Some series don’t age well. Even if they belong to a genre that remains rather timeless, certain aspects and elements keep it from being as attractive as it once was. Couple that with an unfriendly user interface, translation that is atrocious and occasionally incomplete and issues that keep it from running properly or at all and you get Princess Maker 3: Fairy Tales Come True. It’s a dark spot on an otherwise-bright series.
Princess Maker 3’s premise is familiar. Players are made a father to a 10-year-old girl. In this case, a fairy queen has bestowed upon you a young fairy that wished to be a human princess. It is up to you to attempt to make that dream a reality within eight years. You determine her schedule in 12-to-15-day blocks, determining if she takes various classes, picks up part-time jobs or enjoys a brief period of rest. Occasionally, special events come up offering an opportunity to compete against other young girls for glory (and 3,000 gold of spending money). When your time is up, you hope for the best possible result.
There are elements to like in this Princess Maker; things aren’t entirely grim.
There are elements to like in this Princess Maker; things aren’t entirely grim. You’re offered more of a choice at the outset, as you select your avatar’s job. He could be a bard, fallen noble, former knight, merchant, performer or traveling priest. Each one has a different amount of starting cash, yearly salary and amount of money they can take out on credit. Your role also determines your daughter’s starting personality, as being a bad seed isn’t the only option. In addition to having a delinquent personality, she could be proud or happy. People react to her differently and the behavior will alter her performance.
But such things are quickly overshadowed by all the ways in which Princess Maker 3 is a step back for the series. While she has a wide array of classes to attend to, her jobs are tied to stats. In previous games, they unlocked at certain ages. This makes it more difficult to reach certain endings, especially if you choose a performing job, where your daughter begins as a delinquent, you don’t have much of a line of credit and your yearly salary is nonexistent or low. Her attitude, which can have a detrimental effect on her interactions and performance, isn’t always tied to the stats you’d expect. You would expect a haughty daughter to have that behavior tied to the Pride stat, but it’s actually about keeping her Pride and Elegance in check while raising her other stats in a balanced manner.
The UI is quite unfriendly. In previous Princess Maker games, your main menu had everything organized with icons, showing you shops, opportunities to visit the palace, where to save and so on. When you arranged a schedule, you would have a calendar in front of you and would place classes, jobs and rest periods in weekly blocks. Here, everything is “simplified.” Nothing tells you the save and load functions are hidden under “Status.” Uzu, the fairy companion, will tell you when the weather gets inclement, but won’t automatically have your daughter change into the summer or winter clothing you have. When you schedule classes, work or rest, it appears in a bar on the bottom of the screen that doesn’t say exactly how many days it will last and doesn’t do a good job of showing how to replace or rearrange items you have placed. It is infuriating.
Of course, the thing about Princess Maker 3 that should really enrage people is the way in which the script is abused. There are major coding issues here. Word wrapping is a foreign concept. Words are cut off intermittently, resulting in blocks of text that can occasionally feel illegible. In the ending, we are treated to white words set against a beige background. Every bit of text in here is difficult to look at, let alone read.
There are times when I wish Princess Maker 3 had been run through Google Translate, because at least then there would be a chance of the script being amusing.
Perhaps that is a blessing in disguise, as the translation and localization is abysmal. There are times when I wish Princess Maker 3 had been run through Google Translate, because at least then there would be a chance of the script being amusing. (I did find it interesting that whoever translated it was familiar with the concept of a crèche and used the term to insinuate the game was set in a European locale.) Instead, we’re faced with lines of dialogue that, from time to time, make no sense. That is, when the game is actually translated. Sporadically, Hangul and kanji appears among the English text.
Then, there are the instances when Princess Maker 3 just doesn’t work. Upon my second merchant visit in my first run, the game crashed. The third time he visited, the game crashed when I attempted to buy my daughter a sword. I had trouble choosing to accept a scholarship for School, because I could only see the second of the two options. When I first started playing, I started getting achievements for things I hadn’t done. But hey! That probably fixed itself, because some seemed like they disappeared even without the game being patched? And I can’t forget my second run, where all of a sudden Princess Maker 3 just… decided it wouldn’t let me improve my daughter’s attitude? The stat remained locked at ten, no matter which class I chose, until I finally forced her into about a year of Nursery work and finally got it up to a whopping 60. (Note, in a game where stats can easily pass 100 with little effort on your part, 60 is not good.)
The final sin may just be how Princess Maker 3 looks and runs in this day and age. While the general sprite work still looks rather good, the character portraits are quite dated. The audio quality varies and there are some issues with occasional sound effects occasionally not being audible. There were even two times when I launched the game, only to experience this lag that forced me to exit and restart. Fortunately, that problem seems to have passed. Though there are still times when, if I use the print screen function to take a screenshot due to the F12 Steam screenshot shortcut not working within the game, I will return to a black screen and need to close the game and reload from my last save.
Princess Maker 3: Fairy Tales Come True is like a Cinderella story in which our princess-to-be decides to run away into the forest to be raised by wolves, rather than do her best, show kindness to all and become the fairest in the land. It is difficult to look at, let alone play. Every possible area is problematic in some way. I have been through the game three times now and didn’t enjoy a single run. This is one grim fairy tale.