I previously reviewed a game by Haruneko Games, Akane the Kunoichi. I gave it high praise despite it’s unfortunately sexually objectifying cover art. Amazing Princess Sarah is their latest release. I’d also like to take a moment to thank the developer for reaching out to me about my criticism,
“Hi, I’m Giovanni Simotti – the one-man-band behind Haruneko 🙂
Thank you very much for the article – your point of view about the game is very interesting, and I especially enjoyed when you talked about Akane as if she was a “live” person, even if there are no dialogues inside the game: her “behaviour” is something I put a lot of care on, and knowing that it “hit the mark” is really an achievement for me.
About the look of Akane on the cover: her non-so-practical look is a small tribute to two of the most famous kunoichi from the history of the videogames – a mix of Mai Shiranui (Fatal Fury / King of Fighters), with a bit of Ibuki (Street Fighter 3/4).
Really there was no attempt to suggest the game would feature sexual or suggestive content inside. Screenshots are pretty clear about it.
However, you’re not the only one who objected about her look on the cover (someone even got offended somehow), so it’s something I’m definetely addressing with my upcoming platform game, Amazing Princess Sarah: I’ve thrown out of the window the cover I made (a few days of work “lost”), contacted a (much better than me) external artist, and let him draw a new cover, “safer” than Akane’s one (and a lot safer than Sarah’s older one, – which can still be seen on my website).”
Pro tip, developers: do more of this. Less “waaah ladies are too hard to render” and more listening to the people you’re systematically under representing.
Amazing Princess Sarah is a classic platformer with enemies you fight by swordplay and hurling furniture. You delve deep into a maze of rooms full of ghouls and goblins in search of your father, King Whatshisname.
The plot is summed up beautifully, as in Akane, without any dialogue: Scary lady stole my dad, git her. I’m not sure I can stop gushing about how much I enjoy this role reversal. I love being able to play a princess while also saving the kingdom. For all the AAA gaming industry touts their smallest achievements in gender equality, they do not do this. You don’t get to be the pretty princess while also kicking ass, it’s just something the fuckers can’t wrap their mind around. Lucky for us, the indie community has our back.
From the beginning you can tell that Amazing Princess Sarah is heavily influenced by Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. That’s fine by me, frankly, I love SOTN. One of the only things that disappointed me about that game was the rumor that you could complete it a special way to play as Maria Renard was just that: a rumor. ASP gives me a dark, Gothic castle on a stormy night where I can fight skeletons and all manner of ghouls while also having lady parts. Huzzah! It also has a beautiful soundtrack that really helps set the atmosphere of the gameplay.
The gameplay is also classic in that it’s pretty difficult. I’ve clearly gone soft, numbed by a generation of games that pat me on the ass and tell me I’m special. It took me a several days to get past the first level (playing casually), but when I finally beat it I felt a rush of achievement few newer games can match.
However, the game isn’t perfect. But since I’m now confident the developer is an adult who can handle my teensy crtis, I will happily lay them out…
There are a few things in the game that take a dramatic shift in tone. The game itself is one of high fantasy: Gothic castles, icy caves, monsters and mayhem. Yet the menu and intertitles are very modern looking. Same for the first boss at the end of the Luxury Castle. You’re plugging along in this dark, spooky castle and then…
Whoa… like… where did that come from? Props for originality though. The fight is challenging and fun, it’s just a minor clash in atmosphere that rubs me the wrong way. I’ve also previously wrote about why cover art is so important, which is why I’m very pleased to see the changes from the original Amazing Princess Sarah cover art:
That being said, the original problem I had with the art is still there- just toned down. I think this is a case of the developer sending the original artwork to a professional and asking them to “make it better”. Which they did, the art is beautiful and I would love to see this artist used again. However this paints a portrait of Princess Sarah as an extremely sexual object.
I’m no stranger to the manga art style. I know that over-sexualization is so rampant that it’s easy to overlook the issue entirely. So let me make what I’m saying very clear: her breast are bigger than her head, shinier than her eyes, and exposed in a way that would make it impossible to fight. And while this seems like a very easy route to male gamers hearts, it actually has the opposite effect. William Usher of One Angry Gamer wrote of Amazing Princess Sarah:
“I tell you the honest truth, I think the only reason this game pulls in any sort of traffic at all is because of that box art poster. That bombastic bedizen plastered around the protagonist’s buxom body is probably the cause for all the clicks; but I’ll reserve judgment because it just might be for all the amazing gameplay mechanics people were interested in, eh?”
Amazing Princess Sarah is a very fun, well programmed platformer that is unintentionally selling itself short. Because the sexual objectification of the main character sends a very clear message: this is all we’ve got. Smaller games often rely on this tactic to pull in gamer’s attention because they’re not confident in that the game can survive on it’s own merits. But Amazing Princess Sarah CAN survive on it’s own merits.
If I were to speak directly to the developer, and other devs in his position, I would say this: You have real talent. Female gamers are eager to play any games that don’t treat their women like Playboy models. You have a chance to sweep in and start offering a new type of experience while the AAA game companies are still befuddled and dragging their feet like spoiled children.
In an industry that is stagnant beyond belief the last thing you want to do is fit in.
Conclusion: 4 out of 5 throwing chairs. I highly recommend Amazing Princess Sarah and eagerly await the anything else by Haruneko Games. And if you want girl gamers to welcome your game with open arms: less boob physics, more hair physics.