By Joseph Puntschart / January 6th, 2017
|Title||My Horse Prince|
|Genre||Otome visual novel|
|Age Rating||PEGI 12|
When you try to explain the appeal of niche Japanese games to more casual players, you may hear something along the lines of how some offerings are “messed up” (and that’s PG-level language). A game like My Horse Prince would be a perfect example to support that argument. To summarize the setting, My Horse Prince has you play as a nameable female protagonist whom meets a male horse (named Yuuma) and becomes its owner, eventually going on to romance him and become his jockey. So basically, an ‘otome’ with a twist. This was a game that I didn’t believe would see the light of day outside of Japan for pretty obvious reasons, but it has and I decided to check it out to see if there was a good game behind it.
The actual gameplay consists of two parts – textbook romance VN interactions and touching markers on the screen to trigger an event and fill a meter. Admittedly, the execution of these events is both hilarious and baffling at the same time, such as Yuuma playing the guitar in a concert and lifting huge boulders during training. To build up the energy required to do this, you will need to trigger events with Yuuma and answer the dialogue appropriately to get more points. Answer badly and you will lose points. You can do this up to three times every half an hour. It is clear this game is not meant to be taken seriously, and this is shown in the dialogue, which is very lighthearted and only serves to carry along the minimal story. Some of it is funny at times, but it makes for a very weird experience considering the context. The same can be said for the graphics. While the drawings are very well done, the CGs in particular are not the kind of thing you’d want to be seen playing in public.
My main issue with My Horse Prince isn’t so much the weird setting, but the game’s design. This is a free-to-play game with in-app purchases, and this clearly shows. You can pay to have the ads removed but if you don’t, they really get in the way. Between every chapter, you have to watch an ad, if you get an answer wrong in the bonding events you have to watch an ad to get a second chance at a correct answer and after using all your bonding events you have to watch an ad, and wait half an hour for your three bonding points to renew (or watch an advert to get an additional one). The worst part is that they are entirely random and some of them you cannot close until after waiting for a period of time. If you exit to try and trick the game into thinking you have watched the advert, chances are the game will crash and you’ll have to restart your session. To elaborate more on the in-app purchases, you can pay $0.99 to remove the ads, and you can pay $0.99 or $1.99 for golden items that can help you progress through the touchscreen sections faster. You don’t need to pay any money to complete the game, but it would presumably improve your experience. The music is also pretty standard stuff, the lack of variety in the track listings means it will also get very repetitive.
At best, there is a lot of missed potential here. At worst, the game is hogwash that only shows the bad side of mobile gaming and (in the eyes of some) the worst in niche Japanese gaming. Perhaps if the game wasn’t hobbled by intrusive adverts, the story was more serious and there was substantial character development, there may be something redeemable but that is not to be found here. I get the vibe that this game was made as a joke, and if you go in with that mindset you may find My Horse Prince worth your time. On-off casual play for me was a large handful of 5 minute sessions over 2 weeks, allowing me to finish the 10 chapters in no time. Maybe with no ads and more hardcore playing I could have finished it even quicker, so the replay value in this game is abysmal. There is a postgame side story but that appeared to be a grindfest so I didn’t play much of it. To summarize, while Usaya Co. get my respect for releasing such a bizarre game in English, I can’t really recommend My Horse Prince at all due to the poor execution, especially if you’re looking for a good quality game or story. This applies especially to detractors of both mobile and Japanese games, as this title will do nothing to change your mind.
As this game was free to play, this was downloaded by the reviewer to play on his own device. No money was spent on in-app purchases, nor was any golden items given or the adverts removed by the publisher.
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