I’d like to preface my review by mentioning a couple of things. First off, games with a solid assortment of waifus and/or husbandos are generally high on my Must Play list. Lay those romance options on me, baby! Second, I may or may not have an intense, fiery love for Nippon Ichi Software titles. Ys, Yomawari, and The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince are all drool-worthy titles, in my opinion.
Along comes The Princess Guide, with its stereotypical anime characters. Part hack and slash dungeon-crawler with a dash of visual novel, I yearned for this game, dreaming of how together we were going to save the world. I was ready to gently guide these young women on a journey to become the best possible versions of themselves. An eager teacher, syllabus in hand, I chose my starter princess and took the first step on my journey to world’s best educator.
Girls! Girls! Girls!
Let me tell you a little more about the four young women you’ll be coaching in The Princess Guide. First up we have my starter Alpana, the demure dragon princess and priestess of Kamara. She’s the shy one, always blushing and stealing glances of your Instructor over her shoulder. Her mission is to unite all the peoples of the Relic Islands. From there I met Liliartie, the captain princess. Often seen double-fisting roasted chunks of meat, she’s by far my favorite and best girl. Ati, as she’s affectionately referred to as by Alpana, isn’t the most refined of the princesses and is almost always accompanied by a cue card-carrying soldier.
My third princess experience was with Veronica. She ranks first in her magic guild and therefore has been designated its leader. She’s the snarky IDGAF type, belittling those who dare stand in the way of her plans of world domination. Lastly we’ve got Monomaria, duchess of a debt-riddled country struggling to regain its splendor.
You’ll get to know more about the princesses as you read through their visual novel-esque cutscenes. Yes, you read that correctly. In the review code I received, there is no English voice over option. While that doesn’t bother me, I know some of you are firmly Team Dubs, as opposed to my Team Subs affiliation. Let me give you a warning: the animation of the characters during these cutscenes can be extremely distracting, with the speed of their character movements cranked up to eleven.
School’s in Session
You’re going to learn the basics of battle before you even meet the princesses. There are three aspects to combat: direct attacks, formations, and special moves via Commander mode. Direct attacks are what you’ll likely use most often. Depending on which character you are controlling, there is also the chance that you will trigger what I’m calling hyper attack. For instance, using Liliartie I’ve been able to make it so her axe thrusts are a continuous string of hits, allowing me to do crazy amounts of damage.
The Skill menu is accessed by holding down the L1 button. Skills charge up over time and have a limited number of uses during each encounter. For instance, the healing skill Triage can only be used twice. This interface is a little clunky in battle, as the fight continues even with it pulled up. Another gripe I have is that I always have to double click X in order to activate whichever skill I’m trying to use. This has led to many deaths that could have been avoided if only for a brief pause in action.
While you’re out exploring the Relic Islands and taking down monsters, you’ll come across Materia. These come from defeating certain enemies or claiming and using relics. Head back to your base and check out Princess Training after getting some. Knowledge Materia will cycle through until you’ve learned them all, but you can swap them around if you want. Bonus Materia is different; these are the ones you want to select yourself and need to take note of the requirements to mastering.
How do you “learn” the Knowledge Materia, you ask? This is where the Praise/Scold options come into play. By selecting the best option during cutscenes and using those 3 actions (designated by the hearts in the bottom right of your screen), not only are you mastering Materia, but you are also making an impact on those tender feels that determine what kind of ending you receive.
Playing Mrs. Garrett to the four princesses of the Relic Islands had its fair share of ups and downs. My first round with each of the princesses was fun; I bonked both monster and machine alike, picking up a bunch of Materia for each of the girls to learn. When it came to round two, I decided to start with Alpana again. Boy oh boy, I think that was the wrong call. Not to spoil anything, but I wasted hours trying to battle my way through her final chapter mission, only to throw my hands in the air and load up another save so I could choose Liliartie instead. Some of you may fare better than I did in that particular instance. When you spend hours grinding and maxing out your characters as best as possible and you find yourself that frustrated, it’s time to put the controller down and do something else.
My second gripe with the game was that, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to increase the stats of my Instructor. Sure, I could give her new and better weaponry and hire bigger, badder squad members, but aside from that, I found no way to improve her HP past the 110 mark. This made her practically useless once things got real for the princesses. I had contacted a rep at NIS and written my review when it came to my attention that I could indeed upgrade my Instructor. The Skill Upgrades option is hidden in the Base Menu, under Training Grounds. Why it’s buried there, I’ll never understand. Perhaps I wouldn’t have had such a hard time if only I’d known this sooner. My loss is your gain.
Now, you can recruit additional Commanders for a total of 6, including your princess and Instructor. This is handy if you need to protect one of the islands from encroaching enemies, but outside of that, I haven’t yet seen another use for it. Best to hold onto your money and spend it on enhancing weapons.
So how would I grade The Princess Guide? It gets high marks for engaging, yet somewhat predictable, story threads and having a variety of waifus, but clearly misses the mark in a few areas.
The Princess Guide review code provided by publisher. Version 1.00 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.