The Princess Guide
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The Princess Guide is a charming isometric JRPG from our friends at NISamerica. Featuring hints of RTS and looter crawling mixed with a dose of grind that is best enjoyed in short bursts. Is it worth your time? Let’s find out.
Taking the role of a seasoned warrior who you create with a fun selection of options, you are a mentor figure to 4 princesses, all of which need your guidance to aid them in their quests and to become the best princess they can be. For the first few hours, you will play a short origin themed campaign with each princess, here you will learn their back story, agendas and personalities as well as being introduced to the basic mechanics of the game. Taking place on a Mario World looking map you can move characters to various locations that will be highlighted with missions available, hidden items or special training grounds to enhance your princess. After that, you choose a princess to play the game through with but fear not, the other 3 will make an appearance soon enough as the story opens and expands through its approx. 20-hour campaign.
Things start off a bit jarring due to a shaky tutorial that has text instructions popping up over gameplay forcing you to read the controls and prompts while enemies continue to attack you, freezing the action would have made this feel much more fluid. Combat offers weak and strong attacks along with power moves which are specific to characters and weapon types and for the swanky squad of knight’s that follow you there is a handy strategy system that can be changed on the fly.
Switching squad formations to guard, push back enemies etc with added benefits to heal and buff your main character is often the key to survival, these strategies are finite per battle and only last a short amount of time so use them wisely. As with the opening tutorial a freeze function would have been well received as changing this during busy combat sections can see you taking a pounding while navigating the list. Later in the game, you will be swarmed without warning by hordes of enemies as you traverse the dungeons, at these times it becomes very difficult to see what is even happening on the screen let alone locate your own character and read a menu.
Thankfully NISamerica did apply a selection of boobytraps known as “Relics” throughout the dungeons to aid in battle, taking over these using your squad and turning them against your foes will greatly improve your chances of success. There is a large range of these relics varying from heavy hitting to AOE attacks that can often stun or push back enemies, healing totems can also be found throughout each dungeon to keep you and the squad in top shape. Once the benefits of these relics are mastered, they become invaluable during combat.
The 4 princess warriors are pleasantly unique from each other. Liliartie is outgoing, glutenous and seeks to slay a dragon to make dragon steaks for dinner and wields a large axe. Veronica is a likeable witchlike villain bent on world domination, favouring dark magic. Monomaria is a prideful member of a fallen house, now turned mercenary with a band of loyal followers and rocking it Arnie style with her trusty Gatling gun. Alpana, a dragon princess who spreads the world of her faith throughout the lands taking down foes with her twin daggers.
As the Princess Guide, it’s your job to help these ladies achieve their goals by guiding them wisely. Setting them on the right path by choosing to praise or scold their actions and behaviours during key moments of the story thus influencing the person they become along the way. This technique also works in the isometric combat areas of the game when directly guiding a princess through a mission. You can scold or praise them to boost combat stats or provide health regen. This tactic is unique but can also backfire, like all good teachers you need to find the balance, if you praise unnecessarily the princess will not understand why and the effect will be greatly reduced. Similar to the strategy system this ability has limited uses per battle.
When choosing which princess to train we found the personality we liked the most wasn’t necessarily the best playing option due to the amount of combat on hand. Monomaria appealed as a story arc but combat preference came down to Liliartie. The core gameplay will consist of lots and lots of monster-filled dungeons, varying in difficulty without warning and lasting varying lengths of time as you track through them killing all in your path and collecting a generous amount of loot. Victory will generally consist of killing all enemies, but some will also require you to complete a specific task like collect a certain number of relics or defend a gate that’s being attacked where more story-based missions will feature escorting folk across the map, defeating a number of enemies within a time limit with dungeons featuring a selection of boss battles. This is a welcome variation when the core campaign kicks off as you will almost immediately be overwhelmed with the number of enemy encounters on the map. These battles for loot and resources become a slight grind and we found they could interrupt the flow of the story, thankfully though most battles are short, some lasting as little as 16 seconds!
Once again NISamerica are on the ball with aiding you in this combat busy system, as well as having a princess and the guide to control you are also able to recruit extra commanders each with their own stats and abilities as well as a squad of infantry. Infantry types vary and a wide range can be unlocked throughout the game helping you to formulate a support style that suits you. You can also mix up your squad with a selection of unit types, a couple of knights for heavy duty and a wizard or monster for ranged damage, it’s all down to you. As enemy types chop and change so too should your squad to remain effective in combat scenarios. Having extra commanders roaming the map help you with keeping enemy forces at bay as well as helping to manage health and resources.
With all these elements squeezed into one game, it’s good to have an intuitive menu system on hand. Clearly marked and highlighted with the stylish and colourful art style that features throughout, this is a handy tool if you find yourself struggling. Tutorials are on hand to be replayed and there is also a diary option to keep you up to speed with important facts, plot points, and lore as the story progresses.
All these game mechanics click together well creating a unique experience that is addictive and challenging. I found myself looking forward to each session, even when the before mentioned enemy overload happens, I was not frustrated enough to give up I just reassessed my strategy and headed back into battle with the lure of the next amusing story conversation keeping me entertained and engaged throughout.
NISamerica has crafted a highly enjoyable and addictive JRPG featuring a catchy music score that goes hand in hand with the Chibi art style. Mixing various gameplay genres that shouldn’t fit together but somehow work great when combined. Although a couple of game elements could be refined, and it suffers from the age-old grind sandwich moments this is by no means a deal breaker. The story is full of great characters and innuendo-filled humour that gave us a good old belly chuckle on many occasions. Whether you are a fan of the genre or just looking for something a bit different, this is a title that will make a fine addition to your collection.