STEAL PRINCESS / Atlus / Nintendo DS
So back in the early '90s, there was this game called Landstalker for the Genesis. It was kind of a take on Zelda, except with a weird isometric perspective and play control that was kind of shit. Apparently it went on to have a few sequels in Japan, but that was it for it in English-speaking territories. Until now! Climax has brought out a new modern(-ish) take on the Landstalker formula, this time starring a female thief obsessed with jewels.

After way too much unfunny talky-talky (and Generic J-Pop Intro Song), we're off on our quest. The game retains the isometric perspective, basic gameplay and Elfin Animu look of Landstalker ... but that's about it. Really, it's more like Adventures of Lolo - a series of puzzles in self-contained small rooms, just with some shit combat tossed in as part of the proceedings.

So, Steal Princess comes armed stock with a whip, which can only stun enemies briefly and move them around, but not kill them. She'll have to grab more lethal weapons in each level - usually swords. Each enemy also usually has an elemental affiliation, so you have to get a weapon keyed to them. I've seen Steal Princess described as a "roguelike", which is really dumb, because it's exactly the opposite; there's no random element or personal strategy involved, every level is pretty much a predetermined series of steps. Find the first weapons lying about, use it to kill whomever you can, they then drop a weapon that kills someone else in the level, rinse and repeat. Every several levels there's also a "boss battle" which is generally a scaled-up regular enemy, which looks like absolute dogshit. Steal Princess also doesn't like carrying items between levels, and there's no statistics or anything other than how many gems you steal, reinforcing the game's "puzzle" status. The gameplay is also stiff 8-directional style, and for whatever reason Ms. Steal can be controlled entirely by the gamepad and buttons, EXCEPT for picking up objects, which absolutely MUST be done with the stylus for some goddamn reason, because God forbid we have a DS game that doesn't use all its exotic inputs in some gimmicky bolted-on way.

The gameplay is a tedious plod by itself, but in between levels you get to mash A as the "story" is advanced, in stiff talking-head style. Generally this is more Generic Animu attempts to be wacky and funny that fall completely flat and are just utterly not entertaining at all. I have zero idea why Climax went in this weird boring puzzle direction with the franchise here, instead of making a new adventure-RPG in the style of Landstalker. It does have a level editor ... but all the possibilities are still so bland there's really no point to it.
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