There’s a famous saying that states those who can should do, and those who cannot shall teach. It’s a bit cliché, but it makes sense in the idea of passing on the skills that you ONCE had to future generations, and not, as I had originally interpreted it, that incompetent people should become teachers. Seriously, boiling down old sayings to their bare minimums only make sense when you were around for the lengthy first incarnation. Anyways, being able to share what you know and help out the next chefs, dancers or musicians is a noble endeavor, and not a bad way to spend your twilight years. But what about fighting? A master tactician can hardly just sit by and watch their knowledge and wisdom turn to seed. So what better thing to do than to seek out four deserving and honestly aimless princesses and help turn them into master rulers? This is the spine that drives forward Nippon Ichi Software’s newest title, The Princess Guide.
Besides being a really punny title, The Princess Guide has a lot of heart out the gate. You are the former master and commander of the greatest military tactics and author of some of the most astounding tales of bravery and combat of all time. Your name inspires awe and reverence in people around the world. And so, having reached your own breaking point in battle, you seek to find a new way to rekindle your passion and interest in the world of battle. As it happens, the land, as you see it now, is a shadow of its former glory, and helping to bring about the passion and the fortitude of several sovereign kingdoms might just be the solution the whole world needs. So you heed the call of not just one, but four different regions, each beset with their own woes, almost all stemming from their reigning princess. Using your history of violence, your cunning mind of strategy, and some well-timed life lessons in the form of teaching, scolding, and mini games, you will help these four kingdoms foster a stronger, more sensible, and, in one case, significantly kinder and compassionate princess to lead the entirety of the Relic Islands to a future of prosperity and, well, dragon steaks.
The Princess Guide plays out in a really engaging and unique style. The game is about 20% reading dialogue, 20% princess training, 50% ridiculous, enjoyable fighting and 10% strategizing. While it seems like a very small amount, the strategizing completely changes the tone of the game. You see, in each of the different princess scenarios, you start off with two troops: yourself and the princess. You each helm a different squadron that can be dispatched to deal with main quests, side quests, and roaming baddies that crop up throughout the game. Having multiple teams can be essential (especially in later parts of the game) because sometimes you’ll need to recall your princess back to the castle to change equipment and train skills, as you cannot do that in the field. The secret is not to become too engaged with these other squadrons, however. It can be easy to lean on additional squads to do the heavy lifting, but it cheapens the overall experience because a.) you aren’t really teaching the princess, b.) you lose some valuable commands that you can only do with the princess and c.) it just alters the dynamic of the game overall. Having said that, make sure you invest some of the coin that you pick up throughout the game into at least one additional squadron to prevent being caught totally off-guard during a cooldown period.
The combat of the game is the crown jewel, which makes sense, as it adopts some of the best nonsense of another great NIS title from a while back, Penny Punching Princess. A third person pseudo-dungeon crawl, you get to navigate through the landscape, finding treasure chests and defeating enemies through direct brawling and commanding your legion to attack in different formations. While you can’t bribe enemies to work for you, purchasing the various traps and relics that pop up throughout the level are essential to ensuring your survival, both by delivering targeted, specific damage to enemies and basically ensuring the traps don’t hurt YOU. Plus the statues that fully heal your party are back, which are such a selective godsend for when you need them versus when they simply appear. There’s also an additional option (when commanding the princess legion) to Praise or Scold the princess during the course of the battle. Doing either will trigger a temporary boost for the princess, either with HP recovery, strength up, increased speed or something along those lines. You can only do it three times per mission (usually), so choose wisely.
The combat can get a bit wonky, however. You fluctuate between two buttons, usually, and you hope that you can mash X to activate the troops fighting once in a while, and hit A when the meter is strong enough for you to pull off an attack. As a result, you fall into patterns of just berserker rage on minor mobs and spending strategy (aka trap timing) for the bigger fights. Anyone can get caught up in the excitement and the fervor of the brawl, but, if there wasn’t something beyond the fight, then this would be an extremely repetitive and, eventually, boring title with some graphical enjoyment and funny moments but that would be it. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, I’m saying that NIS America could see the shortcomings of having this formula exist without some secret sauce included, which is why we have the princesses as outline material. And they are the best damn outline material you could hope for.
The Princess Guide is NOT a waifu simulator. You get to choose one princess to guide and groom into a great ruler, and they really look up to you as a father figure, a teacher and a hero. Each princess has their own takes and personality quirks, like an obsession with food, a borderline sadistic streak, a slightly cold take on the value of life or the initial inability to see that violence could be a solution. As you chat with them between missions, you have heartwarming and hilarious conversations (mostly one sided) that change in tone depending on the personality you assigned yourself at the beginning of the game. For the first time ever, you don’t HAVE to be a silent protagonist, but can be a bit more stoic, a bit brash, or a bit…perverted. Okay, things can take a turn, but they don’t HAVE to is what I’m saying. You get to train up the princesses through direct “enhance abilities” sort of D&D leveling, but also through quirky mini games that you eventually unlock for each princess. Moreover, you have several save slots but you don’t need to use them all. If you finish a princess’ story, you can begin the next quest to help another kingdom, and this gives you the most cohesion and connection between the kingdoms and the world at large. By not playing a bunch of different saves at once, you can focus and make the game into an overarching experience instead of several snapshots. Not to mention your time with each princess can seem painfully short, so having everything flow together expands the game idea overall.
Between some great voice acting, genuinely funny dialogue moments, enjoyable combat and a good story throughout, The Princess Guide is more than just a clever title on top of some familiar ideas. I would argue that it’s superior to Penny Punching Princess in terms of delivery and style, not to mention that it performs well on the Switch and has a lot of replay value. As it stands now, I want to go back and see what happens if I change my tone, or scold more often, in terms of raising stronger and better princesses. I also hope to teach a certain princess more about not turning people into frogs when annoyed. Just saying.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Princess Guide Review
User Review( votes)
A beautiful and energizing rush through several kingdoms, Princess Guide mixes engaging combat with real character development for a great ride throughout.