Sunday, October 21, 2012

Games for Adults: Princes Waltz

Princess Waltz Review

            When it comes to high tier title VNs, Peach Princess/G Collections doesn’t have as good a record as newcomer Mangagamer, but it still has a good enough selection in its library. Pulltop’s Princess Waltz, released in English on December 2, 2008 (JP releases April 28, 2006) is their most recent top tier release and has been received with very favorable reception from it customer base. Combining an overall well written story filled with action, interesting characters, comedy and drama with a fun and genuinely challenging card based battle system, Princess Waltz provides a refreshing experience for those who want an action filled story for a change instead of the typical school drama and/or want a VN with some gameplay.

Pros: Good story, main characters are for the most part well written and interesting, very well drawn art, good music, fun battle system.

Cons: Story is largely linear (reason this is a con will be explained), some of the heroines don’t get as much focus as the others when it comes to some areas of the story, the villains are more annoying than intimidating, the other princesses join you late in the game so you don’t have much chance to use them in battle.

WTF: Who would be stupid enough tell a heroine B that she’s not as good as heroine A right before the former’s ero scene?

            The story for this game focuses on Arata Fukamori, a somewhat popular student who gets drawn into a tournament to determine the ruler of an alternate dimension called Eldelant, a world where magic is commonplace. Eldelant is divided into seven kingdoms and each kingdom’s chosen princess, all of them powerful in their own way, fight one another to determine which one takes the title of Queen of Seven Central, the position of absolute power. Yet as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that there’s more to this tournament than simply deciding the next ruler, and as Arata’s involvement leads to each of the princesses reconsidering what they’ve been led to believe and eventually their own morality and perceptions, the force behind the tournament begins taking steps to insure there will be no interference in its plans for the Princess Waltz.
            I can definitely say that when it comes to story, Princess Waltz has one of the best to be offered in the English VN market. It has a good start, does a good job in properly introducing the main cast, and the story flows very nicely from there. The character interactions that occur between each battle that occurs are an interesting read and provide good insight into each princess’ character in that we see just what kind of person she is outside of battle. Many of these scenes are comedic in nature and I have to admit I was surprised at how genuinely funny these scenes could be. Heck, one of the princesses, Lun Lun, I at first expected to be your typical energetic/annoying comic relief heroine but was proven wrong in not only was she funny as a character but also interesting and even endearing in later points. These scenes essentially humanize each of the heroines and help to show why they’re fighting and actually gets you to care about the outcome of each fight that occurs. All of these help in building up the second half of the story where a series of plot twists will make it necessary for Arata and the heroines to unite against a common enemy and how that alliance helps to get them to develop further as characters.
            That said I do have to point out a few flaws that the story has. The biggest flaw would be the story’s linearity. Now don’t get the wrong idea, I have nothing against games with a linear story as I’ve played several (both VN and your typical game) that have a linear but genuinely enjoyable story. As I’ve said, for the most part Princess Waltz has a very good and well written story, however it’s near the end where the story kind of hits a rough spot with me. At this point you essentially determine which heroine will be Arata’s partner in the final fight of the game. While this by itself isn’t a problem, it doesn’t have much affect on the ending of the game (aside from one of the heroines who is presumably the canon choice) which is a little disappointing. Another problem is that the premise of why only Arata and that particular heroine are going to fight comes off as a little far fetched and seems more like it was just tacked on for that reason. There is also the issue of Arata seeming to have a preference for one of the heroines over the other in a couple of cases (I won’t give further details to avoid spoilers) which makes his character a bit inconsistent. Another flaw is that while the game does a good job in the first half with establishing the heroines two of them, Angela and Suzushiro, don’t get as much delving into their character in regards to the events of the second half of the game as the other heroines do. The final flaw though would have to be with the antagonists of the game; they just don’t make very good villains. Only a couple of them have any depth to them and they’re only minor villains, the main baddies just come off as too invincible and as a result of that, and the lack of depth on their part, are more annoying than they are threatening.

            Now before I continue on, there is something I should discuss, the inevitable comparison between the game and Type Moon’s classic Fate/Stay Night. Back before this game’s release there were a few people who pointed out a couple of similarities and stretched it to face palm worthy proportions. I will freely admit that Chris Northfield looks a lot like Saber from Fate/Stay Night and even shares a few character traits, but overall she isn’t a Saber clone as her backstory, mannerisms, her relationship with Arata, and overall role in the story make her different. If I were to hazard a guess, the bit with them looking alike is probably a tribute considering F/SN’s popularity. Also, if you’ve played F/SN, you’ll se immediately that the Princess Waltz tournament has about as much in common with it as it has the competition between the immortals of Highlander. So to sum things up, Princess Waltz is not a copy of Fate/Stay Night; don’t play this game expecting Fate/Stay Night as you’ll be disappointed. Play this game knowing that it’s its own thing; you don’t watch Star Trek and expect Star Wars or Game of Thrones and expect Lord of the Rings do you?
            Moving on, let’s discuss the battle system. In Princess Waltz, the battles are fought using a card based fighting system. It’s somewhat similar to the system used in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, but not as action oriented. Since Princess Waltz uses a turn based system, you essentially choose cards based on two things, their number which indicates their strength and their color which indicates their element. The cards you use determine how strong you attack will be and how effective your defense will be when your opponent attacks you. Also to consider is the dominant element of your attack or defense as some elements are strong or weak against another element. As the story progresses and the fights get harder (and believe me they do), you’ll find yourself having to strategize how many, as well as what kind of, cards to use for an attack and how many for defense. Also, before the fight you and your opponent wager cards to determine which of you gets the first turn in the battle. After you finish the fight you’re awarded with experience points to spend to upgrade your fighting stats and even by special moves. Sadly this is where we come to the only real flaw concerning gameplay, you don’t have access to using the other princesses in battle until late in the game which is a little disappointing since that would have been an interesting way to diversify combat for more of the game as each princess does have unique stats and elemental affinity. Still, that’s only a minor flaw and I have to say that I enjoyed the battle system since it was a very interesting challenge. I almost wish there was a hard mode.
            When it comes to presentation, this is where Princess Waltz scores some major points. I’d daresay that this is one of the better looking VNs I’ve seen on the English market for some time. Each character portrait is well drawn and the CG looks good enough to be still from a high quality anime. The game also uses visual effects that are utilized very well in conveying actions that occur in many scenes from slashing swords while fighting to the character portraits mimicking actual movement as they move from one side of the game screen to the other. The game also succeeds in the sound department as the music does a good job of setting the mood for each scene and the sound effect are well implemented for their respective actions. Of course, the biggest success in the sound department would be in the voice acting as everyone but Arata is voiced and their actors and actresses turn in some very well done performances. The creators also went the extra mile by not just having the princesses talk in battle, but they also start breathing from exhaustion when their health goes low.

            As for the ero scenes, they’re actually really good. They’re very well drawn, unique to each  heroine, and each one feels like a plausible step forward in terms of relationship between Arata and the heroine.

In Conclusion: Princess Waltz is an excellent game that combines good gameplay with an overall well written story. While this story isn’t without flaws it’s still very entertaining with its cast of excellent characters, humorous scenes that will at the very least get a chuckle out of you, action scenes that will keep you on the edge of your seat, absolutely well drawn artwork, and great voice acting. All of this is very much worth the time (10-30 hours) and the money you’ll spend on the game.

Final Score: 8/10 Awesome

Author Recommendation: Buy it now

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