Review by Lunatic Zero
"Princess Crown is a very good game that's definitely worth tracking down."
When Atlus, the company responsible for the mega-popular (no pun intended) Megami Tensei series, released this sweet sleeper back in 1997, it took me totally by surprise. Looking at screenshots of the game, I knew I had to have it. Princess Crown is a completely 2D side-scrolling action/rpg with some of the best hand drawn graphics ever seen outside a Capcom fighter, but if you’ve heard only one thing about this game then you already know that. The game itself is an interesting mix of rpg and fighting game elements so it’s pretty unique compared to most games in this genre that mix in a lot of jumping and other platform-like obstacles.
In Princess Crown, you control a young queen named Gradriel who sets out on an adventure to right the wrongs in her kingdom and become a worth successor to the throne. Oh, and along the way she defeats an evil demon and saves the world. There is nothing about Princess Crown’s story that amazed me at all, though it did have it’s fair share of interesting characters and plot twists. You will spend roughly 2/3 of the game playing as Gradriel. Once you beat her scenario, you have to play three shorter scenarios each with a different main character, in order to see the ending. Each scenario is different, and each of the characters control differently. For example, Portgas is the fastest character, while Proserpina flies on a broomstick instead of being able to jump. My favorite scenario has to be Proserpina’s, despite it’s fetch quest nature. It has a very cute ending that you’ll have to see to fully appreciate. ^_^
Initially, the game feels quite restrictive because you can’t jump outside of battles. Gradriel can move left or right, duck to pick up items, but the only purpose for hitting up is to use doors, stairs, and passages. The towns and dungeons in the game are connected by long roads that Gradriel must traverse on foot. Princess Crown has one of the largest game worlds I’ve encountered in an action/rpg of this kind, so being forced to walk all the time can get tedious. Thankfully, you will be able to activate a number of teleporters that will allow you to quickly go from one part of the map to another without having to pass down all the roads you’ve passed through a million times before.
The game play in Princess Crown is centered around it’s battle system which is typical 2D fighter action. Enemies are encountered randomly while wandering through the games roads and dungeons and you duke it out on the same screen. The battles are fun because each and ever enemy in the game has a distinctive attack pattern and require completely different strategies to beat, especially because you simply can’t hack away at a monster until it’s dead. When Gradriel is out of power from beating the stuffing out of one of her enemies, she is especially vulnerable to a counter attack until her power is recharged. Gradriel’s repertoire of moves is severely limited to a scant few, but the real fun of Princess Crown is learning how to utilize the game’s many items to help you in battle. There are many kinds of useful magic scrolls, gems, rods, and potions that have varying effects. Gradriel can also throw bombs, axes, and magic daggers at her foes and her fairy sidekick can also lend a hand from time to time if you can find the right item. Gradriel can also equip many different kinds of enchanted items, like a shield that shoots flames, shoes that allow her to nimbly avoid attacks at the last minute, or ones that let her jump higher or move faster.
Manipulation of items is also important in Princess Crown. Learning to make your own food comes in handy when you’re in need of healing supplies on the road. Food in Princess Crown varies in potency and the speed at which you can eat it. Of course, potency is important, but speed is also another factor to take into consideration especially when you’re in the middle of a heated battle. With the right potion, you can enchant regular gems to hold devastating attack and recovery spells. Gradriel can also make her own potions, but most gamers will probably not waste the time when many of them are dropped by your fairy companion in battle once you find a special item.
My major gripe with Princess Crown is the fact that as fun as it is, the random encounters can get a bit tedious after a while. With a few more enemies and a few more moves, this problem could have been easily avoided.
Princess Crown looks awesome, of course. The sprites are huge and detailed and animate beautifully, from Gradriel herself to ordinary townspeople. This game doesn’t even utilize the Saturn’s RAM cart and it still looks incredible. Awesome use of the machine’s 2D capabilities. The backgrounds, too, are amazingly detailed and look fantastic. This is what 32-bit 2D should’ve always looked like. Sadly, many of the backgrounds are reused again and again over the course of the game and that hurts the desire of the player to explore the game world.. Also, many of the dungeons, where you will be spending a lot of your time, are fairly bland when compared to the backgrounds in the rest of the game. Aurally, Princess Crown lacks any standout musical tracks, but it all fits with the fairy tale theme of the game quite nicely. However, if that doesn’t sound like you’re cup-o-tea, well, then you’ll probably be reaching for the mute button pretty quick. It would’ve been nice if some of the characters were given some voiced dialog, but the game works fine without it.
I had a lot of fun with Princess Crown, though the game isn’t without a couple shortcomings. Still, unless you absolutely cannot stand random encounters… there is no reason for you not to play this game. I highly recommend you give it a go. Not only is it a heck-of-a testament to the Saturn’s 2D capabilities, it’s a very good action/rpg to boot. I’ll definitely keep it for my collection because I’m sure I’ll be playing through it a few more times. Completing the game with all four characters will take you at least 30 hours so you’ll be around a while, especially if you decide to take on the game’s many little side quests that pop up from time to time. Princess Crown is a fine gem of a game. Good luck finding it, though. I’ve seen new copies of the game go for over 200 dollars on eBay. That’s more expensive than Radiant Silvergun! Ouch.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/14/02, Updated 03/28/02
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