatever’ just to rush through to the next save point because I needed to sleep/eat/work/interact with loved ones.
Which brings me to another major positive for Galaxy Angel – the ability to save whenever and wherever you like (outside of battle, that is)! It doesn’t sound like much, but it made a huge difference to my playthrough because I knew I could put it down when I needed to and pick up right where I left off; no clock-watching while praying for a designer-approved break or ‘I’d better leave it there because I think there’s a long section coming up’ – just exactly as much Galaxy Angel as I fancied, and no progress lost if I had to do something else. Of course with this approach you can ‘cheat’ and save before making any potentially lady-upsetting dialogue choices, but on the other hand you can also try out the cheekier options just for a bit of fun without ruining an Angel’s mood or having to reload a save from half an hour (or more!) ago, and to be honest the sort of person who would try every option and then keep the best one is the sort of person who’d otherwise be playing the game with a guide in hand anyway, so nothing’s been lost – and even if you think it has, does it really matter in a single player spacegirl wooing game?
In any case keeping all your Angels happy is very important as, just like Sakura Taisen, happier girls make better fighters and a good mood directly boosts their offensive capabilities. To use my own playthrough as an example – my chosen love Milfeulle was more than capable of taking out enemy ships by herself by the final battle whereas the others needed at least one other fighter by their side as well as more frequent trips back to the Elsior for emergency repairs to take down the same ships. These real time space battles are designed to be won on your first go but still dangerous enough that you have to stay on your toes and play ‘properly’: pick your targets wisely, pay attention to mission directives, and don’t expect the enemy to hold back if you think your burning sense of anime hero justice is enough to protect you – it isn’t. This all makes for a tense and exciting experience even if it’s not going to stretch your tactical RPG muscles to any great degree and these battles fit in well with the rest of the game, feeling like the other half of a whole rather than something tacked on for variety’s sake.
There is a reason why Galaxy Angel’s ‘The other one’ in the rather niche corner of gaming that is colour coordinated evil bashing girl wooing – the writing’s ‘solid’ rather than exceptional and the production’s not as lavish, with sparse FMV scenes and only a relatively small number of event CGs. However all this really means is that Galaxy Angel is ‘just’ very good rather than a genre-defining classic for the ages, and for the dating/visual novel/battle hybrid game-curious with little time on their hands to wade through pages of dialogue I may even go so far as to recommend Galaxy Angel first – especially as it’s been translated into English (small point: I’ve only played the game in Japanese, so I can’t vouch for the quality of the work).