Volcano Princess Review - Volcano Maker
Updated: Jul 7
Volcano Princess is a Princess Maker-style game from a Chinese indie studio. Both of these facts will be obvious from within a few seconds of starting the game. It's proudly inspired by PM and borrows mechanics and ideas liberally, but generally does so with updates and reimaginings that make it much more than a shallow copy. Alas, being obviously from a Chinese studio is down to the English text being absolutely riddled with errors typical of translation from Chinese. It's by no means the worst example I've ever seen, and you're not going to get anything as bad as older translation gems like Zero Wing, but you do need to be prepared for a lot of strange turns of phrase and a smaller amount of unclear or incorrect descriptions. If you played Chinese Parents around when it first launched in English, the translation quality is similar.
Still, assuming you can get past that, nearly everything else about the game is very well done. Like the good Princess Maker titles, it reduces raising a kid to scheduling a whole bunch of classes and jobs over their childhood, then gives you some scenes at the end about how you've either raised an absolute monster or the hero of the world. Also like some PM games, there are multiple combat systems for the daughter to go and kill monsters with, as well as a couple of other minigames like horse racing or playing dice. None of it is very deep or necessarily balanced, but there's so much of it that you can easily go through a few playthroughs without repeating very much of the side content.
Speaking of multiple playthroughs, VP very much expects you to play it more than once. You're not practically guaranteed to be a failure on your first run like in Chinese Parents, but the best endings seem clearly out of reach until you've upgraded your starting character a few times. Each finished run gives you some points depending on what you did, and those points provide you with better starting stats or items so you can get to those better endings. As a bonus, this also lets you quickly blow past the early game content that you've already seen.
I've also seen this compared to Long Live the Queen a few times, but I think you'll be disappointed if that game is primarily what you're after. LLtQ is mostly about trying to navigate a world full of absurd deathtraps trying to stop your game early. I don't think it's possible to die at all in VP, and the focus is much more on the daughter's relationships with the player character and NPCs than on running any kingdoms. Similarly, if you want something like Cute Knight, know that the combat and dungeons here are much more basic.
I generally prefer these games when they're like Cute Knight or Growing Up and cast you as the main character instead of a parent since it's a bit less creepy, but I will say that Volcano Princess is much better in that regard than Princess Maker. VP goes out of its way to show that the daughter has agency and her own concerns, and what she thinks of you is its own objective and part of the ending. It hasn't changed my opinion that I'd rather play as the kid directly, but VP is probably the best alternative I've seen so far.
Volcano Princess isn't anything amazingly new, but considering that all the other games I've mentioned are either fairly old or set in the modern day, there's a lot to be said for just being a solid update of the fantasy version. Even if most of this won't be new to anyone who has played a PM game, it's still very well done and offers a tremendous amount of content for the price. Right now, I have to recommend it with the caveat that the translation is terrible, but hopefully with time they'll patch that up. For now, check it out as long as you can live with it being a little hard to read.
Time to beat: 5 hours per playthrough.
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