Platform: PC / Steam
Publisher: Sekai Project
Trapper Knight, Sharpshooter Princess is a charming SRPG developed by the prolific Doujin Circle, Desunoya, and published by Sekai Project. The game follows the story of Gritz, the princess of the kingdom, Leah, and a group of mismatched adventurers, as they try to free Granfesta kingdom from the influence of a evil witch. In order to get close enough to the witch to defeat her, the group must enter the Grand Guardian tournament and win. While the story itself is lighthearted and fun, it actually informs the game-play in some interesting ways.
One of the main game-play conceits is that Gritz is a trapper and Leah is a bow user, hence the title of the game. Ideally, Gritz will use one of his various traps to incapacitate the enemy while Leah picks them off from a distance. The game itself is a mostly typical SRPG experience: you move your party around the map and tell them what to attack and who to heal, etc. The area is made up of a large grid, with open areas and some impassable objects like trees and walls. Characters like Leah can only attack from one square away, while others can only attack when they’re next to the enemy. Flying characters can bypass many of the obstacles on the map, making them ideal fighters to travel long distances and lead the attack.
The maps themselves are nicely detailed with very polished pixel art. The only, slight, drawback is that sometimes it’s hard to tell which areas can be walked on until you bring up the actual grid. The characters themselves are also stylized like retro sprites, and the entire art style is fun and great to look at.
What makes this game stand out is how the game-play and the story are directly intertwined. Before each battle, you are presented with a menu. The menu allows you to alter the placement of your characters on the map as well as rearrange the items they are holding. However, the most interesting option is “Bonding.” Though bonding you find out more about each character’s backstories as well as allow them to improve their effectiveness on the battlefield.
On the bonding menu, you are shown a list of the characters and a symbol appears next to ones who are able to interact. After they’re selected, a visual novel style cutscene shows the characters getting to know each other better. Character information is revealed in these scenes that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise; sometimes it's details about their abilities, sometimes about their backstory. Afterwards, a bond between the characters is established. When they stand adjacent to each other on the battlefield, they get certain stat buffs. Additionally, when Gritz bonds with other characters, they can create new traps together. For example, when Gritz chats with a magic user, they can end up creating a magic based trap. This is a perfect example of story directly informing game-play.
Each character gets a limited number of bonds. In subsequent play throughs, you could potentially create different types of teams based on different stat buffs, or you could just unlock the scenes to learn more about the characters and the Kingdom of Granfesta. There are additional systems in place that create a replayable experience; however they are not as intuitive or interesting.
The game is divided into several chapters with one battle each and isn’t overly long. The first half of the game is better spent getting to know the characters and their uses, because the difficulty ramps up dramatically in the second half. The only way to buy new items is to visit shops located on the actual map during a battle. The only other way to get new items is to find treasure chests on the map. Furthermore, these chests can only be unlocked by one specific character. This type of system fits in with a more expedient, arcade-like style of game-play. You can possibly create a different experience each time you play, but I still wish there was some kind of hub town where you could shop and stock up on supplies in between battles.
There is some variety in the way players must win battles that's also very story oriented. Most of the win conditions are defeating all the enemies and not letting certain characters fall. Other battles have our heroes escaping from a mob of infinitely spawning enemies, going door to door and raising support from villagers for a critical mission, to treasure hunting in a dark cave or blowing up a bridge to destroy an impostor princess made of stone. Overall, the story was very enjoyable and I never felt like it was detached from the actual game-play.
Trapper Knight, Sharpshooter Princess provides a challenging and unique SRPG experience that has helped me to appreciate the genre a bit more. The story is fun, and has a unique way of enhancing the gameplay though character development, which also encourages multiple playthroughs. The only downsides, for me at least, is the lack of a way to go to a shop anytime you need to and the sudden increase of difficulty in the second half of the game.
+ Unique storytelling elements that inform gameplay
+ Fun, lighthearted story
+ Fun, lighthearted story
+ Cute character designs and visual novel style cutscenes
- Inconvenient way of acquiring weapons and items
- Sudden difficulty spike