Title: Steal Princess
Release Date: May 19, 2009
Publisher (Developer): Atlus (Climax Entertainment)
ESRB Rating: “Everyone 10+” for Language, Mild Fantasy Violence and Suggestive Themes
Pros: Interesting puzzle/rpg gameplay, puzzle creator, 150 puzzles included, Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection support for sharing puzzles and great character art. Also, you can use either the face buttons or touch screen to control the game.
Cons: Controls can be a bit finicky when using face buttons and it can be difficult to pick the right color weapon to attack with.
Overall Score: Two thumbs up, 90/100, A-, * * * * out of 5
Steal Princess is both a triumph and a tragedy. It’s wonderful that this game, which many thought would never be released outside of Japan, was picked up by Atlus and brought to the US. However, it’s tragic that it is a limited run game that many people won’t get to experience. It’s one of those rare games that really makes you think if you want to succeed.
Like all games Atlus chooses to publish in the US, Steal Princess features a fantastic localization. The dialogue is funny and witty, and provide an enjoyable break from solving various puzzles. The characters sound authentic, and Anise and Kukri especially end up being very likable.
A captured thief must save a prince and a kingdom to earn her freedom.
Anise is a thief. Not just any thief, mind you, but the world’s best! (At least, according to her.) She travelled to Talis Island, intending to rob a demon lord who’d taken up residence in former Demon King Zegrilas’ dark tower.
Except, there was a bit of a snag. Anise triggered a trap, which released a pink fairy and a giant boulder. While escaping, she falls into a moat and is whisked away.
Anise awakens in Albyon Castle, where the fairy Kukri pronounces Anise the destined hero and King Sigmund coerces (blackmails) her into defeating the upstart Demon Lord Valzard and rescuing his captured son, Prince Oliver. Since her choices are save the kingdom or rot in prison, Anise complies, and heads back towards the dark tower, consoling herself by stealing whatever gems she runs across along the way.
Steal Princess is going to challenge you and make you think.
Steal Princess can be best described as a puzzle RPG. You’re probably thinking of Puzzle Quest after hearing that. Forget it. Steal Princess is a totally different game, with different mechanics.
In each area, Anise has a task. For example, collect a key or defeat all of a certain kind of enemy. Once she accomplishes said task, she receives a key that unlocks the gate to the next area. There’s a timer, and players are awarded medals based on how quickly they bested the challenge. The trick is that enemies have a color/element, and they can only be defeated by a weapon of the same color/element. Only one of these weapons can be held at a time, and sometimes these weapons have a usage limit.
It may sound simple, and the first 10 puzzles may lull you into a false sense of superiority. It gets more difficult the more you play, and that challenge inspires you to play more and think creatively. If you’re have trouble, Kukri will occasionally provide hints on the top screen. Plus, you can always take a break and try creating (and sharing) your own Steal Princess puzzles.
Touchy controls often make puzzles more challenging than necessary.
Steal Princess‘ one quirk lies in the control scheme. It’s accommodating, which is nice, allowing players to use the face buttons, the touch screen or both to control Anise as she ventures through puzzles or to craft new puzzles. The problem is that it choosing to use just one control scheme can be awkward. I found I was most comfortable playing using the face buttons to control Anise’s movements and attack, but using the stylus when switching weapons, using Anise’s whip or creating puzzles.
Positioning Anise can also occasionally be awkward. Sometimes, to attack or block, Anise has to be standing directly in front of an enemy, facing it. It can take a few tries to get her in the proper place. This can be frustrating, considering you’re on the clock for each puzzle.
Catch Steal Princess before it disappears!
Steal Princess is the kind of game that deserves a large audience and attention. It offers a unique gaming experience that combines an action RPG with thought provoking puzzles. If forced to describe it, I’d say it couples Legend of Zelda style gameplay with puzzles similar to the dungeon rooms in Avalon Code. The main story alone, with 150 puzzles, will keep players busy for weeks. Add in the ability to create and share new puzzles, and you have a game that can keep you occupied for months, maybe even years.
While it is sad that this extraordinary game has a limited production run, in a way it’s fitting. Those who manage to find a copy will treasure it even more, knowing how rare it is.