Princess Maker puts you up with the hardest game ever – parenthood. You adopt a 10-year-old orphan girl and it is up to you to raise her into an elegant princess, future hero of the kingdom or another slightly less ambitious career path, before she hits her 18 birthday and ends her days laboring away in a local “strange inn”.
Princess Maker 2 Refine surprised everyone when it hit Steam last October. It appeared out of nowhere, almost 23 years after its original Japanese debut on the PC-98. With its success on Steam, the publisher CFK decided to bring the first installment of this series to the west.
You are a hero that defeated countless demons and rid the land of the evil demon lord. However, you opt to spend the rest of your days raising orphans who lost their parents in the bloody war. And soon you get a young 10-year-old girl at your door.
At the start of each month you schedule your daughter’s daily actives during the following month. You can select up to three different tasks for that period. You can educate her, send her off to work to bring in money, or let her rest or go on a vacation in order to relive her of her pent-up stress. You can also send her to talk to the nobles at the castle, go shopping for new gear or pretty dresses, or even have a father-daughter conversation. The best way to find out how your daughter will end up is to frequently ask the townsfolk what they think about her.
The majority of her time will be spent working. She starts out with 5 available jobs, working at the Inn, Weapon Store, Church, or writing letters as a scrivener and chopping wood as a woodcutter. However, more and more become available as she grows older and, by the end, she will be able to work a total of 15 jobs such as a hunter, maid or even in the obscene “strange inn”. Each job has its pros and cons and working doesn’t always give you money since your daughter can more often than not get in trouble at her work place.
The 8 years will pass in the blink of an eye. While the two-hour playtime may seem relatively short, actually its length is perfect. The meat-and-potatoes comes from multiple playthroughs. There are so many possibilities and they tend to drastically change the gameplay.
There is a bigger emphasis on education this time around since sending your daughter to classes is far cheaper than before. You also get the opportunity to take an exam in order to get more advance lessons. The exam for studying has you answering ridiculous questions while the one for military training will put your daughter up against her buffed-up tutor.
Errantry is back. You can send your innocent daughter to explore dangerous dungeons and encounter thieves, demons and even creepy kidnappers. These segments play out like old-school JRPGs with turn-based combat, and, while it feels a bit out of place, it never-the-less offers a nice change of pace.
Unlike in the second installment, there are really only two festival activities: the Martial Art Competition which focuses on combat and the Miss Kingdom Contest which takes into account your elegance and glamour.
Taking into account that this is the prequel, it lacks a lot of the small improvements that the second installment brought. The interface can be a bit unwieldy, forcing you to frequently reposition windows in order to see everything. There is no food management, no birthday parties, no traveling salesman and no rivals. The game is almost totally void of random events which added flavor to the second installment, as well as its replay value.
The translation isn’t perfect and the game has issues with word wrapping, making reading text a chore. On the plus side, like the sequel, this is a localization of the Refine version of the game, which features vastly improved artwork and full voice acting.
Princess Maker Refine lacks many of the improvements brought to us by the second installment. Even with that said, it may very well be one of the best raising simulators on the market. Not only that, but the game is unbelievably affordable, priced at half of the asking price of its sequel. If you still haven’t played the series, this might indeed be a great starting point since you won’t be spoiled by all the enhancements of later games in the franchise.