Game Review: Cute Knight Kingdom

This month has been pretty craptastic on my end, so now, instead of ranting about Trixie, it’s time to unwind with one of the adorable games by Hanako Games that I just bought (for $5 each).

Cute Knight Kingdom is the sequel to the life simulation/role-playing game Cute Knight, although you don’t have to play it first to understand what’s going on. The setup is suspiciously similar to Princess Maker 2 (imagine that!) a woman finds an infant on a hilltop, and a strange glowing figure appears to her and promises to return when she turns twenty one. However, instead of playing as her father and controlling her life you sexist pig you you take control of the girl directly, and send her out into the kingdom to be whatever she wants to be (and perhaps to discover her true origins).

Who will you be?

First things first, you start off by selecting your character’s name and birth month (which determines her starting stats and particular specialties). I chose to name my character Kanata and assigned the month of Gods as her birth month. Characters born in this month are “pretty and charming with a touch of magic” which sounded good to me. There are months for good warriors and mages, there’s even a month that makes your character, well, lazy, if you want to play like that.

From there, you’re basically free to do whatever you want. You can go adventuring (battles take place in typical JRPG turn-based style) or find a job and earn some cash, jobs will raise particular stats provided your character does well. In order to perform a job well, you need to successfully complete a minigame in which you fill up a yellow bar until it becomes green. You fill up the bar by using Exertion (which drains HP) or Concentration (which uses MP). Physically-demanding tasks (such as hunting) mostly use exertion, and tasks that involve study use Concentration, but you’ll usually end up using a combination of the two (especially if your character is like Kanata and doesn’t have a lot of HP). Successfully causing the bar to go green rewards your character with a stat boost and some pocket change that you can use to buy equipment, food, ingredients for recipes, you get the idea. If you run low on HP or MP, you can rest at an inn or head to your parents’ house to rest for free.

Lest you begin to think that this game is ridiculously easy, you also need to watch out for the Dream stat. This stat is basically your character’s hopes and dreams for the future. If it drops to zero, the game automatically ends. If you rush into jobs without taking your character’s strengths into consideration, you can potentially end the game within the first five minutes, doing badly at a job will cause the Dream stat to plummet. There is a default ending (out of a possible thirty seven endings) for if your stat plummets and you don’t qualify for any of the others, it’s not “bad”, just unsatisfying, really unsatisfying.

A battle against a wolf.

Speaking of endings, there are a bunch of them, from Guard to Queen to Snake Oil Saleswoman, but none of them (I checked) are as sleazy as the ones in certain other games. You won’t find any Bondage Queens or *ahem* escorts in this game, but you can be Prime Minister, or a Pirate, or a Mermaid (yes, you can actually be a mermaid). Some of the endings involve romance (including one same-sex romance and at least one inter-species romances) but not all of them.

One interesting thing this game does is how it treats the Sin stat. It’s not the first game to have one, obviously, and depending on what ending you’re going for, you might end the game with zero Sin, but what interests me most about it is that it’s very hard to get rid of certain sins, once acquired, to quote Hanako:

There are several common problems that occur in games with sin/karma mechanics. One is that you can be considered an evil demon for only doing a tiny little sin, if you do it often enough. Say your character steals an apple, and thats worth 1 sin. Fine. But you steal 100 apples, and suddenly you’re considered the most evil being imaginable, even though you’ve never hurt anyone or done anything else bad at all, you just stole apples.

[…..]

The other problem in games with karma is that you can be a horrible evil murderer but get off free in the end because you gave apples to orphans. Which is why in this particular game, sin is very hard to get rid of. If you murder someone, you can’t make that better.

This is something that’s always bugged me about games with morality meters. I recall playing through Jade Empire  being the most Opened Palmed person ever, and then one heavily weighted “evil” choice sent me permanently over to the dark side, and my whole party hated me, so I had to reload. I thought that character would make a useful ally, okay?!

So basically, actions like hunting animals (not actually an endorsement of vegetarianism, despite the unfortunate choice of the word “sin” to describe it), stealing, and killing characters (which can apparently only happen at certain points in the game) increases your Sin stat, which is required for certain endings, natch. Sin can only be forgiven once every in-game year, so no cheating by working long hours in the church like….other games…

Let’s see, other things of note. The graphics are….okay, the ending portraits are particularly pretty, the rest is very storybook like, certainly nothing to write home about (and the protagonist’s eyes are waaaaay too far apart, even for anime-style graphics, it looks kind of creepy). What little music there is is very nice (particularly the gorgeous theme that plays at the title screen and when your character sings in the church choir) if repetitive, and the game is short, but that’s not surprising for an indie title.

Overall, Cute Knight Kingdom is cute, doesn’t take more than a few hours to get a good ending, and isn’t mired by sexism and other assorted WTFery. (Bust enhancing pills, really???) At $10, it might seem a bit pricey, so I’d recommend trying the demo first to see if it’s your thing. Find it here, of course, if you buy it by the end of this month, it’s only $5 USD, in which case it’s practically a steal.

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