Review: The Princess Guide helps you turn princesses into capable rulers

What happens when the fight leaves an old soldier? They’ve done all they can do for their troop and are searching for a new goal. Well, in The Princess Guide, the next step is to try and help make the world a better place by sharing their knowledge and skills, rather than stepping onto the field to fight. The result is a spiritual successor to Penny-Punching Princess that gives people more princesses to follow and additional control over their actions and growth.

After taking part in one of your many glorious battles, your commanding officer notices your heart isn’t in it. They recognize that your time has come onto a different, perhaps even greater, purpose. So, you head off on a journey, which is really the player picking one of four princesses to mentor. The Alixon Kingdom’s Princess Liliartie, the magic guild’s tyrannical Veronica, the Mercantile Trade Commission’s Duchess Monomaria and the North Kamara priestess Alpana each have the potential to change the world, and you can step up and help them achieve their goals.

As far as the meat of The Princess Guide goes, it is very similar to Penny-Punching Princess; people have an overhead view of the field, where the 2D characters are running around and beating up opponents until the mission ends.

Part of why The Princess Guide works is because you can help support a heroine who has goals you agree with. Each one has her own personality, motivations and attack style. I started with Monomaria, who wanted to restore her family name and make the people who supported her profitable again. She is harsh on herself, but means well. She is also a ranged attacker, using a gun. Though I later moved on to Alpana, who wants all races to treat each other well and live in peace… albeit by acting by force with her fast daggers and dragon powers. Veronica is arrogant and wants to rule everything, using her magic attacks to achieve her goals. Liliartie wants to protect her kingdom and comes across as something of a berserker with her axe. There’s a lot of diversity here.

As far as the meat of The Princess Guide goes, it is very similar to Penny-Punching Princess; people have an overhead view of the field, where the 2D characters are running around and beating up opponents until the mission ends. The basic ideas of hacking and slashing through remain. The main difference here is that instead of money equaling power and bribery allowing you to get enemies to assist the princess or use a Relic (trap), each princess has soldiers that are constantly with them and can occupy a Relic to make use of its benefits. These troops come in different varieties, each with their own benefits and weaknesses, and can have their tactics adjusted on the fly to best handle different situations.

That’s only one major change. The Princess Guide has a number of adjustments that, in retrospect, make Penny-Punching Princess feel like a bare-bones trial run for this fuller successor. Constant troops are only one part. We have a full world map now, complete with opportunities for supplemental encounters to see more events, earn more experience or accumulate rewards. When you take on a mission, it might not involve just beating the heck out of every opponent on-screen. There can be instances where you need to escort someone or defend a place against waves of enemies. Also, as a princess’ instructor, you can chime in praise or scold her during a fight and inflict some sort of temporary, beneficial buff to make the fight more manageable.

The inclusion of the player as an Instructor allows a little more personalization. While you are retired and a teacher, you still are a playable character who can take to the field for missions. You can choose your appearance, gender, personality and voice. Your character’s growth is dependant on getting Knowledge Materia to improve princesses, which in turn gives you stat points, which means you can go out and earn more Knowledge Materia. I would have liked a little more variation in reactions from princesses to your hypothetical personality, since it usually only amounts to a few lines of text and no real effect, but having some control over ourselves is pleasant.

Control is a major factor–after all, "guide" is right in The Princess Guide‘s name.

Control is a major factor–after all, "guide" is right in The Princess Guide‘s name. You are determining the course of each of the four heroines’ growth as warriors. The game starts you out with one, but eventually more can be taken under your wing. Rather than being questionable, as in Criminal Girls: Invite Only, or incredibly technical, like with Trillion: God of Destruction, shaping their progress and destiny is effortless. You choose Praise or Scold during story segments, helping to shape their mindset and actions. After you collect Knowledge Materia from fights, which more directly influences their growth and stats, you directly apply them. It gives you an incentive to keep playing through missions, but never feels tedious or like you need to have spreadsheets or detailed notes to keep track of what you could or should do.

The only real problem with The Princess Guide is that it can feel like the game expects the player to find its tutorials, rather than present them as needed. Basically, for a number of major features, you have to seek them out to learn how they work. If you want to upgrade your commander with Skill Points, which are earned by teaching princesses the Knowledge Materia you find during missions that will improve their stats, you need to head to the Tutorial section at the base and enter it to trigger that lesson. If you want to know more about hiring additional commanders, you have to go to that section of the base. The same applies to weapons. While some explanations do appear as you play, typically as you hit new story objectives are move around the world map, a lot of critical elements aren’t detailed until you actively search for them.

The Princess Guide is a game that, if you are just coming to it without any prior knowledge or experience, can be quite a bit of fun. It comes across as good for fans of the beat’em up genre. The princesses each play differently, helping improve them and your avatar isn’t too difficult or even tedious, battles have different objectives and tactical approaches, and you gradually get more put on your plate at a good pace. When you compare it to Penny-Punching Princess, its predecessor, it shines.

Score: 7/10
Publisher: NIS America
Release Date: March 26, 2019
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Platform(s): Switch, PS4
Questions? Check out our review guide.
A review copy was provided by the publisher or developer for this review.

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