Princess Crown is one of many Saturn 2D gems. The Saturn's mighty muscle clearly resides in this category, and I can't think of a better game that the Saturn flexes that muscle in than Princess Crown.
When you hear the words Action and RPG together you generally think about some super deformed little prince hacking little blobs on the screen, right? Well, if you're tired of that, then Princess Crown is just the game you've been praying for. Princess Crown not only breaks the Action/RPG stereotype in gender (you play as a girl *gasp*) as well as graphics (tall, sleek characters, not superdeformed ones).
As I started up Princess Crown (PC from now on) I was shocked as to what I was looking at, the characters were like nothing I had ever seen before. They were not short, nor were they fat. They were tall and sleek and looked pretty normal (no way!). After about 2 minutes of staring at the screen I figured I'd better play the game because looking at a screen all day is pretty stupid, so I started playing and after just a few hours of playing PC I really began to see why so many importers love this game.
I think the best part of PC's gameplay is its battle scenes, they seem to give the game real action instead of your usual hack and slash action/RPG. PC's fight scenes steal a page right out of Street Fighter's play book; the battles take place on screen (doesn't zoom in or change screens) and are 2D side scroll. After you run into an unseen baddy (yuck! I know, but it isn't too bad) you duke it out using various moves with your handy sword. Now, you're not going to find endless attack moves to do like you would with a fighting game, but there are just enough attacks to keep you happy. At the beginning of the game I found the battles to be strange and very odd, but later on I began to get the hang of it and ended up wanting to fight bad guys. The battle scenes were a very nice part of PC and really put PC high above most Action/RPG's on the market.
PC has many other cool features other than just a unique fighting system. It also has cooking, temporary items that wear out, throwing weapons, such as daggers, and a vast assortment of magic items. The coolest thing out of that list is being able to cook your healing items. Don't worry though, if you think cooking in an RPG is lame you don't have to. You can buy healing items in stores; however, it's really cool to be far away from a town and whip out a fry pan, some eggs, and toast and make a killer HP booster. Unlike the cooking items, which are cool, the magic items are kinda cruddy. I played through the game without using one magic item that was actually helpful, all most of them did was take up space in my inventory, to me they just seemed like a waste.
Overall PC's gameplay plays a lot like other RPGs, where you walk from town to town talk, to people, collect needed items, and fight baddies. The only real problem I had was not knowing where to go sometimes, since I can't read Japanese. What makes it even harder is that you really cover every town a lot; PC is not one of those games where you visit a town and then never see it again. This makes it really difficult for English-speaking players, but you can get through it. Other than that, I think most English-speaking players will adore this game even if they can't read Japanese.
Stepping away from gameplay I'll now spend a short time on Control. I rarely ever grade control in RPGs, because most of the time it does not apply to them, but in PC it does. Control is a very important part of PC, especially in the battles. PC's control is far from perfect, but it is decent enough to slide by. In battle, response is sometimes sluggish and it gets you trapped in corners with some of the tougher bad guys and it is also slow to respond to some attack moves, but most of the time the delay is only minimal and can be tolerated. Overall PC's control is rather decent and I give it extra credit for having a run button for walking within towns (yeah!).
Next is a true sight to behold: PC's graphics. The graphics in Princess Crown are simply awe inspiring, putting many Playstation and N64 game to utter shame. For starters, the backgrounds are so beautiful it will make your eyes water, from lovely clouds in the sky backdrops to lush tropical trees and grass, PC's backgrounds are perfection. I simply could not have asked for better backgrounds, whoever was the background artist for this game deserves much praise for one of the best jobs I have ever seen in this area of a video game.
After your eyes are through rejoicing over the excellent backgrounds, you will be quick to notice the unbelievable detail and depth given to the characters. Character art in PC is out of this world good, especially for the main characters. Beautiful bright colors mixed with fabulous drawings make a killer combination. Heck, even the townspeople look cool, although you'll be seeing most of the same ones be recycled throughout the game (aw!). From the items, to the animals, everything in this game was drawn with perfection in mind and it really shows, absolute art perfection! If you looked as hard as could be to find faults in the graphics you will come up with nothing, there is no pixilation, no glitches, no anything. It is really amazing and I loved every minute of looking at this game.
PC's music is the pussy cat of categories for this game, because the music really isn't as good as the game is. In no way am I saying that the music is bad, it just isn't fantastic. PC's music is very standard RPG music; most of it has the big orchestra sound that we've come to love in RPGs, but if you're going to go this way you had better make it really special and I feel PC stayed pretty neutral and average in this area.
Overall, Princess Crown is a video game masterpiece that has every aspect that a masterpiece must have: excellent gameplay, awesome graphics, and art that just plain hurts ya. I'm a very picky reviewer and most of the time I can pick out many things wrong with a game, but with Princess Crown there just aren't enough to really bother me. If you are a Saturn owner you must add this game to your collection, it is a timeless classic that every gamer should play and it comes with my highest recommendation. It's a real shame Atlus never ported it to the Playstation. Then we might have actually played it in English, but for whatever reason they didn't. Anyway, English or not, you just have to play this game! Go get it!