Puppet Princess of Marl Kingdom (PS1)

Puppet Princess of Marl Kingdom (マール王国の人形姫), released 12/17/1998, developed and published by Nippon Ichi Software

This game is (I believe) the second RPG made by Nippon Ichi, after Angel Blade which I covered earlier. I’m not sure exactly when N1’s games began to gain steam, but just looking at their releases I feel like this must have been their first hit game. It was followed by two sequels (in 1999 and 2000) and a Marl puzzle game. This first game was localized as “Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure” but none of the other games were.

This game is often classified as a tactical/strategy RPG but for me it doesn’t qualify. It’s basically a standard RPG but the battles are on a small grid — the grid itself introduces only a small amount of added strategy. I still wanted to play the game because it looked interesting and it has a connection to La Pucelle Tactics, but rather than wait until the end of 1998 I figured I would just play it now.

The main character is Cornet, a girl who can play the trumpet — not just to earn money, but to convert certain “puppets” into party members. She is accompanied by the fairy Kururu, who is important to the story but (I think?) does not do anything in battle.

The story is pretty basic and focused more on cute things and (vocal) songs than anything deep. Cornet wants to marry a prince, but when the evil Marjoly kidnaps the prince she has to track down 5 “hearts” of various elements and then save the prince from Marjoly’s botched spell that turned him to stone. In comparison to Angel Blade, I think this is a big step forwards to the more irreverent, developed humor that you see in Disgaea compared to the cookie-cutter boringness of the earlier game.

The graphics are quite good — as I’ve said before, I much prefer this kind of art to the (often sad) attempts at 3D polygon art that games in the PS1/Saturn era tried to do.

You can also collect various illustrations throughout the game — the maps by StarFighters76 on GameFAQs do not have the illustrations (the chests are just normal items instead). Were they removed from the DS version of the game or another re-release?

Your party is made up of Marl and three other characters from your pool. These consist of the puppets (16 of them in total) and monsters that can offer to join your team. The main difference with the monsters is that if they reach 0 hp they are permanently dead. Also, every character joins at level 1 no matter what, and characters not in your active party earn 0 xp. This makes the monsters effectively useless, and most of the puppets aren’t very worthwhile either since you’re better off focusing on a small team.

Each puppet (or group of puppets) has a sidequest associated with it, although completing it doesn’t seem to grant any rewards. Some of the sidequests are annoying too (requiring level 30 characters, which my guys didn’t even reach by the end of the game).

The dungeons are mostly done through a series of “rooms” connected by entrances, so it’s useful to have (or make) maps.

The world map is just a “pick a place” variety.

The battles are random, and done on a grid. Each character has attack and special moves, and Cornet can use “concert” to boost attack power, and the musical staff in the top right will build up until she can use “rewards” that do extra damage. Overall the game is fairly easy, with only one or two bosses that require more than a very basic strategy.

One big drawback of the game is that it’s sometimes difficult to know what you are supposed to do next. The middle part of the game is somewhat non linear, and the trigger events sometimes involve talking to a random person in a town that now has a new line of dialogue to open up something else.

On the whole I had fun with this game despite the flaws. From what I understand, the second and third games abandoned the grid-based system in favor of a traditional RPG, and the DS remake did this as well (plus a whole bunch of other changes).

The next few weeks should be SRPG game posts as I try to get through the very long 1998.

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