Exploring Visual Novels 2: Princess Waltz

For my second post I’ve decided to mix things up by reading something a bit newer than last time: Princess Waltz.

I’ve read a few things about this visual novel in the past, stuff like: The second coming of Fate/Stay Night, or one of the best battle driven visual novels in the English language, but I really didn’t really know anything beyond that going into this. Your question is probably the same as mine: does this visual novel live up to either of those claims?

Body sharing, mecha does it like this all the time so why not?

Body sharing, mecha does it like this all the time so why not?

First Impression
This visual novel kicks off with a piece of info on what the “Princess Waltz” is. Basically every time a new emperor is crowned, a princess from each of the six nations under the empires control, come together and do battle for the position of queen. The twist? Our prince is not what ‘he’ seems.

Then we cut to a modern day school setting. I was more than a little confused at first, but soon the truth was clear enough: the battle field for this magical fantasy kingdom was modern day earth. The participants create magical alternate reality battlegrounds and duke it out in moderated duels. Each princess has a Tiara and Dress that grants them power. In order for one of the princesses to win the waltz, the numbers of Tiara’s must be reduced to one, and then the surviving princess becomes the new queen.

Best Bros

Best Bros

Plot Summary
Princess Waltz starts pretty strong, it is not a particularly unique setting, but it brings some good things to the table. The one major concern I had early on, was in the way Arata our protagonist, is depicted as being denser than your average shonen protagonist. At one point Arata’s childhood friend even goes so far as to compare Arata’s sharpness with that of a spoon, an assessment I share. This affliction never does completely heal, but it becomes less significant as the plot thickens.

Princess Waltz reads like a shonen battle manga meets magical girl story. The power of emotions trumps all, and calling your attacks is just what you do. The prince and princess theme holds true between both halves, and makes for a good sense of atmosphere that is upheld from start to finish. Early on the pacing sometimes feels a bit slow, but there are some genuinely interesting plot twists and developments as it evolves. Around the midpoint of the plot I was hit with a twist that hooked me completely, and I was unable to put this visual novel down until I finished it after that point.

The incestuous vibes are strong with this one; she was actually a pretty cool older sister all things considered.

The incestuous vibes are strong with this one; she was actually a pretty cool older sister all things considered.

Story
Chris is the prince, and our protagonist Arata decides to help him out with his battle. Over the past thousand years it has been the role of the prince to serve as a beacon for the various princesses, but this time is a bit different. The Prince is actually a woman, and the entire empire is at risk of falling apart if this secret gets loose. In order to secure the future of her empire, Chris is secretly participating in the Waltz herself by wearing the dress and Tiara from one of the six kingdoms.

To add insult to injury the transformation into Iris can not be completed by one person, this is where Arata comes in. The Protagonist and the ‘prince’ both wear a ring, and when they bring their hands together while saying the magic words they combine to form a princess named Iris. They basically pilot this magical girl princess as is she were a mecha, complete with a HUD box for the girl the protagonist is piloting Iris with.

I am not even going to try denying that this setup is more than a little bit silly, but it works pretty well. The whole body sharing thing is used to bring unique elements to the story, questions are raised such as what it means to the various characters to be a prince or princess, and while Princess Waltz is more focused on being a story of self discovery than it is a straight romance, there are some strong romantic elements that tie in well with the whole prince and princess theme.

Unlimited Cellphone Works

Unlimited Cellphone Works

Music
This is one of the shining merits of Princess Waltz, the music is fantastic. The romantic scores are nice and tender and the battles scores have every bit of excitement that you could ask for. There is magic in the directing here, and the variety of sounds is another strong point, clocking in at thirty different tracks by the end of the novel.

For all the love I have for the music of Princess Waltz in it’s most heated and or tender moments, it is actually the daily life music that I appreciated the most. One of the sillier track is really catchy, and I have dubbed it the Banjo track when describing to friends as it is reminiscent of something out of Raresoft’s Banjo Kazooie games. Added to this was the fact that my favorite character, Princess Lun Lun was more or less the comic relief character of the story, and this track was playing during quite a few of her scenes, so perhaps I developed a bit of a bias.

Mentioning the eyebrows was probably a bad idea.probably a bad idea.

Mentioning the eyebrows was probably a bad idea.

Art
The artwork of Princess Waltz is fantastic, with 67 pieces of unique art in the gallery, most of which have many variations, I never felt like I was looking at the same thing for too long. Just like with the music, there is power in the directing with the artwork. Particle effects and shaking screens make the combat come to life in a way that is beyond what I have experienced in any other visual novel. There are also some brief bits of animation with the magical girl transformations for whatever that is worth.

The sprites really jive well with the music and dialog. Character designs all pretty good, and while a bit on the limited side, the sprites have a good range of expression for any given character. There is a little bit of clothing shedding going on during some of the battle scenes, but Princess Waltz is pretty classy during battle for the most part, with the exception of one nipple shot it is nothing you wouldn’t see in a shonen battle manga.

