The Princess Guide, out now on Nintendo Switch and Playstation 4, is a loosely connected follow-up to Penny-Punching Princess. We played both the handheld (Switch) version and the big screen PS4 version of the game – which in both scenarios meant a platform switch as we covered Penny-Punching Princess on the Vita.
Sony’s handheld isn’t getting The Princess Guide, as the Switch is firmly taking over the handheld market (even over Nintendo’s own 3DS). It’s a shame, because The Princess Guide (like Penny-Punching Princess) follows a formula that would be well at home on any handheld – more so than on a home console. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In The Princess Guide, you’re the titular “guide” – a seasoned knight who has to take one of four princesses under his wing and show them the ropes. Although the bulk of the game consists of action-heavy button mashing, there’s a bit of strategy involved as well, as you also navigate a world map in between relatively short missions. Here, you can manage your troops and thus engage with various mission paths that are available to you.
Each princess has her own story to tell, her own personality and her own skill set, but with every story ultimately revolving around you cleansing the land and saving the day. And although there are strong beat ’em up elements in the game, there is also a lot of character development that is almost RPG-like and plays out through a “praise or scold” dynamic. When I first heard about this I was afraid it was going to turn into a Senran Kagura type of scenario, but praising and scolding a princess based on her actions actually impacts how she develops – and thus her performance in combat. No more what your initial choice is, the narrative will eventually alternate between the various princesses, adding more variety to the game as well.
The actual combat portions of the game feel pretty straightforward, as button mashing gets you a long way. There’s a mixture of direct control over your princess as well as control over the troops that support her, but once you figure out a winning combination of attacks it will very likely work for any future enemy encounters as well. Adding a little extra fun (and diversity) to the combat is the ability to lay traps, which we also saw in Penny-Punching Princess.
The Princess Guide doesn’t have Penny-Punching monetary focus where you get to bribe and negotiate your way through the game, and the praise/scold dynamic doesn’t feel quite as fresh and original. The action’s fun and with its short levels it’s great for short bursts (hence the good fit with the handheld market), but with all the traps, world map navigation and squad management, I can’t shake the feeling that there’s a deeper experience somewhere here. It’s just hard to see underneath the easily accessible beat ’em up action that’s mostly fun but also a tad generic.