After the defeat of the Demon Lord, peace returned to the world. However, Princess Aina remained missing. Rumors spread that she had been enslaved by the Hero’s younger brother, Schum. When Prince Hara, Aina’s younger brother, hears the news, he embarks on a journey to save his sister.
“The Shattered Princess of Ice and Snow” is a Doujin RPGMaker Game released by U-ROOM in 2019, serving as a spin-off story in the Dark Hero Party series. This article will discuss the game and its predecessor, so beware of spoilers.
A Surprisingly Engaging RPG Experience
Piqued by my desire for a short RPG, I decided to give “The Shattered Princess of Ice and Snow” a try. Clocking in at around 2-3 hours, it was a perfect fit. Initially, I wasn’t particularly interested in the game due to its advertised premise. However, it surpassed my expectations.
As a spin-off of the Dark Hero Party, “The Shattered Princess of Ice and Snow” centers around Aina, one of the main characters’ friends, exploring her character in more depth. Throughout the game, the events from the original Dark Hero Party are recreated, showcasing the development of U-ROOM as an artist. Aina’s redesigned appearance reflects her newfound maturity and the weariness surrounding her character, which fits her new role in the story.
A Tale of Dual Protagonists
The game adopts a dual protagonist approach, switching between the perspectives of two characters each day. Let’s begin by delving into Aina’s perspective, although it is somewhat less intriguing than the other protagonist’s point of view. The outcome of Aina’s journey is predictable, similar to how we know Anakin Skywalker’s fate in the Star Wars prequels. Moreover, it is intentionally unpleasant to read, especially if you don’t possess certain dark fetishes.
Despite this, there is one amusing aspect of Aina’s story. She has a mini-game where she can earn money, and strangely enough, this money carries over to the other character, even though it doesn’t make much sense within the game’s context.
On the other hand, we have Prince Hara, Aina’s brother. Unlike the rest of his family, who dismiss Aina as a “sacrifice” for peace, Hara deeply cares for his sister. He is determined to rescue her. However, there’s a catch – Schum, the one who has enslaved Aina, is a powerful Dracovalis. These beings possess godlike capabilities, bestowed upon them by the powerful Dragon Deities of the realm.
Although Hara is a prince with loyal subordinates, his power alone is insufficient to challenge Schum. It’s like trying to defeat Hercules with just a group of ordinary individuals. Hara receives a tip-off about an old lady who holds information about Schum’s weakness. This leads him on a quest to find her and extract the valuable knowledge.
This is where the second framing device comes into play. When Hara visits Cassava, the old lady, she refuses to share the information easily. She holds a grudge against Aina, which confuses Hara. He believes his sister is not someone who would warrant such animosity. Cassava agrees to reveal the information only if Hara passes her trial – a Vision Quest.
During this Vision Quest, Hara experiences a moment in the life of a certain man known to Cassava. At the end of the story, Hara must select the appropriate ending that reflects his understanding of the moral behind the tale. If he chooses wisely, he will pass the trial.
Analyzing the Plot and Themes
From this point onward, I will delve into the game’s plot in its entirety, including spoilers. If you plan to play the game in Japanese one day, you may want to stop reading here.
Cassava’s Vision reveals the story of a group of adventurers in a remote village. Hara takes on the role of Elite, the most skilled member within the village’s standards. Lila, a woman bearing a striking resemblance to Aina and Elite’s girlfriend, comes in second.
The group, assigned by the Village Mayor, must clear out four monster-infested caves. Despite being undermanned, underleveled, and under-equipped, they embark on this quest. When asked why they don’t hire professional mercenaries, the Village Mayor responds that he doesn’t have the funds. They decide to do their best regardless.
Interestingly, although Elite is the nominal main character in this story, he is a silent protagonist who does not significantly impact the plot. The true focus is on Lila. At the beginning, Lila is a sympathetic character feeling trapped in an underappreciated life. Her father holds traditional views on gender roles, which clash with Lila’s behavior.
As time goes on, Lila’s ideals begin to distort. She starts viewing the other members of the group as burdens holding her back from achieving greatness. A conflict arises between Lila and Hau, where they each create specialized accessories from monster parts to enhance the group’s capabilities.
