While I have no kids of my own I am more than familiar with that general social belief raising a daughter is difficult, and I am familiar with the stress it has caused my friends and my own father, as well as the suspicious looks of parent’s wondering what business I have with their little girl. I wouldn’t go as far as to say Long Live the Queen simulates what it is to raise a teenage girl, but seeing as how there are entire nations out to kill Soon-to-be Queen Elodie with various creative means from poisoned chocolates to magical whips the game comes with no end of its own frustrations. So it is up to you, mom or dad, to give Elodie the tools she’ll need to survive and make smart decisions out in the world, be that a silver tongue, a sharp sword or the ability to burn her enemies alive with the snap of a finger.
Long Live the Queen is a visual novel by Hanako Games in conjunction with Spiky Caterpillar, a tale of death and betrayal and death and death and death. Elodie’s mother, the previous queen, died under mysterious circumstances, making Elodie successor to the throne but only if she can survive the coronation to her 15th birthday. Game progression is simple, yet at first glance a little overwhelming, you’re hit with stat screens, sliders and a slightly heavy instruction set on how to round out Elodie’s abilities. Each week of game time allows you to take two classes to boost Elodie’s skills, do one activity to manipulate her mood, and progress the story a bit at the end of each week.
The stats are the most important part of the game and boy are there a lot of them, for each core skill you get several categories, and for each of those categories you have three bars worth of sub-stats to fill out. Let’s see if I can simplify this, Elodie’s “Social” skill comes with the abilities Royal Demeanor, Conversation and Expression. Royal Demeanor’s stats include Composure, Elegance and Presence. Your goal is to focus on one of those three latter stats and fill the bar as much as possible, each stat starting at “0.0” and capped at “100.” It’s actually fairly easy once you get the hang of it, especially once you figure out Elodie’s mood will deliver bonuses and penalties to the learning curve of various stat sets. A Willful Elodie won’t want to study jack about Royal Demeanor, while a Cheerful Elodie will power her way through athletics. So go forth and toy with the young girl’s feelings, creating an emotional wreck that will need years of therapy and anger management is a small price to pay for a naval victory.
Additionally getting all three stats in an ability to 25 points will unlock a costume related to that set, merging fashion with function, each outfit gives a bonus to whichever set of abilities they’re associated with. My first run through I had a very artistic, expressive Elodie (note to all artists out there: We are easy targets for assassination) and so I was awarded a “Toga” to both grant a temporary boost to these skills and make them a bit easier to learn.
While it is an easy system once you get used to it, it’s also a bloated one. See, the game has a keen idea that it wants you to have a very specific stat for very specific situations, and it performs a constant series of checks for these throughout play. Typically in a game where stats can alter the outcome of conversations, it will check for more than one ability and give you several chances to pass it, that is not always the case in Long Live the Queen, and the only way to succeed in certain events is to memorize what stats the game wants you to know when and making sure you grab them. After awhile this aspect of the game stopped bugging me because it turned out you could navigate several events just fine without knowing the check the game wanted you to pass, albeit while simultaneously making Elodie look like a clumsy dumbass, but it was mostly inconsequential. Mostly.
Until I bottle-necked myself at a major event towards the end of the game. I stopped and reloaded a prior save multiple times in an attempt to clear it, with varying degrees of success but always ending in a game over, it was just impossible to clear because the game wanted me to have a very specific set of skills I would have never thought of learning on my own. You either need luck or a ton of trial and error. This results in you just wanting to blast your way through the game to get back where you were previously, ideally with better outcomes on subsequent runs. You have to be ready to replay this game, a lot, and there is nothing that carries over from one failed game to the next to make it any easier aside from the knowledge you gained in what NOT to do.
To be fair the game does give you a ton of save space, expect to use all of it, there’s also some degree of replayability here, offering you multiple epilogues based on your actions, even achievements for failure. It reads pretty light by visual novel standards, and conversations you’ve already viewed can be skipped. The plot is surprisingly engaging, I’d never compare it to Shakespeare or Game of Thrones but there is something sinister going on beneath that sugary anime smeared hood. Depending on your actions and your stat balance both minor and major story events will change, and you’ll want to try different things beyond just trying to keep Elodie’s head off the chopping block. In the long run it did create a weird clash, it was pretty cool how your Elodie, be she a military tyrant or a cynical economist, could change the story you engaged in, but there was always that inevitable moment when you would hit a wall because you didn’t tackle the exact stat spread the game required.
The game is asking for ten dollars, and it’s a simple affair, graphics work for the narrative they set up but it’s nothing to phone home about, and the music…. Well it starts with a piano arranged version of God Save the Queen, so you may want to get your iTunes or your Spotify loaded up before you tackle it. It’s an effective indie gesture and if you’re a large fan of visual novels it may be worth the jaunt, if not then it simply may not be the title for you, It provides a bit more of an engaging experience than not, just be ready to be a little frustrated.
This game was reviewed using retail code provided to us by the publisher.