Visual Novels - because insomnia builds character.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Princess Waltz

This review was produced for and can be viewed here. A review copy was generously provided by Peach Princess.
  • Title - Princess Waltz
  • Author - PULLTOP
  • Style - Linear Visual Novel (interactive)
  • Trial - Japanese Only
  • Engine - Proprietary Engine (fully adapted for US environment)
  • Price - 39.95$ Boxed or Download
  • Website - English Site Japanese Site
  • Get - Store List Please note download edition is only available through Peach Princess/J-List.
To be honest, when I first heard of this title I paid little attention to it, most of the titles the Payne zaibatsu (J-List, G-Collections, Peach Princess, and Jast USA) produces fall into small inaccessible niches. While enjoyable, such games often provoke negative reactions from those unfamiliar with the genre and outside their target audience. Princess Waltz is not one of those niche titles.

Graphics - The visuals for Princess Waltz are stunning. Lines are crisp and colors are bright bringing a light-hearted tone to the game. Each character has numerous standing dolls (tachi-e) and full body variation convey emotion better than a slope of an eyebrow/twitch of a lip ever could. Most impressively is the large amount of animation/visual effects. It is very rare to click through a scene with out movement, be it a change in posture, zooming in or out of an image or even the quick movements of battle; the screen is always changing. These are not full motion animations, but simple tweens that add a great bit to the game. Unlike some games (from larger studios!), a large number of side characters have multiple sprites. This goes a great way to compensate for the static nature of visual novels and makes Princess Waltz an excellent game for newer players.

Backgrounds are clean and well drawn but nothing outstanding. Event CG however are well done. Many non-ero CG are included, especially for battles and dramatic moments. Another drawback from it's birth as a lower budget title is that detail is slightly higher on the event CG than on the sprites. This did not bother me as the change is more subtle than in other titles such as Ever 17; most importantly I would rather have some CG with extra detail than to have detail left out for consistency. HCG average at three per scene (with variations) with one scene per character (one exception). The angles aren't too ridiculous but the usual HCG oddities still apply, Arata turns invisible (except his dick) in some of the scenes. Fortunately or not, every issue I have noted is standard industry practice. Princess Waltz is truely a pleasure to look at. 10/10

Music/SFX - The music for Princess Waltz is pleasant and, possibly more importantly, quite fitting to each scene. Track length varies from under half a second to over four minutes and sound effects are when expected. Sounds are panned to create a richer effect, and some tracks are fantastic... 疾走無限 and 雨の旋律. Notice, these tracks are named in Japanese.... the included pre-tagged soundtrack has Japanese titles while the in game music mode has translations, this may be a bothersome for someone with no Japanese knowledge but retagging isn't too difficult as the order appears to be the same (tagging can be done with iTunes or any other music management software worth it's salt).

The sound effects are excellent and bring the battle sequences to life. Different attacks have different sounds and a SFX loop is used for metal on metal combat, a nice touch to keep the battles from becoming too calm between special moves. Luckily, no intrusive sound effects are used for adult scenes. 8.5/10

Voice Acting - Voice acting has no major flaws. Characters are consistent and every one except Arata is voiced. Princess Waltz actually would have benefited (more than the average game) from voicing Arata because he has a defined appearance and identity anyhow. One common complaint with the game is that the voice actors for characters with multiple identities make the relation too obvious. I however do not fault PULLTOP for this because they never seemed to care about hiding multiple identities: one look at the Graphic page will, for better or for worse, give away most or all (depending on how close you look) of the "secret identities" the princesses use. Voice acting for erotic scenes in particular is a notch above average because the lines and acting are toned down, providing a more realistic experience. 9/10

Story - The fact that the story is essentially linear (one endings with slight variations) will make this game lose many sales. This is really a shame because the story is quite good. The plotting and style is very similar to anime and would be an excellent introduction to the visual novel genre because of it. While the character development isn't lacking, certain heroines fall short during their individual chapters. Oddly, some of the side characters posses impressive depth and are quite entertaining. Like many visual novels the story starts in a school but that school scenes become fewer and fewer as the story progresses and refocuses on the fantasy plot. Quick twists and turns ensure constant entertainment.

The "choose-a-girl" style of the 2nd half is clearly the weakest point of the game. Despite that, it accomplishes two things: firstly it supplies the game with a diverse amount of erotic content and secondly it provides Arata a partner without completely supplanting the true heroine. Since the second partner is user-decided the game can unforgiving refocus on the main girl when it needs to. Unfortunately, in order to please fans, the ending is romantically ambiguous. While many bishoujo gamers feel the need to clear a game in a weekend, this game would be better enjoyed with time between the routes so one can better enjoy the individual merits of each girl than the pressure to skip through the same ending text again. Make no mistake, Princess Waltz aims to be a fantasy story not a dating-sim and it does an admirable job. 8.5/10

System/Gameplay (Battle) - The battle system is very accessible but not too simplistic. A slew of help files in battle mode explain as much of the system as you could want to know and an easy mode exists for those who just want to get on with the story. The graphics and sounds are in lines with the rest of the game. Many have complained that the AI is predictable but I found it comfortably challenging. 8/10

System/Extras - The system is very polished with the menus and text box themed to match the battle system, the text box frame also sports a quick access bar with all the major buttons. The biggest issue with the system is the courier font used for game text. It contrasts badly with the clean lines of the art and menus. After a couple chapters of the game it becomes unnoticeable but for the concerned the font can be changed by editing the Windows registry (see below). Extras include the usual Scene, CG, and Music modes (curiously one button in the music mode is untranslated but it's function is clear). As a bonus to the English edition (as if being half the price wasn't enough), Peach Princess included the aforementioned pre-tagged soundtrack in MP3 format with an average size of 3.4MB a song (bigger file size indicates higher quality). 4.5/5

Overall - This is a very difficult game to define, it has more akin to an fantasy anime than it does to the average visual novel. For the most part, the game is balances these two aspects well and is sure to please both new and seasoned visual novel fans. The linear nature will discourage many from trying Princess Waltz and that is a shame, they are missing out on one of the most enjoyable (if not deep) visual novels in English.

Score - 48.5/55 - 88% - Good

How to Change the Font
In the Windows registry access HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Will\princesswaltz_us and just change the FontName Value to a font you prefer. Please remember that tweaking the registry can damage Windows, this particular tag is obviously for PW (not Windows itself) but don't change values you do not understand. I only have a theoretical knowledge of the almighty registry (have never needed to tweak it) and have not tried this myself.


Anonymous said...

yo! I've played a few of these "ero" games but truthfully I'm just looking for the ones that happen to be like this one (Princess Waltz) and "Fate Stay Night". would you know any that would fit into that catagory? Like less sex based and more "deep fantasy adventure dramagic etc etc based?" If so please email me if you got like free time or whatever and tell me ok? =] thank you~

Anonymous said...

My one fault of this game is that no matter which princess you favor, at the end of the game the main character seems to favor Chris. I liked Lun Lun and Angela far more than Chris, so this took a lot of enjoyment out of the game for me.