For otome game lovers, Beast Master and Prince Portable is probably the closest people will get to a Fruits Basket dating-sim. There’s a loveable heroine, gorgeous character art and a group of guys who just so happen to spend a portion of their time as rather adorable animals. So if you ever wanted to romance dudes who spend part of their time as a lion, wolf, duck, rabbit, cat or mouse, you’re all set.
Tiana is a beast master, just like her mother. Well, not just like her mother. Her mother was famous, and she’s still in training. Now that she’s living alone in Catoria, as her parents went off traveling, she’s left to try and find her way to success and fame on her own. She does have some help though, in the form of a whistle her father made her that allows her to tame any animal. Like a random tiger who just so happens to be roaming around town and is instantly put to sleep with one whistle.
The problem is, Tiana has no animals. Since “beast master” begins with "beast," that’s quite a problem. Luckily, she happens to run into a man in town who’s selling four animals — a lion, wolf, duck and rabbit. He’s trying to convince someone to buy them for dinner (Who’d eat a lion?), and Tiana steps up to save the day. She thinks they’re adorable and is worried since they don’t seem to be happy or healthy (Well, they’re supposed to be dinner!). Tiana doesn’t have much money, but she does have a broach her mother gave her. She uses that to get the animals, and gets them home to start to work on taming them for her act.
The thing is, the animals are already tame and they seem to listen to her. That’s when the lion speaks! They’re Matteus, Alfred, Lucia and Erik, four half-brothers, who are Catoria’s princes and were turned into animals as part of a dastardly plot. It’s up to Tiana to find a way to make them human again, possibly finding love with one of them, her childhood friend Klaus, or the medicine shop’s assistant, Silvio, along the way.
First of all, Beast Master and Prince is absolutely gorgeous. MIKO, who also did the character design and art for Idea Factory’s Arcobaleno, returns and completely outdid herself with this game. It’s bright, colorful, and some of the event scenes are absolutely stunning. There’s tons of detail and everything has a very whimsical and fantastic sort of feel to it. Also, every animal character that appears in the game is just precious. I’m particularly fond of Lucia the tsundere duck and Silvio’s cat form manages to be cool and cute at the same time. Lucky for people who end up becoming immediate fans, you can take screenshots at any time during the game and save them to your PSP’s memory stick for future viewing.
The story in Beast Master and Prince is also great, which is of the utmost importance in an visual novel. The characters each have their own personality and don’t come across as stereotypical, and even Tiana is stronger and more independent than some of the earlier Otomate heroines. The story itself is captivating, going from funny, to dramatic, to romantic, to have a kleenex box nearby because you might start sobbing. It’s really good at evoking emotion. A good example of how well the characters interact and how lighthearted the story is comes when Tiana first gets the medicine that will temporarily make them human again. Matheus, Alfred and Erik decide Lucia will be the test subject and Alfred holds him down so he can be force fed the medicine to see if it will be safe and work for the rest of them.
It’s also pretty import friendly, provided you understand a little bit of Japanese. Yes, Beast Master and Prince uses quite a bit of kanji, but there are other factors that make playing easier. There’s full voice acting, which is always a positive. (The voice actors are also incredible.) Plus, all the menu and options items are in English, so you’ll know exactly what you need to do to save and load. Even some of the image screens refer to the game by its English name, Beast Master and Prince rather than Moujuutsukai no Oujisama.
Also, there are some helpful features for people who do and don’t understand the language. As with all IF visual novels, if you choose a selection, then reload to a save before you made the decision, the decision you chose the previous time will be highlighted so you know what you did. Also, after you make a decision, you’ll see a little onscreen indicator showing whose affection went up due to your choice.
Did I mention you get to pet the animals? Yes, there is petting. When the option comes up, you get to use the PSP’s analog nub to move a virtual hand around and pet the head of one of the animal forms of the guys to get an affection boost. It’s a nifty feature, but I really think it would have worked better on the DS.
As for the PSP-exclusive features, that’s an Extras section that includes a side-story in which Tiana is accidentally transformed into an adorable kitten. It’s short, which is expected with it being an extra and all, and pretty much an excuse to have Tiana transform into an animal as well, but it’s still quite enjoyable. As you can expect from the game, the event scenes are absolutely adorable. There are also some fully voiced, 4-koma stories to read through that are really funny. I’d recommend looking at those after playing the main game though, so you’ll actually have an idea of who the characters are and their personalities, since that makes it even better.
Even though there are some serious moments, Beast Master and Prince Portable is a great adventure for someone who wants an otome game with a fantasy story and quite a few comical moments. Lucia’s route especially is quite funny, as are all of the Extra stories included in especially for the PSP release. Forget about practicality and common sense, and you’ll definitely enjoy the game. Especially if you love bright, colorful event scenes. After playing through it twice and starting my third round, I can honestly say its my favorite out of all the Otomate visual novels I’ve played.
Food for Thought
1. In case you’re curious, the voice actors are: Hikaru Midorikawa as Matheus, Kousuke Toriumi as Alfred, Hiro Shimono as Lucia, Yuuki Kaji as Erik, Hiroku Yasumoto as Klaus and Takuma Terashima as Silvio.
2. Klaus and Silvio’s routes are shorter than the four princes’ routes, which is kind of sad. Of course, the game is called Beastmaster and Prince…
3. The limited edition is especially nice, as it includes a drama CD and some post cards with gorgeous art from some of the best scenes from the game.
4. In the 4-koma Extra comics, the voice actors get really into it and even voice the sound effects.
5. It’s probably best to start with Matheus’ or Lucia’s route. Or, at least play Matheus’ before Alfred’s.
6. Have kleenex nearby if you go for Silvio.
7. Idea Factory’s Beast Master and Prince website has a free PSP theme in the Special section (It’s the very last option).