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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.