Gotta Princess ‘Em All In Princess Academy
Princess Academy is not the frilly fashion game you’re probably expecting from the title. While you can purchase clothes for your princess in Princess Academy, there’s not a lot of variety to buy and the clothes you purchase have no real in-game effect. The meat of the gameplay is old-fashioned text RPG stat-grinding. You have your princess work jobs (including strange stuff like wood-cutting and guest lecturing) so she can build up her stats and earn gold. You spend the gold on classes in subjects like martial arts and science that build up her stats.
If this all sounds a bit strange and unexpected, that’s because Princess Academy is not really inspired by fashion-themed social games. Princess Academy is mostly cloned from a Japanese PC game franchise called Princess Maker, which was an old-fashioned sort of RPG where you leveled up a bubble-eyed anime “princess” and customized her by giving her particular jobs and having her take particular glasses. Princess Maker became quite popular in Asian territories but an official North American release never materialized.
Princess Academy offers a pretty good taste of what the basic Princess Maker gameplay was like. Your princess starts with miserable stats and you can choose to shape her through which jobs you pick. Many jobs will increase some stats while actually decreasing others, while the same goes for lessons. You have to decide what sorts of things you want your princess to be good at. As your princess levels up, you can opt to have her “battle” other princesses. We don’t see what these battles look like or how they’re decided, but you can level up and earn quite a bit of gold from them.
What’s truly odd about Princess Academy is that the game apparently has an ending. You can level your princess up to 50 to get an ending card, which you can use to boost the stats of your next princess. The idea seems to be letting you try your hand at making a variety of different princesses. There’s a lot of customization options in the game that you can only purchase for real money and, obviously, you can only put so many on a single princess. You can even buy furniture items for your house and food items that serve mysterious purposes (but make your princess giggle).
Princess Academy doesn’t have the look or feel of a social game developed in North America or Europe. It feels like a localized Asian game and some evidence suggests it might be of Korean origin. This would make sense, as Korea was one of the territories where Princess Maker was particularly popular in the 90s. The localized text is generally legible and there are few typos, but the fonts look a bit cheap. The game’s interface may also be confusing if you’re used to the more standard format Western games use.