Thursday, March 8, 2012

Sakura Wars 5's Ratchet Altair Sure Does Get the Shaft

I think Sega hates fans of Ratchet Altair.

Alright, real quick background for this rant, because I find that I spend way too much time on these intro paragraphs. Sakura Wars is a very big series whose major installments are video games but which also branches out to anime and manga as well. Sakura Wars 5 is a combination Dating Sim and Strategy RPG. In it, you play as a guy named Shinjiro Taiga, who, despite having a slightly uninteresting personality and less masculinity than the girls he's surrounded by, has the opportunity to engage in a romantic relationship with any of his female coworkers/team members due to them all wanting to jump his bones. Also, there's a bunch of ridiculous hogwash about giant robot suits, ancient demon warlords, Texan samurai wannabes dressing up as super heroes, 1920s theater, and so on, but the truckload of insanity that comprises Sakura Wars's background is very thankfully irrelevant to today's rant.

Generally, Sega tries to be fair and balanced for the fans of each different potential love interest for Shin. Each gets her own chapter to introduce and/or develop her character during, each has their own romantic scenarios and endings and so on, and when the anime follow-up to the game starts, it seems assumed that he did not pick any particular woman to be his romantic partner during the game, so as not to play favorites and let fans keep their own personal ideas of which lady Shinji is going to get together with.* That way, every fanboy is happy, regardless of which girl is his favorite. Except, that is, for anyone who likes Ratchet.

Don't get me wrong here--I find Ratchet little more than mildly appealing. I mean, she's actually kind of classy, and she's certainly my favorite romantic option for Shin during Sakura Wars 5** as the romantic scenes involving her really are sweet and romantic instead of banal and stupid like most of the others, but she doesn't exactly have a lot of strong competition from her peers for my approval. Hell, just the fact that she isn't utterly repugnant elevates her over a quarter of her fellow cast.

But man, I do not envy anyone who has any particularly strong preference for her character, because the Sakura Wars series is out to mitigate her role as much as it can wherever she is.

Alright, so, let's go back to the start. This is all going to be according to what I can figure out from looking on Wiki pages and such, so, y'know, I don't guarantee this is 100% infallible, but I'm assuming it's reliable information. The character of Ratchet Altair shows up for the first time, from what my not-exactly-exhaustively-researched sources tell me, in the Sakura Wars anime movie, in which she plays a bit part. Prior to the movie's events, she supposedly was the captain of the European division of the (ridiculous) giant robot squads protecting the world, but there's not actually any anime or game or anything about that squad at that time.

Eventually, Ratchet transfers to the new (even more ridiculous) New York giant robot squad to act as the team captain for the events of Sakura Wars 5, until she gets hurt in the game's first battle and transfers the title over to Shinji. After that, she stays around, but what role she's supposed to be taking is ambiguous--she sort of acts like an assistant to the squad's overseer, Sunnyside, except that he already HAS an assistant, she sort of acts like a mentor to the new captain, except that she rarely actually guides him and seems to prefer he come to his own conclusions and find his own way, she has a giant robot of her own and could fight except she doesn't...I'm not sure why they keep her on the payroll, honestly. Shinjiro can pursue a relationship with her, but ONLY on a New Game+ run; the first time through the player has to choose one of the other chicks for Shinji to get together with.

After the game's events comes a short anime series of 6 episodes' length following the further adventures of the NY squad. The first scene after the opening of Episode 1 is Ratchet leaving on a boat to go head the new Berlin giant robot task force. No game, anime, whatever has yet been made which details in any way how that goes.

So let me sum this up for you: Ratchet is a character whose major accomplishments and career occur off-screen, until she shows up for a bit role in a movie. Then in the game she's removed from having any relevant role during the first act, and of all the characters who can be romanced, hers is the one you have to wait until a subsequent playthrough to attempt (and that game does NOT have the kind of compelling plot and characters that encourage you to play it ever again). Then, once the follow-up anime starts, literally the first thing it does is to stick her on a boat and ship her off somewhere else (and that somewhere else is Germany. In the 1920s. Ouch). After that, she's never heard from in the Sakura Wars universe again.

I mean, it's not ALL negative with Ratchet. After all, her romance with Shin is, if you ignore the later anime that sort of negates all possible romances from ever having happened, made more special by the scenes it adds to the finale than all the other potential romances, to the point where it seems implied that she's the true soul mate for Shinjiro. It's a nice gesture.

BUT, once again, that's only something you can ever see AFTER you've seen him paired off with someone else, and it still doesn't change the fact that every other time in which Ratchet has been genuinely important has occurred off screen, either before we meet her or after we say farewell to her. She really just got screwed over, all said.

* Even though saying that Shin never hooked up with anyone during the game would kind of negate the entire foundation and purpose of Sakura Wars 5. I mean, Sega, you made a game that was, first and foremost, a Dating Sim. Isn't the entire point of such a game to hook up with someone? Implying that Shinji officially never did is sort of like retroactively nixing the whole basis for that venture.

** Although if we go by the anime follow-up to SW5, I'm pretty sure we have to concede that Shin is mostly just interested in getting his yaoi on with Tutankhamen (yes, King Tut is in the anime, long story don't ask it's stupid).


  1. Really appreciate this post !!!

  2. Hope that Ratchet appear more often !!!!!!!

  3. i'd like to talk more about ratchet with u... email me @

  4. Is there a reason we can't talk here?

  5. Now I find this very interesting - a while back I got a chance to play Sakura Wars on the Wii. I just picked it up and played it completely out of context. I enjoyed the game, but it was obvious that there were plenty of other storylines and plot tie-ins to other shows or games when you hear about Sabaru's and Ratchet's past together, or Gemini's past. But I was surprised that Ratchet, who seemed like she would be a primary character, was really pushed to the background in that game.

    On the one hand, it made sense as Shin was obviously meant to take the lead on the team and that would have been hard for him to do properly with Ratchet on the active squad still, but even then I kind of just kept expecting her to rejoin somewhere along the way.

  6. Ratchet was to have a larger role, but her voice actress was not available (being a fairly in-demand stage persona in real life) so they had to rewrite the game and anime to significantly diminish her role.

  7. Well that explains that, albeit not very well, since they could have just had someone else take over the character instead. So it's still the Ratchet fan getting needlessly screwed.

  8. I hope this comment section is not dead, but I absolutely love Sakura Wars/Taisen. For me, it just increases the charm that Ratchet was pushed to the back of the story and was made somewhat of a secret ending.

    1. Well, I'm glad it worked for you, but I can't imagine that many other players who liked her would agree. Then again, maybe they would; it wouldn't be the first time my perspective was significantly distanced from the rest of the world's.