English Title: Abarenbō Princess
Japanese Title: 暴れん坊プリンセス
Publisher: ESP / Kadokawa Shoten
Developer: AlfaSystem / MARS
Genre: RPG
Released: Nov. 29, 2001
Product Codes: SLPM-65054 / JAN 4997766200125

It looks like a JRPG, it tastes like a JRPG, but... it really isn't a JRPG. Born from the mind of Shōji Masuda (of Tengai Makyō, Metal Max, and Patapon fame, among many others), Abarenbō Princess (or "Rowdy Princess" as the in game menus call it) is one of those weird games that takes the JRPG template and then changes a bunch of stuff around.

For one, it's divided into chapters like a television series, and each chapter even states at the beginning how long it should take to complete. For two, there's no leveling up, and the battle system is completely unorthodox. You only directly control the main character, while everyone else is quite literally given verbal orders like "hit that monster", "protect her while she's casting", or "wait and see". Effectiveness in battle is determined by how good your relationship is with that character, which is decided by your choices in the (many) dialogue options as you explore the game.

The story is your standard anime fantasy yarn, about a cursed princess named Rouge Victoire fighting for justice to save her kingdom. She also seems convinced she's the main character, even though you actually play as her childhood friend Shion Earthland.

It's weird, but also kind of refreshing to see such an unorthodox system. They were definitely trying something new here. I haven't gotten too far in it yet, but it's certainly an interesting little title.

The character designs are courtesy of Kohime Ohse, who also contributed to the first entries in Gust's Atelier series and the similarly unknown Eternal Eyes.

Interesting tidbits: The manual is stuffed full of comments from the development staff; not just Masuda and Ohse, but even the sound designer and programmers. Also: The three screenshots on the back cover are all from the opening cinematic. Guess they didn't trust the quality of their graphics -- though they're certainly nice enough for a relatively early release.