In an age of sim games that border the uncanny valley in terms of fine detail and nuanced decisions, it’s nostalgic and romantic to look back at sims of the past. Of course, we can always revisit the classics of Civilization before it takes eighty-five days to complete a campaign, or Oregon Trail really touch on the good memories of dysentery. Still, there was a whole, wider range of sims that never really made it out of Japan, and I used to dream of those games.
read things like Wonder Project J in Nintendo power made me jealous, and it all came to a head in the late 90s when I discovered abandonware. Either way, a fully translated review copy of Princess Maker 2 had made its way to the internet, and I, along with a handful of friends, spent many happy days raising our “daughters” and comparing the results. It was such an interesting concept that I couldn’t believe it never got an official release.
Yet time heals all wounds and Gainax finally realized that making money was better than not making money. The result was the slow and sometimes erratic release of the princess maker games on various platforms, as well as some of the more bizarre side games (Go! Go! Princess is a decent board game). Strangely, Princess Maker 4 still hasn’t gotten a locate, but Princess Maker 3 got a Nintendo Switch port. I don’t quite understand the ins and outs of all of this, but there seems to be some kind of blockage in terms of who wants the game (it’s more story-driven and less open-ended than the others). Anyway, we are here today to examine Princess Maker Refinea redux of the first title, and how it lands on the Steam storefront.
Get ready: it’s incredibly not great.
As this is the first game in the series, Princess Maker Refine helps set the tone with a simpler approach than future games. You are a respected and beloved knight, and you have found a maiden after a particularly fearsome battle with an evil demon. Rather than letting her die on the street, you decide to adopt her and help her find her way. Over the course of several years, you make the plans that shape your daughter’s future, managing her schedule for education, work, and interests while advancing toward one of many endings.
Despite the limited scope of what you can decide, the events of the game and your choices can turn your daughter into a future queen, a mighty warrior, an absolute wanderer, a prostitute (yes, really), or just someone who doesn’t really do anything. anything. When you look at the age of the game, the ambitions are incredible in terms of replayability, and it’s easy to imagine this game turning everything upside down when it was released in 1991.
There are really two ways to see Princess Maker Refine: a modern objective and a historical objective. From a historical perspective, the gameplay experience is both interesting and engaging. The routine of it all is very simplistic, but rewarding in terms of long-term, small-scale planning. Each month, you decide on three activities for your daughter to do, and the activities will affect her various stats and mood. Education is the fastest way to rack up EXP for Adventurer versions or Charm for Princess versions, but both require money. Logging is the highest paying job and also increases your strength, but it will also reduce your more “feminine” traits and even a trip to the woods can seal a few endings. Taking a break can help replenish your daughter’s fatigue, but it can also lower her morale to do nothing, and it can make her delinquent (which will keep you from working and doing certain tasks).
In addition to what you have to do each month, there are the optional chats and check-ins, where you can try to motivate your girl with little talks, find out her reputation in the city or try to fight your way through the castle. to start dating royalty. , because otherwise how can you climb the ladder when you’re a fucking orphan? Again, building charm allows you to really engage with people, but too much charm and not enough moral guidance turns you into a prostitute, which you really aren’t, but blame 90s Japan, not me.
Random events, like the annual harvest festival, give you a chance to get your name out there through battles and beauty contests, and taking your daughter on a well-deserved (and sometimes expensive) vacation gives her a chance to bond. with you, which strengthens your connection and helps her follow your advice better. She might also end up marrying you, but that’s a very difficult end to achieve, so don’t worry about creating something that’s inherently creepy “by accident.”
The nuance of it all Princess Maker Refine a great ongoing simulation title that can easily be used in short or long play sessions, especially as a month passes in as little as two minutes. If you were to have one game going, it would be a decent title that has very low impact for any machine of the last twenty years. Despite the Refine upgraded to improve sprites and animation, it still looks very much like a game from before Windows XP. As you can imagine, this is a double-edged sword on most computers.
For one, the small install size allows for a true “install and forget” mentality, and the lack of a Steam overlay means it works smoothly in almost any situation. On the other hand, it can suffer from instability on some newer machines (I saw that Windows 11 had problems). Also, the lack of a Steam overlay meant getting screenshots was a pain in the ass, and I like having the framework to support my game as a whole.
From a modern point of view, Princess Maker Refine is a serious disappointment for several reasons. First of all, the localization and calibration of modern computers is shocking, especially compared to Princess Maker 2. The release of Princess Maker 2 Refine uses nearly all of the original assets, translations, and blocks from the 1996 “leak” and looks stunning; I even reinstalled it to compare while doing my review for the first one. In comparison, Princess Maker Refine is a janky mess in terms of sentences and wording. Your daughter constantly responds to everything with ellipsis and useless statements like “Ummm” instead of actual words.
Conversations are stilted and jerky, often one-sided, and sound like monologues given in college plays. Text windows are sometimes difficult to read, and other times they’re quite impossible thanks to errant popups that physically overlap other windows. Fullscreen or windowed, it makes no difference: some things are a perpetual mystery within the game.
Also, the stuff there is so rudimentary compared to what comes later. Naturally, that wouldn’t be a problem when the very first game launches, but we’re looking back with eyes on what’s available and what will become. The adventure aspect where the princess takes some time off Zelda-Esque Jaunt is boring and repetitive compared to the variety of dungeons we see in Princess Maker 2. Conversations with your daughter are always the same, with the outcome rarely changing as long as her temperament remains the same.
You can hear short snippets of characters speaking, but it’s the same lines over and over again, which just get exhausting after a while. Also, despite the large number of outfits you get as you age, there really isn’t much variety. You get one per season, one per year, and it only changes drastically if you accomplish something big in your maturity (becoming a princess, going on a date, etc.). There are times when Princess Maker Refine borders on a clicker simulation, having you grind gold or stats for months just to hopefully unlock a new path to… click.
That said, I think it’s important to have Princess Maker Refine officially available for Western audiences, and I recognize that it was not an easy process for CFK Co. in terms of obtaining rights and distribution. The game has been scaled up in terms of price, which makes it more reasonable to pick up on sale, and it helps you understand the path taken to modern incarnations. We could never have had the complexity of Fairy tales come true if we hadn’t stumbled into the original game first.
Looking at other games released in 1991, it’s honestly amazing to think that Japanese gamers had Final Fantasy IV, a link to the past and this breathtaking simulation in a year (and my family decided to buy me Captain America for the NES… cool). So while it may not have aged well (and honestly, it’s been worn badly), fans of the show can peek into this time capsule for a few bucks, nod of recognition, then probably never to take it again. Sorry princess, your audience is in another castle.
The avatars are solid and capture the 90s anime aesthetic well, but nothing here is exciting enough to write home.
A clicker sim that is the skeleton of a future better series of titles.
The music videos, while good, are too short and don’t loop. Voice work is static, sparse and repetitive.
I enjoyed this only because I like princess maker in general. I can’t imagine anyone picking this up blind and having a good time.
Final Verdict: 5.0
Princess Maker Refine is now available on Steam.
Tested on PC.
A copy of Princess Maker Refine was provided by the editor.
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