Slave Princess Sarah Review – Game (Oh) Boy

    Title: Slave Princess Sarah
    Developer: StudioS
    Release Date: December 11, 2020
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Eroge Japan
    Genre: Action Eroge

No one ever read those magazines for the articles, but a compelling case can often be made for those who claim to play eroge games for the gameplay. Eroge is an interesting subculture within the underbelly of video games, which has become relatively more mainstream and less taboo. This is largely thanks to publishers distributing these games on platforms like Steam.

Of course, while these are heavily edited versions, the core gameplay and design remain intact. This allows for less of a guilty pleasure way to try them and discover that, for the most part, they are games first and foremost. Slave Princess Sarah is the latest release from developer StudioS and proves to be a genuine homage to Game Boy action RPGs despite its rather taboo name and content.

Slave Princess Sarah’s Steam release is edited as an all-age version, but a patch is available. The chances are that if you really wanted to indulge in adult content through a green-hue filter, then you’ve most likely already figured it out by now. Fair warning, though, the content is legitimately insane, and even the material vaguely implied in the edited Steam release provides a pretty good indication of this. Ultimately, it’s your choice if you’re okay with seeing things that can never be unseen again.

The story of Slave Princess Sarah feels like something out of an adults-only fantasy B movie. An entire kingdom gets conquered and pillaged, with the royals sold into slavery, and this is where the protagonist, Princess Sarah herself, comes in as she and her sister try to escape their owner. It’s all very over the top and dark, and you’ll either find the whole thing silly or disturbing and offensive.

Just the title of the game alone might scare potential players away. This all highlights the main dilemma surrounding most eroge games, which is how often the adult content in of itself does the greatest disservice to what is otherwise a fairly decent video game. The story isn’t terrible all the time, especially when greater evils become apparent, and so Sarah’s quest soon becomes about more than just her own freedom.

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Slave Princess Sarah is a Game Boy styled game through and through, and it’s worth wondering how much more the game could be appreciated and enjoyed had some work been done to release it on cartridge for the real thing. As it stands now, players will simply be playing a retro adventure on their computer, which takes away from the immersion as the novelty of the graphics wears off rather quickly. If developers are going to commit to the whole retro theme, then they might as well go all the way. The graphics are as basic as they come, but some of the character portraits are presented and animated in a lot more detail.

As a game, Slave Princess Sarah takes after a few seminal Game Boy adventure RPGs. Obviously, the similarities with the original 1993 The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening are there, but the experience as a whole really takes after 1991’s Final Fantasy Adventure. The latter was actually the very first official entry in the Mana (Seiken Densetsu) series, utilizing Zelda’s top-down action perspective but also incorporating RPG elements. Slave Princess Sarah feels like Final Fantasy Adventure, which is the reason why it actually ends up being a legitimate RPG adventure, much to the surprise of anyone who can look past the gimmick of the game’s adult themes.

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The main quest involves earning enough funds to buy back Sarah and her sister’s freedom, and so during the day, she is allowed to explore the world to complete quests. The game provides 30 days to do this, with the day cycle ending either when Sarah “returns home” or falls during battle. It’s probably best to explore and do as much as you can until you fall during battle because the game lets you keep your gold, experience, and items for the most part. Most of the inns are under renovation too… of course, they are.

Early on, there is a guild where odd jobs can be completed, being a good way to farm for gold and experience points. Speaking of, it’s quite easy to level up and become reasonably strong in no time. Once you start exploring the rest of the game world and complete the first dungeon and boss battle, the adventure really starts to get more interesting as different skills and weapons allow you to explore new areas.

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There is some thought to the gameplay systems here and how all the ideas interplay with its design. There are various enemies to battle, a range of weapons to use and even spells to learn. While the dungeons and maps are interesting, the boss battles, in particular, present some of the best moments in the adventure, as they have a pretty old school design reminiscent of classic Zelda games. The adventure’s pacing feels quite methodical and organic, too, with decent variety in level design and presentation as Sarah progressively explores new environments.

Slave Princess Sarah generally looks and plays fine, but it is meant to emulate a classic Game Boy game; it does all feel a bit dated. Movement is slow and cumbersome, the hit detection can occasionally feel very clumsy, and much of the presentation is on the primitive side despite some attempt at artistic detail. The music is nothing special, although the lo-fi chiptunes do have their moments. Some helpful features make the adventure easier to navigate, such as fast travel points and opportune save crystals.

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All things considered, Slave Princess Sarah is a decent and highly playable homage to the Game Boy classic Final Fantasy Adventure. It executes solid albeit dated gameplay mechanics in a game world that is methodically designed with swift pacing and features some really cool boss battles. However, most squeamish players will probably need to look past a lot of uncomfortable content and material to get to the genuine gameplay substance. As it stands, this one is largely for the intended subculture, and even the Game Boy novelty wears off rather quickly.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Jahanzeb Khan

Old SEGA games will go up in value... you'll see!