Princess Maker 2 Regeneration Review - Screenshot 1 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Before Super Mario Maker, there was Princess Maker. Yes, these two series have absolutely nothing in common beyond a shared naming convention and we’re definitely being more than a bit cheeky, but it’s technically a true statement.

Back in the early ‘90s, Neon Genesis Evangelion anime studio Gainax took its biggest swing in the realm of video games yet with Princess Maker 2, a life-simulator game all about raising a young daughter into maturity. It’s a title that was undeniably niche at the time of its release, both in terms of concept and game genre. However, that limited appeal never stopped it from attracting its own dedicated international following. Even decades prior to its first official worldwide release in 2016 with the remaster Princess Maker 2 Refine, this title was understood to be a bona fide cult classic.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Okay, let’s cut the history lesson there. The long and short of it is that Princess Maker 2 is a name that carries weight in the simulator game community — which is why developer and publisher Bliss Brain’s updated re-release for modern platforms in commemoration of the original’s 30th anniversary is so exciting. Indeed, Princess Maker 2 Regeneration brings this classic game to Nintendo’s ecosystem for the first time, and it’s a solid way to experience the title, even if the port itself is fairly basic.

Princess Maker 2 Regeneration is a pseudo-remaster, pseudo-port of the game’s previous 2004 'Refine' remaster for PC. As such, it borrows all of Refine’s additions, including its redrawn graphics and Japanese voice dub, while adding a few select bits of its own, such as a snazzy animated opening, redone art for special in-game event sequences, an art gallery, and a spruced-up localization. Make no mistake, though, peeling back the two layers of paint in this new release leaves a version of Princess Maker 2 that is very loyal to the original, warts and all.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Just like its namesake, Princess Maker 2 Regeneration sees you take on the role of a heroic knight who saves his kingdom from the clutches of evil, only to be tasked with raising a daughter born from the heavens soon after. Over the course of several in-game years, you must manage various aspects of your child’s lifestyle to raise her from a girl into a capable young woman. Depending on various choices, your daughter can venture down numerous different life paths — and she’ll encounter all manner of fantastical people, places, and events along the way.

Once you have conquered the multi-hour challenge of deciding what to name your daughter, assigning her date of birth, and choosing her blood type (this matters, we swear), the game gets started. From there, you are presented with a variety of options to modify and schedule out your child’s daily life, such as assigning her to work various jobs, opting to give her gifts or allowance money, or even adjusting her diet. As she grows older, more lifestyle options open up, allowing for even more complex strategies.

Aside from some light RPG mechanics, interactivity is mostly limited to watching as your daughter carries out the assigned schedule for each month in amusing little sprite-based vignettes. Still, determining the optimal path to set her up for a happy and fulfilling life requires quite a bit of careful planning and thought.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Each action has a tangible effect on her lengthy list of stats. Some of these attributes resemble traditional RPG mechanics like Attack and Defense, while others like Artistry, Glamour, and Decorum are numerical representations of her personality, interests, and talents. Partaking in various activities will increase the value of certain stats while decreasing others, so finding the right balance that prioritizes the lifestyle you envision for her can be surprisingly challenging. Depending on your daughter’s specific stats by the end of the game (and several other factors), it’s possible to see upwards of 70 different endings, each of which showcases a distinct future that reflects her upbringing. Combine that replay incentive with a brief runtime of roughly five hours, and you wind up with a simulator that practically begs you to experiment across multiple playthroughs.

We’re charmed by how Princess Maker 2 Regeneration mixes its plethora of surprisingly deep customization mechanics with its quaint coming-of-age set dressing, but there are some elements we feel could have used an update from the original game. For all the freedom of choice that the game’s core design encourages, it’s pretty difficult to get the ball rolling on the vast majority of strategies. Between the constant struggle for funds to stay out of poverty, the exorbitant cost of items and school lessons, and your daughter’s tendency to fail at certain jobs with little explanation given for how to improve, it can feel at times like you are being railroaded towards certain outcomes. Having to make tough choices in the face of adversity is no doubt a desirable quality in sim games, but we would have appreciated a little more room to play around and try different things out.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Adding to this surprising level of difficulty is the fact that the game does little to explain any of its various mechanics aside from small, vague menu blurbs. As such, much of our initial playthrough felt as though we were banging our heads against a wall and making all sorts of costly mistakes as we got to grips with how everything works. Some of that frustratingly opaque flavor is to be expected in a PC-98 title from 1993, but a bit of extra guidance would have been nice, especially considering how rigorous the core experience can be. Maybe the age-old saying that parenting doesn’t come with a manual is true, but this game could certainly do with one.

By this point, it should be no surprise to hear that the presentation of Princess Maker 2 Regeneration also hews close to its predecessors. Aside from the aforementioned graphical enhancements in certain scenes, the only changes of note are a nifty new sidebar that allows you to quickly view stats at any point during normal gameplay and a garish new text font that is unfortunately straight-up uglier than previous versions. We suppose we shouldn’t expect too much more out of what is clearly meant to be a straightforward port for a classic title, but we can’t help but wish that this triumphant return for Princess Maker 2 came with a few more bells and whistles to help broaden its appeal for modern players — especially considering the inflated price tag compared to its previous release.

Conclusion

With only a handful of new refinements, Princess Maker 2 Regeneration is most notable for bringing Gainax’s classic life simulator game to a wider audience than ever before. While its retro aesthetics are charming and its no-wrong-way-to-play design philosophy is still just as rewarding to tinker with all these years later, there’s no denying that this title is beginning to show its age. That said, those with a deep interest in game history or the simulator genre should still be able to find plenty of enjoyment in helping their virtual daughter grow up to face the world head-on. It’s an experience that may not be everyone’s cup of tea — but the original wasn’t either, was it?