One of the wackiest fairytales you will ever witness.
Get Down, Boogie Oogie Oogie! with one of several princes, or a 6ft rabbit named Tony who wears a Top Hat! Are you ready for ballroom dancing insanity for your DS from Japan? Just jump into the swirling vortex in your closet and see for yourself!!
Princess Debut, or Ohimesama Debut in Japan, is the type of game you will either find full of personality and charm, or play for a few moments and wonder just what the developer was smoking. I won’t fault you in that; Princess Debut is 100% Japanese Dating Sim Silly. So, if you don’t mind a DS game which is a mixture of Rhythm Game (Ouendan!!), Dating Sim (Tokimeki Lite), Alice in Wonderland (Freaky Animals), Project Runway (Tons of Clothing Changes !!), and Ballroom Bootcamp (Learn to Ballroom Dance, QUICKLY), read further to find out just what in the hell I’m talking about!
The game begins by asking you to name the Heroine (default is Sabrina..) and give her an astrological sign. I know that Blood Type matters in Japan, however I was unable to determine how the astrological sign affected anything. The story introduces you to Sabrina who is musing with a friend regarding fellows at her school. She then goes home, trots up to her room, lo and behold a magic wand wielding flying animal wearing pink sunglasses named Kip and an unknown young girl enters Sabrina’s room, through Sabrina’s pink wardrobe (knock knock, C.S. Lewis calling!!). The girl, surprise surprise is a Princess and just happens to be Sabrina’s doppelganger. She has left her kingdom because a ballroom dance competition is looming and Miss Princess just can’t cut the mustard, or the rug, so to speak. Sabrina switches places with the Princess, and the fun begins!
Upon jumping into a swirling vortex in the Pink Wardrobe, Sabrina finds not Narnia, but a colorful, Princessey world where she must learn and master many different ballroom styles, such as Waltz, Rhumba, Slow Fox Trot, and Cha-cha-cha to name a few. To woo her chosen Prince, she not only has to dazzle them with conversation, she must also be able to dance them with stylus driven twinkle toes, Keep in mind, Sabrina has only 28 days to *gasp* find a dance partner for the ball!!
Finding the prince of choice is pure Dating Sim 101. You have a choice of 7 Princes, each with Distinct Dating Sim Personalities. The Sporty Guy, The Brooding Angry Guy, The Smart Guy, The Gentle Guy, The Freshman, and The Guy Who You Think Is A Girl Until He Tells You He Is A Guy. A prince will approach Sabrina, ask questions, and depending on how you answer determines if their affection for her increases. What I found to be a bit surprising is that Princess Debut gives Sabrina the option to be insulting and crappy in her responses to the guys, which I find funny but I thought this was rude in Japan. Yay for English Translation Cruelty! You can check how much a Prince likes or dislikes Sabrina by looking at Sabrina’s Planner. Getting them to like you is easy, tell ’em what they want to hear and dance well. The characters have individual personalities, and the conversations, depending on the characters, vary from silly to serious. Some of these guys have a bit of baggage!
Menu navigating and dancing are the only activities in the game that will require you to use the stylus. This wasn’t a big deal, as I prefer using the D pad for navigating maps/getting around in games of this type. Sabrina will spend the 28 days in Princeland visiting various locations on the map to talk to a prince or perhaps find accessories, etc. Accessories can be selected before a dance, they equate to a clothing change. Most of the dresses are not ballroom fabulous though, so don’t expect Dancing With the Stars glitz! Sabrina must practice dancing every day, as this allows for her to level up dancing skills and learn new dance styles.
The majority of the dancing will occur at the Practice room with either her Prince of Choice or Tony Rabbit, however from time to time a prince will pop up while you are visiting various locations and ask Sabrina for a dance. The times per day Sabrina can dance is limited to her Stamina which is represented on the top screen by how many slices of cake (did I mention this is Japanese??) she has in the stamina bar. The more you practice, the higher the level which means more cake for practice. Keep in mind, once you select a Prince as your partner, you are stuck with him,. If the game offers a way to piss him off enough so that he dumps you I wasn’t able to do it. Remember, No Backsies! Choose wisely, who wants to spend the entire game dancing with a simpering, snively pink haired girly man??
Dancing in Princess Debut is a mixed bag. The Prince or Tony Rabbit will ask Sabrina to dance. You then can select the costume, music, and style. When the dance begins, a shape will appear on the bottom screen. You simply trace in time with the music while staying in the lines. If you’ve played Ouendan, you know the drill. On the top screen, you see the heroine and her prince (or Huge Rabbit) dance, and they movements of the stylus are mapped very well to the style of dance. The characters look a bit clunky and blocky; however the actual dance movements were done well enough to appear motion captured. The rhumba, foxtrot, waltz, etc. were all represented properly, which was a plus.
I was hoping the characters wouldn’t simply move around, doing the same steps regardless of the dance. The music is classic and suited to ballroom dancing, thank goodness no J-Pop. I must say however that dancing the Slow Fox Trot to When the Saints Go Marching In! is about as exciting as it sounds. I found the more complicated latin dances to be more fun. This is a bit of a sticking point, as the first two dances learned become boring fast, and you will do them quite a bit until the more fun, complicated dances are learned.
In usual Dating Sim fashion, there is an Omake (Bonus or Extra) feature on the main menu, which allows the player to revisit the pictures encountered in the game (dating sims have goofy pictures of interactions with the characters that you can only get by fulfilling certain requirements), dances danced (will stop, pause, replay, etc.), a Practice feature (self-explanatory, practice dancing!) and Ballroom Mode (a round robin Dance extravaganza).
Yes, this game has more fluff than a cotton candy stand at the State Fair, however seeing the horrid crap that is thrown at girl gamers, such as the heinous Imagine series, Dogz, Catz, Horsez, Hamsterz, Wild Boarz, Ferretz, Amoebaz, you get the idea…Princess Debut is a breath of fresh air. Yes, the story is 100% pure Japanese fish out of water fairy tale, but it is well presented with a charming story, interesting characters, talking animals, and it fits very very nicely on top of a ballroom dancing sim. Add to that a ton a replayability, as the story changes with each prince, since there is a hidden prince to find (!!), and strangely enough I think Sabrina can even get the rabbit’s ending (but don’t quote me on that).
After all, dating sims tend to throw in more than one hidden character and it would be very Japanese to have a Tony Ending for the fangirls to blog about, so we’re talking about over 8 potential playthroughs, 8 different endings. My daughter loves Princess Debut, and what’s not to like? What girl in her right mind wouldn’t want to be sucked into a swirling vortex in her closet and forced to dance just so that she can “find a man”?? On second thought, don’t answer that…