A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Princess Debut is geared for young girls. Its pleasant story focuses on an everyday teenager who is magically transported to an alternate world in which she takes on the role of a princess who learns how to dance and courts several young princes. It's completely without violence or profanity, though some might think the game's heroine is a little too obsessed with dating and finding the perfect prince.
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What's it about?
Targeted squarely at girls of elementary school age, PRINCESS DEBUT is a hybrid role-playing, dancing, and dating game. Players take on the role of a young teenager who wishes that a prince would come whisk her away. Then she meets an alternate version of herself from another world who asks her to swap places. The player's avatar steps into a closet and through to a land in which everyone she meets thinks she is her doppleganger -- who is, it turns out, a princess. Her primary goal quickly becomes learning how to dance, so that she can prepare herself for a ball just 30 days hence. Along the way she meets a variety of princes -- all alternate versions of boys she knows from her world – with whom she dances and occasionally dates.
Princess Debut is a highly polished game. The anime-style characters look terrific, and the motion-captured animations for real world dances such as the foxtrot, cha cha cha, and samba are beautiful to watch. And the story is a match for the graphics. The writing is simple enough for young readers to understand, but not so rudimentary or pandering as to turn off slightly older players. Girls will have a great time working through dialogue trees that allow them to gently flirt with the game's many princes, selecting responses that will either endear or repel each boy.
Is it any good?
The dancing that occurs between conversational interludes is easy to learn but challenging to master. Players drag the stylus along the DS' lower screen in specific shapes and patterns -- including arcs, loops, and zigzags -- to make their dancers successfully complete various series of steps. As the player's dancing skill grows, she will be rewarded with a variety of accessories each of which has the power to completely change her outfit. Clothing ranges from conservative 18th-century gowns to fun costumes, like a witch's outfit.
The story mode takes only four or five hours to finish, but there are extra modes that help increase the game's longevity, like Ballroom mode, which allows players to essentially skip straight to the challenges of the big ball at the end of the story mode and provides access to extra unlockables in the form of new dances and outfits. Another extra called Movie mode lets players rest their styluses and simply watch the game's beautiful dances while studying blueprints of the real-life steps required of each. Most girls should be able to get at least 10 hours of fun out of the game, all told.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about dancing. Which of the many real dances showcased in the game seems most appealing? Which seems hardest? Have you ever taken or considered enrolling in dance classes? What do you think of the protagonist's fixation on finding a prince? Do you think that she might be a little selfish for courting so many boys at once?
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