Review: Princess Maker 2 Refine
Developer: CFK Co., Ltd.
Publisher: CFK Co., Ltd.
Price: (eu/us) $19,99 USD
Release Date: English: September 28th, 2016. Original Japanese: 1993
Princess Maker 2 was a Japanese MS-DOS simulation game. It was very popular in Japan at the time and turned out to be highly influential to character-raising simulators and dating-simulators. The original game was licensed to be released in English though it never happened. In the wake of Windows 95 release, MS-DOS software rapidly lost space in the market, and there was no perspective for selling such a niche Japanese game at the time.
The player fills the role of a war hero. After obtaining glory and stabilizing the Kingdom, a goddess entrusts the player with a small girl. Your role is to properly raise her into adulthood. Depending on your choices, a huge number of possible endings are available. That includes Princess, a General, a Harlot, a Housewife, or even a Thief.
The gameplay is simple: Your daughter has a very large set of variables. Skills, stats, reputations, morality and relationship points with several characters. You tamper with those variables by having your daughter perform actions. You do this by filling her schedule with work, study, rest, and adventures. Every action fluctuates variables by a set range. For instance, working part-time at the Inn increases your Cleaning skill, but reduces your Combat prowess. Most actions in the game are balanced around drawbacks like this.
The music for Princess Maker 2 Refine isn’t too varied but it’s quite memorable. Every season has a different music track, greatly helping set the pace of the game. The Refine version’s soundtrack is pretty much the same as the original, except with a higher quality. That of course makes them sound quite different, though I found both to be charming in their own ways.
The Refine version is also fully voiced! The Japanese voiceover is pretty good though it becomes a little annoying after a while. The text repeats itself a lot, and so does the voice acting. Fortunately, there are options for disabling the voice acting, as well as switching between the MIDI and WAVE version sountracks. The complete soundtrack from the PC-98, DOS and FM TOWNS versions are available as DLC.
The assets were redrawn for the Refine version. Actions in the game are displayed as text beautiful 90’s style MS-DOS art. Granted, the game does look quite different from the original, but most of the charm is intact. Unfortunately, the only graphical option for the game is a toggle for Full Screen and Windowed.
The only character raising simulator I had previously played before this had been Long Live The Queen, which I reviewed here on Anime Courtyard. In that game, it was quite difficult to reach the end of a playthrough because it had several events which could result in game overs, should the player-character fail a status-check. It was quite frustrating when your character died because you didn’t train a skill that was completely unrelated to the path you were concentrating on. As such, I sort of expected Princess Maker 2 Refine to be the same.
To my surprise, it was not the case. While death is a possibility in this game, it’s quite difficult to actually happen. To the point where it won’t happen unless you want do it on purpose. Perhaps the game could’ve benefited from having more opportunities to a game over during the game.
Perhaps the biggest issue with PM2R is the hidden stats. Most of the information is displayed clearly on your daughter’s character sheet, but quite a few statuses are hidden. While obscured from the player, those are highly influential in determining which ending you will get. In fact, you wouldn’t even know those factors existed unless you read a guide.
Evaluating a game made in the early 90’s isn’t the same as judging one made in 2016. Invisible variables are annoying to deal with, but it was par for the course for the time it was made for. The game suffered a bit from a few removed features, such as the cheat shops which aren’t present in the new version of the game, but overall it has retained everything from the original.
Furthermore, despite having 74 different endings, the game’s replayability isn’t too great. After three or four playthroughs you’ve pretty much figured out the whole game and nothing much happens, except for a few events and a different piece of flavor text for the player to read at the end.
It’s impossible to not acknowledge the influence that Princess Maker 2 has had on the simulation genres, and the Refine version makes it easy to experience the game almost exactly as it was back in the 1990s. While I doubt modern gamers will think of this as one of their favorite games, every fan of character-simulation games should try it out at least once.
- Retained most of the original’s artistic charm
- Historical value as a game that set standards for an entire genre
- Lots of different endings
- Easy and simple to get into
- Despite all the endings, the replayability isn’t too great – Repetitive
- Hidden factors make it hard to achieve certain endings
- Very lacking in graphical options, although it’s understandable considering it is a port of a MS-DOS game