Long ago Queen Elferan protected her people from demons and with her own hands restored peace to the land of Varendia. Three generations later, Princess Gradriel on her 13th birthday ascends the thrown and upon hearing a dragon as been terrorising a local village, quietly sneaks out of the Castle at night with the help of the fairy Aria to go on an adventure to become like her idol Queen Elferan.
Thus begins Princess Crown a very charming 2D scrolling Action RPG, that is very remotely similiar to YS Book III and Zelda II. Untypically for a 2D Side Scrolling styled game there are no platform elements involved and so while basic movement is limited to left and right directions, by pressing up at denoted area's you are able to enter buildings (in towns) and many branching paths on the open road, allowing the overal map to becomes quite large and some of the later dungeon/tower sections can especially become complex to navigate.
Upon first booting up Princess Crown and watching the opening demo you can tell your in for a real treat. The first thing to hit you will be the quality of the animation lavished on the very detailed large sized (think ½-¾ of the screen) character/enemy sprites. Atlus has paid very close attention to everything in the game world and lots of small touches add up to make it special. Similiarly the backgrounds are also gorgeous to look at with ample parallax scrolling.
Princess Crown's battle system is unique in its eschewing the common RPG normality for beat em up sensibilities. Once a random encounter begins a Power gauge appears that replenishes itself automatically when youre stationary and depletes when you defend and attack. By pressing the attack button C in succession you can perform combination attacks and by holding down the C button you can perform a special attack of sorts which incidently if you manage to kill your opponent with, you get a background flash just like finishing with a special in Streetfighter Zero, however by using the special move you get incapacitated temporarily opening yourself up to attack. By pressing the B button just before an attack is launched at you, you are given the option of dashing behind or jumping away from your opponent, allowing you to sidestep an attack and counter with your own, which makes way for some tactical battles. Of note you cant escape from the random battles and you will be forced to fight to the death. While this would usually be annoying in your average RPG, however the battles in Princess Crown are such a joy to play that you can easily overlook this minor oversight.
There is no equipment upgrading to be found, besides you naturally get stronger from experience points gained anyway. Items found/bought are principally for healing and secondary attacks. A nice feature of Princess Crown is the item combination system. Coloured Gems can be charged with a potion and then used in battle to attack with magic. Raw food can be easily found after battles and cooked in a frying pan to create healing items, all of which last for several portions. Some food leaves behind a waste product ie bones or seeds in your inventry. The former can be thrown at enemies, while if you throw seeds onto the floor during battle they can grow into plants and may even bare additional fruits for you to eat. Since you actually see Gradriel eat food and get items out to use, in battles you have to be careful you dont get hit and drop them onto the floor. You can pick them back up providing those pesky goblins dont come along and nab the item first. Yes you heard right, if you leave items on the floor too long goblins will fly onto the screen and wisk them away. As metioned before its these small touches of inventiveness and additional animation that other games would ignore that really makes Princess Crown shine.
By completing the game with Gradriel you gain access to extra story arks where you can play the game from some of the main supporting casts viewpoints, which while each shorter in overall length adds a considerable amount of replay value. Further more by completing all the side quests you will get a nice bonus story waiting for you which Im not going to spoil here.
So far I havent mentioned anything about the sound, which is disappointing when compared to everything else. The background music isnt bad, if anything its very adequate and suits the game well. It's just there are no real strong memorable theme songs that stay in your mind after you power off.
Lastly, Princess Crown is still very accessable and enjoyable to players with no Japanese language ability. There are no complex menus to navigate and progress can be made by talking to eveyone you meet then checking the in game map via the right shoulder button to see if a new area as opened up. There are very few places you can get stuck due to the linear nature of the story. So you have no excuse for missing out on this splendid game apart from perhaps the price Princess Crown can sell for these days, but its worth every penny especially if you love 2D style games.
Aaron "yume" Freestone