GAME REVIEW | A Few Pages Shy of a Well-Rounded "Princess Guide"
Stories about royalty giving themselves a good sweat almost always feel more heroic than ones where the rulers spend most of their time in the throne room. Perhaps this is why I had high hopes for a game like The Princess Guide, which tells four tales of strong (anti-)heroic ladies itching to lay claim to what's rightfully theirs. Unfortunately, what is instead delivered is a mere Cliff Notes edition of what could've been a fun epic.
In The Princess Guide, players take on the role of strong and noble master of magic and combat. You receive word that four princesses are looking to be trained in the art of the battle, all of whom have their own personal reasons as to why. With your skills, as well as the ability to praise and scold your underling, you can set the path proper towards what you hope to be a fruitful learning experience for these princesses.
Taking a cue from last year's Penny-Punching Princess, the game is mostly set up into a foray of battles against various types of foes. You set up a team of strong masters of the blade and magic as you run through one fight after another. As the game is set up where you'll have to travel from one point to the next for each chapter, there is usually time in-between to check your skills, upgrade your weapons, and even add some new people into your roster. While this goes on, players may find themselves suddenly thrown into an unexpected battle, which can help them with gaining more skills, weapons, and even character upgrades.
First, the good news: The Princess Guide contains a very funny and entertaining story. Reminiscent of the likes of Slayers and Magical Circle Guru-Guru, the game never really takes an opportunity to be at all serious about its circumstances. Every moment between teacher and student princess brings about a good amount of laughs, even if it's at the expense of your own company. (Personally, I got a kick out of watching Veronica turn just about every person who disagrees with her into frogs, with its visual gags upping the humor in many ways.)
This style of humor makes it easy to enjoy these characters' time on the screen. For the most part, all of the princesses are portrayed in finely entertaining ways. While a couple of the characters might not be the type that you'd like to bump elbows with, they each have their own endearing qualities that make them fun to watch. Its art style also helps to bring forth a level of cuteness with these characters, with its anime-inspired visuals bursting out to add a lot of strong personality to them.
Sadly, it's the gameplay aspect of The Princess Guide that keeps it from achieving legendary heights. The way the game is played is a mixture of beat-em-up and real-time strategy, as you attempt to battle with yourself and your allies all at once. On paper, it sounds like a great form of execution. You can hack through your foes while triggering the other fighters on your team to use brute or magical force to weaken them. So why doesn't it work here? The answer: multi-tasking!
There is a lot that can go on during a battle, with there being almost not enough time for your eyes to catch what's exactly happening. Because of this, I often found myself button-mashing my way through these fights, many of which resulted in a Mission Failed sign plopped onto my screen. Despite attempting any sort of strategy, my means of fighting could be summed up in a stab-and-run sort of way. This of course doesn't guarantee victory, as I even failed at this more than half of the time.
Even worse is its rinse-and-repeat means of combat. There doesn't seem to be any means of evolving one's fighting style, as you attempt to ram through as many enemies time and time again. Level layouts also feel too copy-and-paste, with every place you battle looking just as similar as the previous spot. What should be a fun adventure with four princesses is instead a frustrating time on the battlefield. Dare I say, it feels more like an unrewarding chore to play through The Princess Guide.
If you can get through its repetitiveness, you'll discover a plethora of story-driven content. As the game splits up campaigns into just two princesses each time, replaying it will have you discover new run-ins and different outcomes with the princess of your choice. This results in different stories intertwining into each play-through, resulting in a new tale being spun each time you try a different princess combination. It's a cool plot-driven setup, one that I really wish was implemented into a much-better game.
- Great assortment of characters
- Nice storytelling elements
- Very funny script
- Gameplay is repetitive
- Requires too much multi-tasking
- Somewhat lazy level layouts
The Princess Guide has a very good story to tell. Unfortunately, said tale is trapped within a below-par gameplay experience. While its script might make you roll with laughter, The Princess Guide as a whole will make your eyes roll from boredom thanks to its uninspired combat and missions.
Promotional consideration provided by Chris Olivares of NIS America. Reviewed on the Nintendo Switch.