Games for Girls: Hanako Games and Why Long Live the Queen Is Important

Just before I could start complaining about not having any games to play—a common complaint of a gamer, and hardly ever true—my girlfriend was kind enough to purchase the PC game Long Live the Queen for me. Let me tell you right now: this game is fucking difficult. It’s not just me being bad at the game, though I’m far from an expert; rather, Long Live the Queen takes some serious planning to get anywhere substantial.

Upon reflection, the thing I’m more surprised by is that I didn’t expect it to be difficult, or at least as difficult as it ended up being. This was a three-fold problem of misconception: knowing the game developer, knowing the type of game, and, due to the previous two, some unfairly lowered standards on my part. If you hold some of these same misconceptions, allow me to help alleviate them now; this game and this developer honestly deserve a lot of credit—much more than many would give them right off the bat.

Long Live the Queen Banner

Long Live the Queen is the newest game in the library from the minds behind Hanako Games. A quick look at their site shows that yes, this is a team that is solely devoted to creating games for a female audience. From their ‘about’ section, there can be no doubt about this.

We are not just “girls games”, although we are definitely girl-friendly. Anyone who likes fantasy and adventure, anime games, or just cute stuff is more than welcome here. We hope you will enjoy what you find and come back in the future to see what other games we have made. We may surprise you!

Although the head honcho, Georgina Bensley, draws the distinction between her games and “girl games”, which isn’t entirely necessary, what we have here is a female-run game team who puts out female-friendly games to a wide audience.  Even if these games aren’t exactly your style, you have to admit that this is important. In a previous ‘Games for Girls’ post, I came to the conclusion that making a ‘game for girls’ isn’t about including ponies or weddings or anything stereotypically feminine: it’s about creating a safe space for girls. And although Bensley’s wording on her mission statement is slightly problematic, this is by-and-large what she’s doing.

What’s even better about the path that Bensley is taking is that she’s branching out. In other, more mainstream video games which are targeted towards a female audience, a certain series is focused on one topic—one style of gameplay exclusively. Cooking Mama is just about cooking, and despite the ‘recipe’ (see: controls) for each dish being different, the goal is still the same. Style Savvy, taking cues from the site Poupeegirl, is just repetition of putting the right clothes on the right girl. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it pigeonholes the developer and the audience equally. Hanako Games, on the other hand, is breaking free of this trend while sticking to what they’re good at.  At the moment, their games encompass three areas: life simulation, RPG, and visual novel. This may seem like a small selection, but keep in mind that Hanako Games is still an indie developer; there may be plans for something bigger that’s not currently possible due to budget or being short-handed. Small as the genres may be, however, it still gives the players agency, not just the illusion of it.

They're all pretty much the same game

They’re all pretty much the same game.

Though I respect them fully for this, I will admit that third misconception of mine—lowered expectations—is not entirely unwarranted. The game that introduced me to the company (though not produced by them, just distributed through) is Spirited Heart, another life simulation game. Though Spirited Heart offered unique options, including race selection (you could be a human, elf, or demon) and job specialization, it was sinfully easy. Nothing more than a glorified visual novel. It was fun for a couple of rounds, but I finished just about every route in under an hour or two. It didn’t leave me with a bad image of the company in any sense, just a feeling that their games, and the games they featured, were all going to be that simple. Of course, from earlier you can infer that this is no longer true, especially about Long Live the Queen.

For those of you unfamiliar with the game and the genre it falls in, let me break it down for you. Long Live the Queen is a re-imagining of the older Princess Maker series, brought to us by our friends at Gainax. The point of the game is to build up stats by sending the princess to various classes and trying to keep her mood up so she’ll continue to do well in said classes.

