Made by non-other than Gainax Studios, the minds behind the legendary Evangelion anime, Princess Maker is a series that sadly never made it to the west, until now. I was excited for this game, but despite that, it somehow managed to blow away all my expectations regardless.
The story of Princess Maker 2 wouldn’t feel out of place for your typical JRPG. After slaying the demon lord and saving the world, the king is grateful for your deeds and lets you retire. However, your story is far from over. Your guardian deity calls out to you and gives you a 10-year-old girl to raise as your own. How you go about doing that is entirely up to you.
My first daughter was Maria. Eager to show her the world, I introduced her to the king, to ensure her social status. Unfortunately, the guards escorted her out since she didn’t show enough courtesy.
No daughter of mine is going to wear cute summer dresses which don’t even provide increased defense in combat. My lifelong experience with JRPG’s told me raising her attack and defense is the most important thing. I took her to the weapon shop and bought her the best weapon I could afford. The shop keeper happily sold me the iron dagger, deadly, but small enough for even a little girl to wield. Of course she had to get some training first. I took her to a veteran fencing master to teach my girl the ways of battle.
And that’s when it hit me, of the starting 500 gold pieces, my family was left with 40, barely enough to pay for one warm meal. A vagabond fortune teller offered to tell me my daughter’s future, but I sent her away because I couldn’t afford it.
To ensure that we would have enough gold to survive, I sent her to work at a nearby inn, however, it ended in disaster, as she tore the laundry. Working at a high paying farm, didn’t bring us any money either, as she managed to do every possible thing wrong.
She strayed from the path of virtue, as all the fatigue she got made her rebellious. The large amount of work and lack of food made her ill. I took her to the doctor, but the greedy bastard wanted 80 gold. I also couldn’t sell the now useless iron dagger.
Uncertain, I sent Maria to the nearby grass plains, maybe she might manage better as a fighter than a maid. But that notion was quickly dispelled, as she met a praying mantis and after trying to talk to it, was knocked out with a single strike.
Crazy fortune teller was back, asking for money again, but we were somehow poorer than before. I couldn’t afford tuition to teach my good for nothing daughter anything anymore, so it was sink or swim. I sent her to work in the local church, the lowest paying job in town. She managed to earn a total of 2 gold for the entire week.
Thankfully, I finally got my salary for the year, netting me 500 gold. But it was too late. The Doctor’s fee which was once 80 gold fee was now 200. After having an earnest talk with Maria, she finally cleaned up her act earning a total of 13 gold at the church.
I finally welcomed the fortune teller, but her prediction wasn’t promising. Maria will become a domestic helper. I quickly sent her to a local arena, where already she was quickly taken out in one hit by a lumbering brute.
Our financial situation quickly worsened. I couldn’t even afford a present for my daughter’s first birthday, which would prove to be her last. She died several days after from overwork.
Armed with the knowledge that sending a 10-year-old girl into combat without any training may not be the best option, I decided to have another go.
This time I heavily managed my budget and focused on other aspects. I started out by improving my daughter’s cooking skills and netting us a huge number of gold pieces in the annual contests. This didn’t stop my daughter from joining a local gang, running away and returning only once she spent all her money on an expensive juicy meat dish. I guess that’s what I deserve for forcing her on a diet so she could fit into the overpriced silky dress I bought her. Once she turned 18 she left home and took up shop at the local illegal bar, marring my demon butler in the process.
As you may have gathered, Princess Maker 2 is a time management game. At the beginning of each month you must plan out what your daughter will do each week. You must correctly balance your daughter’s work, study and rest periods while balancing your budget. It might be overwhelming at first, since there is always a lingering air of uncertainty, but before long things will fall into place.
It is a fairly short game. It took me 2-3 hours to clear on my first playthrough. It does start to get a bit repetitive later in the game, but that didn’t deter me from my second and third playthrough. Its short length means you will easily start a new playthrough. The huge number of endings and options available in the game mean that each can be drastically different. There are a lot of tiny random events, hidden secrets, big aspirations you can strive for, that make every new game a whole new experience and talking about them would ruin the fun of discovering them for yourself.
Despite its limited backgrounds, the game looks great. Your daughter grows as the years pass, gains weight, and even has different expressions depending on her mood. The part-time jobs she can work are portrayed with adorable animated scenes. It’s a joy to watch the girl work hard, or fail at the job in a comedic fashion. The Refine version of the game includes improved visuals and voice acting for almost all the characters. However, the game’s age does show and it’s a shame the developers didn’t add an additional layer of polish to this aging title.
Princess Maker 2 Refine is very much a product of its time. The game does very little to guide the player, but instead leaves them to uncover all the little intricacies on their own. Its simple premise, but deep nature will keep you coming back for more. If there is one complaint to be had with Princess Maker, it would be the ridiculously long wait for this amazing 1993 game to be finally localized.