Cinderella Phenomenon Review
Fans of fairy tales will love this one!
This is a review that's a bit late in coming. I had planned to do this one last year - over December - and forgot about it. One of my early articles on Vocal was a review of a visual novel called Summer Nightmare. I mentioned that I was hooked on the visual novel genre and that I'd found a few good ones to play.
Cinderella Phenomenon was one of those first finds and is the third visual novel I ever played. I've played it several times and have enjoyed it every time.
Once upon a time, witches and fairies lived in peace with humans until a man came along telling stories of witches. In these tales witches were always the villain and, as time went by, and the stories kept coming; witches became hated and feared. This hatred and fear of the witches led to a war with casualties on all sides. The witches and fairies each protected a jewel of sorts one that feeds on light (fairies) and one that feeds on darkness (witches). The leader of the witches casts a spell creating what is known as the fairy tale curse - more on this later.
Many years after the war, princess Lucette is cold and aloof to most things. The villagers hate her and she doesn't seem to get along with anyone. Her selfishness gets the attention of a witch named Delora who curses her with the fairy tale curse - specifically: Cinderella.
The result of this is that she's reduced to being a commoner and nobody - outside of others who have the curse - remembers that she's the princess. Lucette spends the novel trying to break the curse and learning about her kingdom from the perspective of the common-folk.
What did I Like?
Let's start off easy, the art style is beautiful! The colors are striking and the anime aesthetic works really, really well. Seriously, why isn't this an actual anime yet? With all the film adaptations we're getting you'd think it would at least be under consideration...maybe the game's too unknown.
The characters are all unique and have some seriously crazy personalities - which was a huge step up from Summer Nightmare.
I liked the humor in this game quite a bit too. Comedy is hard to do because it's such a subjective experience; some people find knock-knock jokes funny others find them cringe-worthy. That said, the comedy here is just great; one of the funniest moments in the story is when Delora bewitches a broom that comes to life and sweeps the floor - dragging the reluctant princess along for the ride. Best part? The broom doesn't stop until it's happy that the floor is clean and comes to life at the first speck of dirt to hit the floor!
Another favorite moment is when one of the possible romantic interests mistakes one of the other cursed individuals for a woman. Okay, super quick explanation here: this character is a man dressed like a woman because he has the 'Beauty' curse. Any woman who lays eyes on him out of disguise falls head-over-heels in love with him - hence he dresses as a woman.
The soundtrack is fantastic! I can honestly say that this is one of my favorite in-game soundtracks ever. I could listen to it on loop for forever and a day!
Now before I move on to my only real qualm with this game, I want to discuss its best element: the fairy tale curse.
The Fairy Tale Curse
As previously mentioned, the leader of the witches cast this spell to take away the happy endings of humans during the war in an act of, I guess, vengeance. I'd probably call it pettiness but I digress. Once a witch puts the curse on someone they can't take it back; which means the only way to be rid of the curse is to meet the conditions of breaking it. These conditions are different depending on which fairy tale curse you end up with. In the case of Lucette, who has the Cinderella curse; she has to do 3 good deeds and become a better person in the process.
This is an interesting twist on classic fairy tales. Cinderella was a kind and selfless person who got a happy ending because of her kindness. Lucette is a selfish princess who needs to learn kindness in order to get her happy ending...kind of a reversal of the classic story. I haven't seen this before or since playing Cinderella Phenomenon and it's a real shame too.
The other curses are: Rumpelstiltskin, Peter Pan, Mermaid and Beauty. Each one has different conditions for being broken and while I can't go into them here I can say that this provides a certain degree of replay value - not that the game really needs it. The story changes depending on which of the other cursed characters Lucette teams up with to break her curse.
My Only Qualm...
The only real qualm that I have with this game is that we don't learn much about the world beyond the prologue's explanation of the war and a few references here and there. We don't see what the king was like before the war, we don't see Lucette growing up and we don't see much if anything of the war itself.
Now, these things aren't strictly speaking necessary but I feel like it would've developed the world just a tiny bit more.
This is a great game for both veterans of the genre and for newcomers who maybe want to try them but aren't too sure whether or not it's something they'll like. The music and visuals are great, the story's interesting and the characters are fantastic. It's definitely one of my personal favorites and I can absolutely recommend this as a good entry to the visual novel genre.
If you need more convincing to give it a shot, then here it is: Cinderella Phenomenon is a free-to-play game on Steam. Yes, you read that correctly: this game is free on Steam so if you're looking for something new give this a shot. If you like it great, you can thank me later and if you don't like it? Well, then you didn't waste any money on a game.