Lila’s accessories showcase her worldview. She and Elite, being the “best” members of the party, receive all-around powerful offensive accessories. In contrast, Hau, whom Lila sees as a liability, receives an accessory that enhances her evasion. Lila believes Hau is only good for item support and defense, disregarding her true potential.
Unbeknownst to Lila, Hau’s judgment turns out to be correct. In the subsequent dungeon, enemies with high defenses prove vulnerable to Hau’s abilities, which deal a set amount of damage. Furthermore, Lila’s decision to prioritize offensive boosts over defensive capabilities proves to be a mistake.
The adventurers find themselves facing an awakened dragon, far beyond their capabilities. The difficulty spike at this point was slightly frustrating, as it disrupted my story-driven experience. However, it was an example of effective integration between story and gameplay.
Despite their victory, tragedy seems imminent. To my surprise, Elite manages to save the day with quick thinking. A choice between two actions presents itself. However, the game continuously loops the selection menu until the correct choice is made. The consequence of this choice does not become immediately apparent.
On their way back home, Lila privately discusses leaving the village with Elite. She believes they could find a place where their ambitions align with like-minded people. Elite, being immensely talented, seems wasted in their current location. Lila implores him to seek greater glory together.
This becomes the true moral test mentioned by Cassava. Will Elite choose to leave with Lila or remain loyal to his community? Prince Hara correctly deduces that the parable revolves around staying true to one’s roots, appealing to the common folk. Thus, Elite decides to stay, disappointing Lila and ending their relationship due to diverging career paths. Although his friends at the tavern express concern for him, they are ultimately glad he chose to stay.
The Real Outcome and Revelation
Congratulations, Hara has successfully passed Cassava’s trial. However, Hara remains perplexed about the purpose behind basing the parable on a supposedly real-life event. He recognizes Lila’s behavior as a reflection of his sister’s, but fails to understand why Cassava holds a grudge against Aina. After all, Aina has the right to make her own choices.
Cassava contemplates the question before changing the subject and relaying the information Hara seeks. Unfortunately, the information turns out to be circumstantially useless. Breaking Schum’s divine protection would require the assistance of a powerful Dracovalis, but none of them have any vested interest in doing so.
As Hara leaves, Cassava breaks down and confesses that she “edited” the story’s ending. She couldn’t bear to accept the actual outcome and chose to deceive herself. A flashback reveals the previous scene.
In reality, when tragedy struck, everyone involved prioritized their own survival, leaving Hau to perish. The sprites’ animation, with both men turning to face Lila as she slowly backs away, implies they held her responsible for the tragedy.
Elite did not stay behind as one might expect. Instead, he was persuaded by Lila to leave the village with her. Consequently, the village lost capable individuals, leaving them vulnerable to future disasters. This neglectful decision becomes evident when it is revealed that Elite and Lila aren’t even present at Hau’s funeral.
Thinking about the game’s intended themes, we witness a world shaped by a society that values power and worth over kindness and humanity. Aina, unlike her allegorical counterpart, does not intentionally oppress others with her power. However, by subscribing to a cruel worldview, she inadvertently seals her own fate. Aina’s pride in her strength as a warrior becomes the very reason for her downfall. Her divine powers are revoked by her patron deity, who deems her “worth” greater in producing heirs rather than serving as a soldier.
This story demonstrates the subjectivity of an individual’s worth. If one’s worth is defined solely by their value to the world, they shouldn’t be surprised when their worth fluctuates due to those in power.
Overall, it’s intriguing to analyze how this game explores its intended themes. Despite the unconventional execution, where the allegorical story delves deeper into character exploration compared to the actual character’s plot, it manages to captivate. In future games, U-ROOM’s efforts in revamping gameplay systems, which were primarily narrative flavoring in the original, may yield better results.
It’s worth noting that it’s quite peculiar how adult-themed RPGMaker games are the only Japanese narratives that currently appeal to me. Perhaps it’s because I find solace in melancholic tales of loss, as they resonate deeply. Here’s hoping that U-ROOM continues to explore the Dark Hero Party universe in greater detail in future games.
Related Links: Purchase The Shattered Princess of Ice and Snow from DLSite (R18)