There seems to be a push for modern JRPGs to differentiate themselves by including deep menus and systems. However, for me, this always makes starting a new game difficult when developers get a little too ambitious with their features.
Thankfully, Nippon Ichi Software’s newest action JRPG to come west, The Princess Guide, not only includes easy to learn systems but also has a ton of fun moments fueled by the charming cast of characters.
The Princess Guide has the player assume the role of a master warrior who is skilled on the battlefield. Across the lands, four princesses request this master’s assistance to essentially guide them to be skilled in combat and help them become decent rulers of their regions. The story is pretty straight forward in concept, but it’s the characters that make this story worth playing. While it’s nothing totally gripping or emotionally charged, the game masters its comedic tone and timing, making it fun from beginning to end.
The best way to describe The Princess Guide’s story would be to think of the conversations that take place during Disgaea, now that, but on caffeine. Each character is witty and full of personality. The beginning of the game has you choose a princess to start off with, but within the first three or four hours you visit each region and meet each princess. Over time the princesses join forces and the map expands, but throughout that time, the interactions between the girls were pretty much unskippable because they were just so fun to read.
Each of the four princesses has their issues which is where the main mechanic of praise or scold comes into play. During the story scenes, the princess will say something and then the player can let her know if this was a good or bad thing. Choices will raise the character’s affinity with the player and hopefully make them a better princess overall. This mechanic also finds its way into battle as the player can use the feature to boost their stats or heal the princess. However, there have been times when the princess didn’t feel that she deserved the acknowledgment which limits the result.
Gameplay revolves around taking on missions that are scattered around a map. Players will move their units across the board to where missions are located. The units move across the map in real time, and so do enemies, so encounters do happen more often than not, but these encounters are usually pretty short and will become more prominent in the later parts of the game when there are a lot of moving parts and things happening across a large map.
The beginning of the game keeps things simple in terms of moving units and its possible to just avoid conflict and get through the story missions, but the later parts of the game require the player to be moving different units all at once to missions spread across the board while paying attention to unit health and weapon inventory. The Princess Guide is a true divide and conquer style of game in these later parts, but since the opening of the game keeps things limited and gives the player time to understand each of the character’s style and skills in combat so that when the game opens up it’s not as overbearing as if all of these mechanics were available from the very beginning.
Combat in the game is probably the thing that players will need to take the most time getting to understand as there are some unique features that take some getting used to. During missions, players will roam around a map following a handy arrow that leads them to the destination. While some dungeons cover multiple floors, the flow of missions is all relatively the same. Players lead one of the princesses through hordes of monsters along with a small group of guards. Missions can be seen as repetitive since they all require hack and slashing enemies to get to a point, but they do mix things up by including a boss at the end of a level or having the player unlock a certain amount of relics through the stage.
While traversing the dungeon, players will become trapped in an area where they must defeat a few waves of enemies in order to progress. There are a few different options when it comes to fighting in dungeons, there are a standard and special attack unique to each character along with the option to use the guards to attack. However, it’s not very clear when the guards can be used, so there are moments when the guards simply just stand there or I forgot about them entirely and let them do their own thing.
The Princess Guide can also be seen as a nice loot grinding game since everything revolves around collecting money and treasure. The Base menu is kept simple to get players back to the action, but it has some unique features like allowing the characters to equip any weapon found in the dungeons and manage their units. Furthermore, during missions, the Princesses will learn things that can be applied to the character to better their relationship with the player and unlock special training missions.
I’d like also to point out the character illustrations and music found in the game are both great and add to its appeal. During conversations, the characters will bounce up and down which made me feel this hectic need to quickly read through the text like I just drank a cup of coffee.
I ended up having a great time with The Princess Guide, which doesn’t overstay its welcome clocking in about 22 hours if you’re trying to get to the true ending. The characters and their personalities make the story a joy to experience and the simple real-time strategy mechanics make the game an excellent entry point to the genre for anyone interested. To add to its appeal, everything in the game is kept straightforward and easy to understand to not be too taxing on the player, but there are plenty of options available for players who wish to get the most out of their units and dive a little deeper into the game’s mechanics.
The Princess Guide is the definition of charming and fun. It’s easy to play in short bursts but can also keep your attention for long play sessions. The battle system and button layout take some time to get used to, but after the general introduction to all the characters and world, I was having a great time training these princesses to be the best they can be.
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