LONG LIVE THE QUEEN / Hanako / PC
Long Live The Queen looks at first blush a lot like the cult hit Princess Maker 2, but the two games actually play very differently once you get past the basic concept of raising a young girl and choosing activities each day to raise their stats. In this one, you're responsible for making a competent queen out of a young princess who will take the throne in 40 weeks of game time. Oh, and keeping her from gettting killed. Mum fell victim to an assassin and the same fate potentially waits in store for our little Queenlet, along with a colorful range of other possible deaths due to wandering into dangerous situations unprepared.
Each game week, you choose two classes for the Queen-in-training to take. What complicates this is that her current mood impacts how well or poorly she'll study at each subject. Mood is mostly changed by picking a weekend activity, such as walking in the garden or going to church services. Other than making these choices each week, the only other interaction you'll have with the game is making decisions at certain key points in the story. Oh, and eventually choosing an outfit for her, which are unlocked by raising your stats to 25 in each grouping of classes and grant different small stat boosts.
So there's two components to the challenge. One is in managing the mood system, which pretty much boils down to writing down which moods penalize which classes (the game tells you what penalties and bonuses are in effect currently but doesn't give you an overview anywhere). The other component, unfortunately, is simply Knowing What's Coming. The game's event sequence is always the same, with the same hard pass/fail checks on your stats in certain weeks. Many of them are incredibly arbitrary and out-of-nowhere, with absolutely no in-game prompts or even clues to prepare that particular skill ahead of time. So what you mostly do is play, get bushwacked, start over and prepare for the bushwack this time but get bushwacked by something else, start over again, etc. Most of the death bushwacks are also back-loaded to the latter half of the game, so without a bunch of save scumming you're looking at replaying the same events over and over and over and over.
So basically you're looking at trial-and-error, try-and-die repetitive gameplay. The only things that bail it out are the ability to save and the fact that you can skip through optional dialogue very quickly (along with the game just having a very zippy pace in general). And while the core sequence of events remains the same between games, passing certain hard checks opens up alternate possibilities and courses of action. Unfortunately, you'll never find the majority of these without a guide, as they usually involve pumping up some non-intuitive stat to crazy high levels very early in the game while you neglect stuff that seems more immediately critical.
And I think that's the most fundamental of the problems here -- playing in a sensible manner based on the limited information you have actually gets you killed more often than not. Starting from zero, certain things would make general sense, such as training your princess in matters of intrigue, how to handle poisons and basic athletics and self-defense because we find out early on that there's assassins about. But those groupings actually get few to no skill checks in the early part of the game, and the ones they do won't kill you. Another issue is that the princess has to make all the country's military and economic decisions all by herself, which makes no sense whatsoever. Why doesn't she have advisors? Isn't there a military heirarchy with generals and such? What huge organization would expect the figurehead to be an expert in and micromanage every single aspect of it right out of the gate? And why does a 14-year-old girl who is next in line for the throne know absolutely nothing about anything on Earth? There's never a good explanation for her unbelievable ignorance and incompetence, or why no one else in the kingdom can ever contribute to planning or decision-making in any way.
I do love the concept, but this game is truly the epitome of Guide Dang It . I think it'll appeal more if you like hacking-type challenges, or trying to beat a complex system designed to keep you out. and then you do one of these when you finally beat the odds. OCD is also probably helpful here. I really feel this could have been done much better, though. I've seen people errantly compare it to roguelikes and FTL, which is a poor comparison because it's not at all randomized ... but if it WERE randomized, or if the static progression was at least more keyed to reward deductive reasoning and gave you a few more advance nudges about what to prepare for, the game probably would have come off much better.
* Difficulty Rebalance
* Gameplay Video