Catching on fire and summing dragons when you get pissed really should be against the rules.

Catching on fire and summing dragons when you get pissed really should be against the rules.

Voice Acting
For some reason the credits video is in Japanese so I can’t easily look up who was who, but I can say that the voice acting is pretty solid overall, even though I can’t tell you for sure who voiced whom.

There isn’t a particular voice I can point to as stealing the show, but most everyone does a great job of sounding in character. The one voice I felt was a bit flat belonged to Iris the magical girl princess who the protagonist pilots, she has few lines however, and this hardly distracts from the overall quality at all.

Flawless logic at its best.

Flawless logic at its best.

Gameplay
There are 5 different routes that branch off with a different heroines toward the end of Princess Waltz, though it might be a bit miss leading to say that. The story is broken into twenty chapters, which route you choose simply changes a portion of chapter 19 and 20.

The way you chose a particular route is very straightforward, there isn’t much more to it than pick the girl you like, just.. pick well, most of the scenes in the chapter are shared between the heroines, so there is not much re-playability here. That said, so long as you save at the right spot, it is really easy to obtain 100% completion without trying very hard, and there is a bonus scene for doing so, though it isn’t much.

The real gem of the gameplay comes in the form of a card game, which represents bits of the battles you fight as Iris. The card game is simple, but actually a pretty well developed thing that adds a real sense of being part of the battle. There is just enough card play to be fun without becoming tedious or feeling unimportant. You gain exp when you fight battles, and spend that exp on special cards and power ups. It is never particularly hard, but it managed to pull me into the fight and make me feel part of it, I liked that.

This card game is actually pretty fun.

This card game is actually pretty fun.

Erotic Content
It is easy to forget that this is a fully featured eroge thanks to the strong narrative, but it certainly is there. The ‘prince’ and all of the princesses have their own spot light, though it does take more than one play through to see them all. Basically how much you are going to appreciate these scenes will boil down to your tolerance for sex magic, as it is tied directly into the plot that way. Feelings make you stronger and sex makes you feel.. I am sure you can put the rest together on your own.

There is a little bit of incestuous content here, but the incestuous nature of it is almost entirely ignored. The sex generally tries to be sweet and or passionate, something it pulls off for the most part. The erotic scenes are a small portion of Princess Waltz, but they hold nothing back when they happen.

There is really nothing outlandishly offensive about the content of any of these scenes, other than perhaps questioning the ages of the characters, which are never formally given. My one critique would be this: they get dragged out a bit, the protagonist has an unnatural amount of stamina. I have seen a lot worse mind you, but some of the scenes do feel a bit excessive.

Just like in any good battle manga, calling your attacks makes them stronger.

Just like in any good battle manga, calling your attacks makes them stronger.

Localization
Aside from a single specific complaint that I have, this is a solid localization overall. While playing the card game I noticed that there is a mistake with the description text on a few of the bonus cards. Basically red and green are backwards, IE if the text says green it means red and vice-verse, this is annoying, but hardly game breaking.

I was also slightly annoyed that the credits are not translated.

And you know it is business time when the glasses come off.

And you know it is business time when the glasses come off.

Overall Value
Princess Waltz is a visual novel I have highly enjoyed, and would readily recommend for it’s compelling story and charming prince and princess characters. The one final critique I will give is this: I felt like this story pulled it’s punches a bit too much, and that the lighthearted mentality of no one really dies cheated a few characters out of leaving a more powerful lasting impression, and cheapened the resolve they fought with. This pulling of punches is probably something quite a few people will be relieved to see so this critique really comes down to personal taste. Overall Princess Waltz was an exciting story, and I am very much satisfied with it.

On a final note I find the Fate/Stay Night Comparison to be false. Prince Waltz and Fate/Stay Night are apples and oranges. There are some similarities between the two sure, but the nuance behind the underlying mechanics are entirely different. Fate/Stay Night is a survival story set in a dark urban fantasy. Princess Waltz on the other hand is a story of self discovery set in a much more upbeat fantasy meets modern world setting. Any comparisons between the two are only surface deep.

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17 thoughts on “Exploring Visual Novels 2: Princess Waltz

  1. You forgot to tell reader that Princess Waltz visual novel was divided into two parts. First part was about introduction until Cris corrupted by her ancestor. Second part was Arata’s climax into ending.
    Princess Waltz probably English translation visual novel which divided into two parts as far I know.

    • I wasn’t sure if I should point that out or not. While writing this I was trying to describe as much as possible without spoiling the specific details as much as I could. The twist I mentioned really liking in the middle was in fact the series of events right before the split off point.

      • I read some comments about Princess Waltz game that some gamers almost thought there a sequel game of it. It can discourage for new gamer who not familiar to Visual Novel (VN).
        Princess Waltz probably the first VN English translation game which use split off story system.

