In the first of a new series of features, we take a look at a game that is badly in need of a remake on a Nintendo system. Princess Crown might sound like the kind of game you’d expect your little sister to play, but it’s actually the first release from the team that would eventually become known as Vanillaware - the studio established by designer George Kamitani and a bunch of other former Atlus employees. Vanillaware would gain worldwide recognition for Odin Sphere and Muramasa: The Demon Blade, but Princess Crown is arguably where it all began - and showcases all of the company's best qualities.
Originally released on the Japanese Sega Saturn in 1997, Princess Crown is best described as an action RPG, but with a strong emphasis on action. You control the young Princess Gradriel, who must venture out from the comfort of her childhood castle to save her beloved kingdom from certain doom. The action is viewed from a side-on perspective, and the game world is comprised of towns, cities and dungeons joined by linear pathways. These roads must be traversed in real-time, and it’s here you’ll encounter the vast majority of Princess Crown’s enemies.
When a combat situation occurs, the game switches to a Street Fighter-style arrangement. You can move and attack just as you would in a one-on-one fighter, and it’s even possible to perform evasive moves and special attacks. Enemies drop items which range from restorative food to offensive projectiles and spell-casting gems, and it’s even possible to ‘grow’ and cook special items - a mechanic which would be drastically expanded in spiritual sequel Odin Sphere. Furthermore, success in combat earns you experience points, allowing you to boost Gradriel's attack power and health.
It would be remiss of us to discuss Princess Crown without mentioning the obvious beauty of its hand-drawn graphics. Released at a time when the Saturn was paying dearly in the west for its support of 2D over 3D, the game has ironically aged much better than its 3D contemporaries. Everything looks positively gorgeous, from the detailed backgrounds to the wonderfully animated characters. The music - provided by Metal Slug composer Toshikazu Tanaka - is perfectly suited to the fantasy theme.
Playing through the game as Gradriel takes many hours, and once you’ve finished her story additional characters are unlocked. These quests are shorter than the main one, but the way in which they intertwine with Gradriel’s tale is wonderful. Sadly, the lack of an English version means that you’ll have to rely on fan-made translations to understand exactly what is actually going on, but thankfully the use of colour-coded text means you can see when you’ve triggered a story event even if you can’t read Japanese. While you’ll be missing out on a lot, it’s just about possible to play the game to completion without reading or understanding a single word.
Hopes of an English version were raised when the game was announced for the Sony PlayStation Portable in 2004, but sadly that edition shared the same fate as the Saturn one and never made it out of its native Japan. Given the recent surge of interest in 2D titles, the time is ripe for an enhanced remake on a platform like the 3DS or Wii U eShop - especially as Vanillaware's troubled Dragon’s Crown (described by Kamitani as a direct sequel to Princess Crown) is due for publication in 2013. It’s a long shot, but we’d personally love to playing through this classic all over again - and in English, too.
Would you like to see Princess Crown get the remake treatment? (134 votes)
Yes, it looks amazing!
Nope, not my kind of game at all
Not really bothered either way
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Thanks to Hardcore Gaming 101 for providing the screenshots used in this feature.