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Sunday, May 12, 2024

Princess Maker 2

Brought to us by Gainax (yes, the same company known for producing high-profile anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion and Gurenn Lagann), Princess Maker is certainly an interesting game for a number of reasons. The story opens with your character vanquishing a demon and earning the gratitude of a kingdom that had fallen to pride and sin.  That, however, is not the focus of the game; the narrative then cuts ahead several years to a time when the protagonist is bestowed a child of the gods, whom they then must raise from the ages of ten to eighteen.  To that end, you schedule her to take on jobs for income, undergo schooling and undertake tasks like errantries, combat challenges and other random events to raise some stats and lower others; a format that would later be copied by the Monster Rancher series of games.  There is also a yearly festival to test out her skills in art, cooking, combat or dancing (earning prizes if she wins), and you can also take her on vacations or just give her some spending money to lower her stress and make her less resentful toward you (which can result in her becoming a delinquent).  Once eight in-game years have passed, the sum of her experiences and stats are added up and you're given one of 74 potential endings. These range from becoming an artist, a bounty hunter, a prostitute (yes, really) or even the literal devil, with the most difficult one to achieve being the eponymous Princess, which requires a lot of currying favor and building connections with nobles and royals, not to mention training in elegance, glamour and dancing.  While there are some traditional elements in the game, mostly in the form of occasional combat challenges or errantries (playing out like a miniature dungeon), the focus here is really on playing a role - being a father and trying to shape your virtual daughter's future by maintaining trust and helping her build life skills.  The execution isn't flawless, with many of the jobs and schooling sessions having much greater benefits than others, and changing from the default diet plan doesn't seem to have much benefit at all, but it's a unique enough game to be worth a try regardless.  Even back in the '90s the game caught the attention of western publisher Intracorp, who had fully translated and planned to publish Princess Maker 2; unfortunately they went out of business before the game could be released, but a mostly-finished prototype was leaked online and quickly became the most widely distributed version of the game.

Developer: Gainax
Publisher: Gainax, Microcabin
Released: 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2004
Platforms: PC-98, MS-DOS, FM Towns, PC Engine, Sega Saturn, 3DO, PC, Playstation 2

There is also a remaster of the game on Steam called "Princess Maker 2 Refine", though I have not played that particular version.