  2. I also really enjoyed Princess Waltz, though more for its first half than its second. I always think taking a main character out of reach is a terrible idea and Cris’ removal was really annoying, especially when you consider how close she and the main character were in the end.

    I think the comparison to Fate/Stay Night lies more in the combat scenes than anything else. I found both to have very similar ways of dealing with action, though that wasn’t a bad thing because I think they both did it quite well.

    I also liked the card game but felt there could have been more of it.

    • Taking Cris out is what allowed the other heroines to step up in importance and I liked all of them so I was cool with it, I can understand your complaint though. I also felt like it provided a good motivation to fight and save Cris. That kept me from feeling like the bonds in the first part were weakened any.

      The card game was simplistic, but I like that in a VN mini game. Once a mini game becomes too important or difficult it starts to distract from the story instead of adding to it I think. Koihime Mouso comes to mind, the mini game becomes tiresome with how often they throw you into it. I figured out how to game the system completely with Princess Waltz at just about the point where I played the card game for the last time. It stuck a good balance for me.

    • KoiHime’s mini game amused me the first few times I saw it I guess. It certainly became tiresome quickly. For my part I’m far more interested in how the mini games add or detract than I am with how well developed they are, though that is important as well. It’s the difference between it being a mini game and a full fledged, game driving mechanic I think. I guess what I am trying to say is that I agree they could have done more, but I think they would have needed to do a lot more or it could have easily become tiresome and distracting.

      • I see your point. It’s like the difference between Utawrerumono and Kamidori Alchemy Meister. Smaller minigames offer a brief respite from the story without becoming a major part of the visual novel.

        That said, I really, really didn’t like Koihime’s gameplay.

    • The only reason it kind of amused me is because I was able to use my real world knowledge of the generals to guess some of their patterns without messing up for a few rounds before getting it right. I will admit it was pretty annoying in general and essentially functioned as a boring time sink in an already long winded VN. Getting to 100% in koihime was a real chore.

      I actually finished Koihime before my HD died and with it all the screenshots I had taken. It was originally going to be Exploring Visual Novels 4. My lack of desire to go back through that mini game is what kept me from writing about it… Someday… Maybe…

      • I was more or less limited to trial and error, which may have contributed to my dislike of the minigame.

        Out of interest, what kind of a rating would you have given Koihime? I’ve played quite a few Dynasty Warriors games in the past so I was familiar with many of the characters and battles, meaning that it was interesting to see Koihime’s take on everything. However, beyond that interest I didn’t find the story very enjoyable and don’t play on picking it up a second time. The art was good though.

    • That is hard question to answer. The easy answer is that it is all over the board from really awful to pretty great. The main scenario plays out like a typical harem and the fact that barely anyone dies neuters the drama inherit in the setting. The ending of the main story was fun, but everything up to that point ranges from moderately enjoyable to barely tolerable. The protagonist himself is only definable by desire for women and his kindness which makes him incredibly boring 90% of the time. The biggest frustration is that the story only took advantage of the setting in order to genderbend everyone. The irony of the genderbending is the only thing fueling the main storyline and purpose of the setting until the very end.

      The base phase was a neat idea, but I wish they would have done more with it. Maybe split paths for example. The only decent ending is the harem end which I guess makes sense considering the genre. They get points for following through on that end at least. The base phase is what makes rating this game so hard because if I just look at it overall I can only call it a failure, but some of the heroine’s base phase stories were pretty amusing. Chou’un in particular I thought was pretty great, partly because she gets all the parts with Chousen and the irony levels are through the roof with him… or, er her? The adventures of Enshou were also particularly amusing to me if only for how audaciously dumb those characters are.

      And then of course we had the erotic stuff. It’s probably the first and only VN to really feel disturbing to me. Some of it was just way too pedo for me. Artwork aside many of the girls have a tendency to act like they are mentally 5 and that just freaked me out. Even the most mature of the cast suffered from this with the exception of the token older woman who just ran with things in the opposite direction instead.

      I don’t think I would recommend it anyone who isn’t already a big fan of both moege and harem stories. In which case they have probably already played it. The military story of rising to power and uniting China just isn’t interesting enough on it’s own merits.

      • I don’t think I could have put any of that better myself, though I would have enjoyed the base phase more if less of it was H-scenes. As far as disturbing H-scenes go though, Saya no Uta takes the cake for me so far.

    • I need to read Saya no Uta at some point, I have a stronger aversion to that than I do School Days even. Too many other things I want to go through more.

    • I will probably prefer School Days as well if only for the fact that human relationships are far more interesting to me than eldritch horrors will ever be. I’ve also got Demon Bane sitting around somewhere needing attention. So many things to read, so little time to actually read them.

  3. Your style is so unique in comparison to other people I have read stuff from.
    Thank you for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I will just
    bookmark this site.

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