The Princess Maker series by Akai/Gainax isn't all that well known in the West – which is hardly surprising. Besides one failed translation project by SoftEgg in 1993, the franchise has never reached Western shores, and while the game may be considered by some as catering to a niche market, it is in fact a pretty solid “child raising” simulation.
Princess Maker has achieved a fair amount of popularity in Asia with the five entries, various spin-off titles and even a TV series loosely based on the games. Princess Maker: Legend of Another World – the first title to be released for a Nintendo system – is based on the second entry in the series, but comes with some substantial stylistic and mechanical changes.
The game opens with a pretty standard introduction and one which many games in the series have recycled: due to a war you have been tasked to raise an orphan who, under your guidance, can climb the upper echelons of society, learn the art of warfare, train as a dancer and pursue many, many more career and life paths. The game is set in an indefinite time period with influences from medieval times to the renaissance.
Legend of Another World begins with the player assuming the role of a father, entering their name, blood-type and age, regardless of the player’s actual gender. The same statistics are then decided for your daughter to be, though the game always begins with a 10-year old girl, and each girl, regardless of statistics, looks the same. Once these things have been decided, you’re pretty much thrust into the game and presented with a simple icon menu and an avatar of you in-game daughter. Depending on the girl’s mood, weight and stress levels the avatar changes to suit different situations, and these moods will also change as the girl ages.
Although the game has a relatively simple menu with only six different icons each of these offers a fairly deep amount of control and interactivity. For example, when speaking to your daughter you may choose to have a friendly conversation, to praise her, to scold her, or even ask her how her studies are coming along. Furthermore, the game allows the player to choose things such as the girl’s diet and allowance: there is an in-game butler who will alert the player if the girl is too thin, too fat or simply unhappy. You can also take trips to the town, which is a pretty simple affair with simple menus and a basic illustration of each place that can be visited. The town has an armoury, outfitter, a restaurant, general store, church, and hospital.
Various interactions can take place in each of the town’s locations, and several things can be gained by paying regular visits to certain places. For instance, a regular churchgoer will relieve stress and gain morals. The player can also visit the castle, which allows the daughter to gain a good reputation and mingle with the upper classes. To begin with, only the castle guards and servants are available to chat with, and in order to speak to higher ranking officials the player must enrol his daughter in decorum classes, dress her in the finest clothes and make sure she is not lacking morals or faith. These prerequisites can be pretty hard to achieve, especially when trying to raise a well-rounded daughter.
The bulk of the game – and indeed the only way to move time forward – is through the largest menu item, the Schedule. It is here that the player can decide the weekly activities of his daughter, including enrolling her in classes, which will improve (and decrease) various statistics. For example, attending Science classes will raise intelligence while lowering faith. Likewise, attending military training will raise strength and battle skill while lowering sensitivity. It is in these classes that the player must work strategically in order to raise a daughter that has a varied set of skills and statistics. Each class costs a certain amount of money per lesson and as your daughter improves in her skills the classes cost increasingly more. Therefore, the player may find himself pretty short of money – this is where part-time jobs come in.
Choosing to send your daughter to a part-time job will not only increase certain statistics but also earn some much needed money. Apart from these part-time jobs, the game provides a sort of “war pension” once yearly for the player (who is a retired soldier) and therefore the jobs are the only other way that the player may earn money. Jobs range from pretty mundane tasks like farm-work and helping out at the church, to more interesting ones such as an entertainer at the royal court.
For a 10-year-old, the number of jobs available is obviously restricted and it is not until her 16th birthday that the full range of professions becomes available for your daughter. Like classes, jobs raise and lower certain statistics, with higher paying professions also tending to add the most stress yet obvious perks. As the girl improves at each profession, she will incur small pay rises and bonuses, and if the player sends his daughter to the same job on a regular basis, it may well become her lifetime career. While your daughter attends classes an on-screen animation pops up that shows how she is doing in each class – these are generally pretty cute. And if work starts to get the better of your daughter, the player has the option to take her on vacation – completely relieving her of stress. This too is accompanied by a nice animation showing her on holiday – depending on the in-game season, the animation will be different, with the player choosing from travelling to the mountains or the beach.
All of this leads towards the game’s main objective: to raise your daughter to become a successful adult. The player has eight in-game years in which to reach this goal, and at 18-years of age the game will end with your daughter’s lifetime career path being revealed along with a letter from her that reports on how she felt you raised her. Because the game has various different possible endings, it is quite likely that those who enjoyed it first time round will play through again in order to experience the wealth of different endings, which range from the lowly servant to the Queen of the kingdom.
The Princess Maker series has always been noted for its high quality art and graphics as well as its nicely recorded soundtracks. Princess Maker Legend of Another World is no exception to the rule, with lovely artwork drawn by series designer Akai Takami. While it may have a pretty small soundtrack with limited tracks, everything about it has an air of high quality, and the music often match the mood of the game perfectly – for instance, if your daughter runs away the music that plays in her absence is suitably depressing!
Princess Maker Legend of Another World is definitely a hidden gem in the Super Famicom library of games. It is part of a much larger series and, unfortunately, the most overlooked of series due to its release at the end of the Super Famicom era. While generic, the storyline is solid, and the gameplay provides an interesting, involved and highly interactive experience. Almost every aspect of your in-game daughter’s life can be tailored: from raising the next member of the royal family, to raising an underworld boss! The game’s graphics are detailed and expertly drawn and the small animations that play during events are adorable.
While the game does have a pretty steep learning curve, and indeed is most definitely not for everyone, it is certainly worth a try if you happen to stumble upon it in a used game shop in Akihabara! However, a sound knowledge of Japanese is essential in order to play this game, though there are some online resources that can help to overcome the masses of in-game texts. As a matter of related interest, the second to latest game in the series, Princess Maker 4, was released as a deluxe edition for the Nintendo DS last year.