2016 truly is The Year of Yuri Visual Novels. Kindred Spirits on the Roof was localized and released in February, for instance, which was then followed by the release of Starlight Vega in April. And now A Little Lily Princess has arrived to the delight of yuri fans everywhere. Hanako Games, the British indie company behind Long Live the Queen, has produced a wonderful VN that does not disappoint.
Most of the main cast shown here. The art style bounces between this chibi style and a more evenly-proportioned style, as it were.
Length: Short (10-20 hours)
Lewdness: 1/3 (Hand Holding and Kissing Only)
Price: 14.99 USD
Based on the Victorian novel, A Little Princess, the visual novel follows the life of a girl named Sara Crewe. Sara, who was born and raised in India, is sent to England for formal education at a boarding school. While her father’s wealth has allowed her to grow up in luxury, Sara is not a spoiled brat; she makes friends through her active imagination, generosity, and cleverness. Seriously, she is a very sweet and kind girl. Alas, tragedy strikes and Sara is consequently left in dire straits.
There are no multiple choice moments which are so commonly associated with visual novels. However, this is not a kinetic novel with a linear plot. Players do get to make decisions by choosing how Sara Crewe spends her days in Miss Minchin’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies, which does affect the ending.
Resources are listed to the left (under the week number). Plan your weekly activities to gain icons and build resources!
During the weekdays, the player plans out Sara’s Weekly Self-Improvement Schedule by picking activities for her to perform each day. Every activity has three possible outcomes. Choosing to Practice Dance on Wednesday, for example, can give Sara either two Artistry icons and two Grace icons; one Vigour icon, one Patience icon, and one Grace icon; or double the amount of all Vigour icons acquired by that day of the week. Icons are converted into resources (think character stats) only at the end of the week. Since some activities can change the amount of icons gained, players should carefully consider the order of planned weekly activities. If it is difficult to keep track of the relationship between icons and resources, there is a helpful Icon Help tab players can click.
You can spend your resources by unlocking events. These weekend scenes decide the routes Sara can pursue.
The point of Sara’s weekly activities is to build resources, which are used during the weekends to access events. Events typically require resources to unlock, which are then used up. For example, say Lottie’s weekend scene requires 5 Belief to access. Sara would need at least 5 Belief to unlock Lottie’s event. After playing through said event, Sara would then lose 5 Belief as payment for the scene. Nothing in life is free, folks! Some events can only be played early on in the story before expiring (and thus closing the route) while other events can only be played later on in the story. Thankfully, no route requires Sara’s undivided attention, which means players can (and should) focus on 1, 2 or even 3 routes at a time to minimize backtracking.
Why am I mentioning backtracking? Well, the game is split into two separate Acts. Sara’s adjustment to life in a seminary encompasses Act 1. Players attempt to secure as many routes as possible by completing weekend events during this settlement period. Act 2 covers her fall from grace and her desperate struggle. This is when players lock onto a specific route. By focusing on multiple routes, players can complete routes and then reload from a save-point in Act 2 and choose another route to finish. In doing so, players can avoid excessively replaying through Act 1.
I don’t mean to imply that Act 1 is boring, however. Far from it! Both Acts are well-written and are quite faithful to the original source material. To be fair, I have yet to read the Victorian classic, but it seems like other adaptions have taken considerable liberties with the plot.
I should mention that some people may take issue that one of the most heartwarming moments in the game happens through a contrived coincidence. In my opinion, I think said moment is fine as it is because the happenstance in question actually occurs in the original text! Furthermore, life is full of accidents, both happy and unhappy. A Little Lily Princess explores many themes and one theme does tie into accidents. As such, I won’t get too preachy and will just leave it at that.
All the characters in the story are vivid and interesting in their own right. Ermengarde is so precious.
Excluding one (or two) particular characters, A Little Lily Princess also features a very likeable cast of characters. They all have their own personalities – I always find several characters being so similar that they become indistinguishable from one another to be a tragedy, so this is definitely a plus. Furthermore, they not only have their own inner conflicts but they also have unique relationships to Miss Sara Crewe. This leads to the routes all being memorable and special. Yes, even Lavinia is endearing. Give her a chance! I played through most of the game hating her, but her route was probably one of the most interesting ones. Let me put it this way: it’s hard to decide on the Best Girl. It’s a close race between 5 characters for me (sorry Lottie), but I do favor Becky slightly more.
The land of l i l i e s, huh?
Some people may be disappointed that Hanako Games went for a more animesque approach for A Little Lily Princess since it’s a different style from that of their previous works. However, Hanako herself stated that she has had her eye on one particular artist and that said artist’s style is what suited the game. The game is meant to be cute. Personally, I find the artwork to be gorgeous.
I could listen to the music for hours. Like the artwork, the OST fits the game to a T. Very emotional, very touching, very soothing stuff. Interestingly enough, five people are credited with composing the music, which I found interesting since it’s usually a one-person or two-person endeavor. Seems like Hanako assembled the right people for the job.
It should be noted that there are no voice acting. This could be considered either a positive or a minus. It could be nice hearing voiced lines, but to some degree it would not. When you get into a book and when you grow attached to characters, you tend to come up with a voice for said characters in your head. In my opinion, I feel that playing/reading a visual novel is very similar to reading a novel except the experience is enhanced with music and graphics. As a result, playing a visual novel which does not have voiced dialogue allows the player’s imagination to run wild just like reading a book would. Let me be clear: I do appreciate voice acting, but all I’m trying to say is that not every game requires voices.
All-in-all, I feel like A Little Lily Princess is a great visual novel. It’s a little on the short side if players make extensive use of the Skip feature when replaying through Act 1 to complete new routes (I clocked in at 12 hours). This is also partially due to how there’s no voice acting to act as an incentive to slow down. That in itself can be considered a blessing or a curse – I personally believe there’s no need for it and Hanako Games typically produces games without voices, anyways. With intuitive gameplay, great storytelling, excellent character cast, beautiful artwork, and wonderful music, A Little Lily Princess is not a game you want to miss. Steam has it on sale for 15% off until May 26th, so get it while the getting is good! Victorian-era buffs and yuri fans alike can rejoice!
You can buy the game via Hanako Games here.
You can buy the game via Steam over here.