Dying never looked so cute

Dying never looked so cute

Depending on which skills you choose to improve, the princess will get bonuses for things she does well, but also receive penalties for things she does poorly. What makes this type of game so addicting is the sheer amount of different branches the princess can take: she can become anything and what she becomes will affect everything. One of the main differences between Long Live the Queen and the Princess Maker series, however, is that in Long Live the Queen, the princess can die. In fact, there are many ways the princess can die. Poisoning, stabbing, drowning, getting blown up by magic: these are only a couple of the ways. So, in addition to building stats to be smart, you’re also building stats to make sure you can actually survive to coronation.

Humorous as that is, it plays into the other important difference between the two games: the player’s point of view. In Princess Maker, the player took on the role of the king of the unnamed kingdom, putting his daughter through classes, shaping her into what he considered to be a perfect princess. You, the player, could reward her with gifts if she did well and punish her if she started acting out. Even the way the princess came into being in one installment—she was delivered by the gods in a holy ray of light—furthers the message that the princess is alive for your benefit, and her life is forfeit to the kingdom and the king himself. It’s a bit creepy when I lay it out like that, isn’t it? In an inspired move, or perhaps just a logical one, Long Live the Queen’s princess is the player character. Every class the princess takes is a class she wants to take. Every move is dictated by the princess. Even many of the issues that the king needs to solve—domestic disputes, investments, etc.—are resolved solely with the soon-to-be-queen’s input.

Having the princess suffer copious amounts of untimely deaths would be super problematic in the Princess Maker series, because of this shift in power in Long Live the Queen, the connotations are different. When playing as the king, you’re ultimately detached from the actual princess character. If she died, then it’s because she wasn’t good enough, which is a gross way to look at it. On the other hand, when the player is the princess, a death isn’t solely about failure, it’s about better planning the next time around. It’s about wanting to get better. It’s about resilience. The player wants to get to coronation and feel personally accomplished.

This seems pretty badass to me

This seems pretty badass to me.

It should be mentioned that while Long Live the Queen has a true endgame of actually being crowned, Princess Maker does not. At least not in so clearly defined terms. The princess in Princess Maker always lives until the end; however, if bad choices are made, she ends up with a ‘bad’ job—two of which I remember are concubine and dominatrix. This plays into the idea that women who take on jobs like this are inherently ‘bad’, which is incredibly problematic. I’m more than pleased that Long Live the Queen didn’t go this route.

With Long Live the Queen becoming available on Steam and GOG, I hope it’s an indication of good things to come. I hope that Hanako Games keeps producing quality video games for a long while, because their message is important, especially to the girls that play their games. It’s a message of resilience, perseverance, and strength drawn from who you are as a person. It doesn’t matter what you may be into, you can still go onto great things—and even if your aspirations aren’t that lofty, you can still be great in general. This is what a “girl game” should be.

If you can, I would implore you to support Hanako Games by picking up one of their games on Steam, GOG, or through their site. With more resources at their disposal, who knows how the face of the so-called games for girls could change. With Bensley at the helm, it could only be for the better.

Will you make it to the throne?

Will you make it to the throne?

5 thoughts on “Games for Girls: Hanako Games and Why Long Live the Queen Is Important

  1. Spirited Heart was not written by Hanako Games, it’s by Tycoon Games. Says so on the website.

  2. As a huge Princess Maker fan, I gotta point out that the Concubine and Dominatrix endings are not ‘bad’ endings in the sense that you’re thinking, I don’t believe. They require a ridic amount of stat raising and there’s a sense of accomplishment upon reaching them if you were gunning for them, ’cause it wasn’t an easy climb to get there. Even the deity that graced you with your daughter doesn’t condemn you for achieving such a job for her – I love the usage of the phrase “To each their own” in those endings. n_n The ‘bad’ endings are more like Housewife and Divorcee, which are acquired when your stats are mediocre. :p

  3. I actually have been impressed with the game – and I still can’t get the Princess to coronation (some of the triggered events are quite clever and it took me two try’s to realize how I was changing the gameflow in one event). I’m hoping to interview the publisher soon.

  4. Pingback: Many ways to play | To Game For Life

Comments are closed.