You don’t even have to play Princess Crown to witness the profound effect the Sega Saturn (and Playstation Portable) title has had on its spiritual successor Odin Sphere. While the games tend to have different feels while playing (for example: Princess Crown can feel more like an RPG with fighting elements, and Odin Sphere feels like a side-scroller with RPG elements), the two have a shared foundation and vision that make both games memorable classics.
The opening of Princess Crown should be familiar to Odin Sphere fans, as it once again features a little girl preparing for storytime with her cat. Only in Princess Crown, a grandmother is also present and picking up the cat brings up an extras menu with picture gallery. The books chronicle the stories of main character Gradriel, and extra side stories of Edward, Portgus and Prosperina. This mechanic is repeated in Odin Sphere. In fact, Princess Crown and Odin Sphere also share “epilogue” books that unlock after everything is completed. The last ‘book’ in each game shares the official ending.
Princess Crown also featuring multiple characters with intertwining storylines, just like Odin Sphere. Except in Princess Crown, young Queen Gradriel is clearly the main character, and the brief excursions into Edward, Portgus and Prosperina’s stories are created only to compliment the main storyline. They aren’t intended to be full fledged adventures. Odin Sphere improves on this foundation by allowing each playable character to be the star of an extensive story.
Both Princess Crown and Odin Sphere feature recurring characters. The secondary characters Edward, Portgus and Prosperina all appear during Gradriel’s main story as either assistants or antagonists. So when you finally unlock their separate stories, you’ll get to experience the same events through opposing eyes or go through an extra, small quest. It is interesting to see how this concept was expanded and developed in Odin Sphere, so each character became a main character rather than focusing on one and having the others just as a bonus.
When it comes to traveling, the Princess Crown world map closely resembles the Odin Sphere level maps. In Odin Sphere, there’s a large world map, and players chose an area, which they then explore. Each segment of an area is circular, with exits to visit. Princess Crown is more like a side-scrolling RPG (like the Valkyrie Profile games). The world map bears a strong map to the Odin Sphere level maps, with different areas connected by yellow lines. Each segment (a town/forest/cavern) is a straight line with an exit and entrance, and different sections or floors that can be explored (again, similar to Valkyrie Profile dungeons and towns).
The item gathering and mixing in Princess Crown is also identical to that in Odin Sphere. Both games have your items stored in bags (one of which is active at a time). You can purchase bigger bags to carry more items. When you wish to use an item in battle, the item wheel (also found in Odin Sphere) pops up and you choose what you wish to use.
Princess Crown also has fruit appear on trees in the background, which can be eaten, and has the farming aspect found in Odin Sphere. The only difference in Princess Crown is that plants just take a few moments to grow, where in Odin Sphere enemy spirits needed to be present for plants to absorb.
Cooking appears in both games as well. In Princess Crown, characters can cook on their own. You use spices, pans, pots and flavoring to create cooked foods or soups while traveling in areas or in towns. You can also bring ingredients to restaurants in towns to have food made for your characters in Princess Crown, a concept that returns in the Pooka Village in Odin Sphere. You don’t need to collect recipes to create food in Princess Crown like in Odin Sphere – you just need to have the correct items.
The concept of alchemy, where you mix various items to create potions, is also present in Princess Crown, though it is implemented in a way similar to the Odin Sphere Pooka Village restaurants. You collect the ingredients needed for each potion, then take it to a potion shop in any town to have the shopkeeper make your potion for you. The ability to create potions in the field makes Odin Sphere a bit easier.
The Princess Crown graphics also feature a striking similarity to other Vanillaware titles. In fact, Gradriel bears a passing resemblence to Odin Sphere’s Gwendolyn. Both titles feature incredibly detailed characters. Each one looks, behaves and moves in a unique manner. Both titles also share vivid backgrounds that almost have as much personality as the characters. So strong attention to detail and design becomes a recurring theme throughout each game.
Battle in Princess Crown is ‘somewhat’ similar to Odin Sphere. Instead of a set number of enemies appearing on each stage that must be wiped out, they pop up in ‘random encounter’ fashion. The hero or heroine then faces off in a battle against that character that is reminiscent of a fighting game. This concept has been refined in Odin Sphere, as all enemies appear at one time to be eliminated – making the game a bit more challenging.
The “POW” meter in Odin Sphere also is present in Princess Crown. You have to gauge your actions to ensure you don’t overextend your character. There is also leveling up in both games. Princess Crown has all fields increase based on battle experience, though hit points can be increased by one point at a time by eating grilled foods. Odin Sphere adds an extra bit of strategy by having hit points level up by eating and weapons level up by absorbing fallen enemies.
It is interesting to actually experience playing both games, as you can see how one earlier title impacts another. Plus, you get to see just how the wonderful elements of Odin Sphere came to be, and re-experience a classic game. An original copy of the Sega Saturn Princess Crown may be quite a hot commodity now, but the PSP port of Princess Crown is still available in Japan, and a budget-priced ‘best’ title that can be played without any knowledge of Japanese.
Images Courtesy of Atlus.