Circus Reviews - A Little Lily Princess

So here's A Little Lily Princess, an adaptation of the novel A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Maybe it's Adaptation Week or something over here, since I just did The Armoire the other day. Eh, who knows. A Little Lily Princess follows young Sara Crewe, who has spent her whole life being raised in wealth by her beloved father in India but must now leave for England in order to be educated at boarding school. She is introduced to an eclectic group of students—snobby Lavinia, dreamer Jessie, kind but slow Ermengarde, spoiled Lottie—along with her own personal maid, Mariette, and things go very well for her at first. She makes friends, tells stories, and even from her high position goes out of her way to help the less fortunate, like scullery maid Becky. But what happens when a princess loses everything she held dear to her?

The game's main emphasis is on its storytelling, but there is a basic stat-raising mechanic involved that helps determine your character route. Each week, you can choose activities for Sara to perform, and at the end of the week the events you chose give you various stats, which you can then spend on extra events with the girl of your choice. It's nothing challenging, and even if you have bad luck with the events and don't get the stats you want for a week or two, it's almost impossible to actually miss out on an event. Which is good, since it clears the way for the aforementioned storytelling to take center stage. The text adapted directly from the novel and the text that Hanako has added for the character routes are nearly indistinguishable. The styles match up perfectly, and even though I have read the original novel before, there were times when I couldn't tell what had been added. At the same time, there were also times when I could clearly pick out novel passages and fondly remember them. It's a very high quality read all the way through. The characters are mostly interesting enough, although there are a couple in particular I can't stand...Lavinia and Lottie, try as they might, never managed to endear themselves to me, even in their character routes. I fully admit this to be personal preference, as I found no real problems with their routes but just couldn't bring myself to enjoy either of them. Ermengarde and Mariette have better routes, with Becky and Jessie taking center stage as my personal favorites. I sympathize with Jessie's feelings for Sara clashing with her parents' expectations of an eventual arranged marriage, and with poor Becky's life in general, and it made their routes extremely enjoyable for me. As for the much touted yuri, the only route that I would call definitively romantic is Jessie's. There are a couple of more familial routes and a couple that seem like friendship to me but could end up going either way. Personally, I think it works. There could have been more romance, sure, but romance isn't what the original book was about; family and friendship played stronger parts, and they remain important themes here. Also, adding in extra romance probably would have made things...uncomfortable, let's say, considering that most of our characters are schoolchildren.

The music is quite charming! (And worth the wait that I endured due to my laptop deciding that some sounds should not be played.) The art is lovely as well. There are segments wherein the girls are depicted in the same chibi forms that you see when choosing your extra events, and you wouldn't think that a chibi style would work with this sort of game, but it's used sparingly enough that it doesn't overstay its welcome. All in all, I feel comfortable recommending this game to a lot of people. Fans of the original novel will probably enjoy it the most, since you'll be able to pick out your favorite passages, but I don't feel like you necessarily need to know the source material to enjoy this, either. As mentioned above, despite this being called a yuri title there isn't a lot of it, at least not in a romantic sense, and so if you're looking for that you might try something else. But there's a lot to enjoy here, for fans of Victorian literature and the power of friendship and cute girls.

A Little Lily Princess is available on Steam or directly from the developer. Final verdict: A Little Lily Princess is a cute and friendly game that will appeal to many with its strong writing, lovely art, and retention of the original novel's best themes. A Little Lily Princess is developed and published by Hanako Games. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review. I was a participant in the game's alpha testing on a volunteer basis.

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