I have to be honest and say I was out of my comfort zone with this game, I came into The Princess Guide not knowing what to expect. I have played both Strategy games and RPGs but nothing like this and it was an interesting experience both good and bad.
You are a well-trained knight turned instructor who wishes to use their knowledge and instil it on whoever wants it, which just so happens to be four young princesses. Each Princess has a very distinct personality some more serious than others, throughout the game you will get the opportunity to play as each Princess if you wish.
I was left a little disappointed with the character customisation, it’s limited for an RPG with only a few different predetermined faces to choose from and basic voices. Yet before I had even finished I was left with quite a bitter taste in my mouth with one of the customisation options. Under personality, you have the option to have it set to ‘Perverted’, why? It claims to affect certain story aspects, especially the diary entries your character writes but I just didn’t see the need for its inclusion.
A lot of the story is told via visual novel styled cutscenes complete with Japanese voice acting and English subtitles, what I liked about this was how it allowed me to get to know each princess better as the gameplay doesn’t really give you any narrative. I liked each princess in their own way, from their strange mannerisms to the differences in their personal goals. It made playing as each of them a unique journey, it’s often doesn’t take itself seriously which is a nice change of pace in today’s gaming landscape.
Missions are dished out via a large world map, with nodes scattered around giving you missions, opportunities to grab some loot or random battles to dispatch enemies. I was a little disappointed by the lack of world detail, each arena is more or less visually the same, with some minor prop changes princess dependent. Character details while not too detailed do actually stand out from the backgrounds allowing you to focus on the action rather than what is going on around the sides. It would have been nice to see some nicer locations, but it probably would have taken too much away from the gameplay.
You as the commander are not alone, whether you are playing as the Instructor Knight or one of the Princesses you’ll be backed up by very helpful soldiers. From stunning enemies to giving you extra protection these soldiers are invaluable in helping you succeed in battle. As well as the player, the soldiers can also be customised and enhanced to be better in battle. Within each battle arena, you’ll find Relics from civilisations past which can be used to your advantage, some will give HP back to your squad whilst others are traps you can use against the enemy, thinning out their ranks. Strategies which give certain effects can really help in a mission, whether it be changing formations to knock back enemies or increase damage during battle.
The actual customisation parts of the game can become quite overwhelming in sheer volume of choice and in terms of what you’re actually doing. I wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing at times, moments when I tried equipping an item and it never worked, yet with no explanation as to why really took me out of the moment. Better tutorials are probably what are needed to ease newbies like myself.
The gameplay itself is what kept me coming back to The Princess Guide, I enjoyed how solid and fun it felt. The combat is very similar to a hack ’n’ slash with relatively easy and clear controls. Difficulty can spike as you progress through the missions or the varied battles you trigger on the map, but with careful planning, with the games customisation options, you can easily get the upper hand on the enemies. I felt I barely stretched the surface when it came to upgrades and customisation, which is great for giving the game longevity and the option to replay the game using different abilities, weapons and strategies. One of the main mechanics in the game is the Praise/Scold options you can bestow upon the princesses, these will help them by regenerating their health or giving them temporary stat boasts and abilities, as with some of the more powerful attacks you are limited in the number of uses. Which is great at giving the game some extra challenge, making you think about your strategies going into each battle.
While at times I felt like I didn’t know what was happening or if I was doing some of the management side of the game correctly when enough did fall into place I enjoyed the time I had with the game. Fans of this style of game and the studio will feel right at home, yet for new players like myself, unless you stick with it, you may be left disappointed. Which is a shame as the gameplay can very satisfying once you start getting into it.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*