llq-ss2.jpg With its pink-haired, precocious protagonist, anime-inspired aesthetics and cutesy premise ("Help a fourteen-year old girl become a queen!"), Long Live The Queen may not, at first glance, appear like a game suited for anyone capable of the legal purchase of alcohol. However, under its cotton-candy exterior, Hanako Games' princess-rearing simulation is both surprisingly dark and disarmingly satisfying.

The story in Long Live The Queen is a simple one. Your mother has expired and your father is incapable of serving as anything but the Emperor Dowager. You, as the sole heir of the kingdom, must take over the throne and perpetuate the royal line. Unfortunately, pretty much the only person who wants to see you crowned queen is dear old Dad. Everyone else? They want you dead. Six-feet-under, food-for-maggots dead.

In case it wasn't obvious already, you will die a lot in this game. There will be assassins, poisonous chocolates, treacherous tree branches, angry nobles, wars, magical battles - the list goes on. You might even get forced into a political marriage and turned into someone else's puppet. Long Live The Queen's fondness for offing its protagonist makes it almost feel like it was built out of a roguelike's rib.

Needless to say, it's your job to prevent all this from happening. In order to circumnavigate the princess's many possible deaths, you're going to have to monitor her moods, shepherd her social interactions and manage her education system.

It's a lot simpler than it sounds. Gameplay in Long Live the Queen can be divided into two parts. In the first segment, you will have to decide on the lessons that the little monarch-to-be will partake in that week. Additionally, you'll also be able to dress her up in a variety of outfits. Silly as that might sounds, the in-game cosplaying actually has a purpose. Each of the available costumes is capable of granting you substantial bonuses to things like military expertise or athletic skill.

Now, this second bit is where it all gets interesting. After you're informed about the success of the princess's lessons, you'll be taken to the weekend. It is within this time period that you will encounter the game's selection of pre-scripted events. Some of them will be relatively pedestrian (you catch your father with a fawning admirer. How do you respond?) while others will be of a somewhat more serious note (get insulted at royal ball. Do you demand for the executioner's assistance or do you grin and bear it?). Your performance will be determined both by the choices you make and the current statistics (a lot of dice-rolling happens behind the scenes) of our little communal heroine.

There are a lot of statistics to balance, by the way. From royal mannerisms to falcon-handling to divination to martial law, there's an expansive amount of things that you can have the princess learn. Want her to be the wise tactician? Have her focus on military skills. Want to ensure that she's too cute to kill? Be certain to have her work on her speech, composure and knowledge of political intrigue among other things. Whatever you do, don't forget to have her run a few laps either. You'll never know when someone wants to disembowel her. Balance is essential.

And that's why Long Live the Queen rocks. There are just so many possible variables and solutions. Each time the protagonist dies, you find yourself coming back with a vengeance, determined to try a new strategy, a different approach to her upbringing. It's borderline addictive. It's also likely to make a monster out of you. By the end of my first successful playthrough, I had summarily butchered everyone who even thought about looking at us funny, forced the princess into a continuous state of docility and lied my way through every social encounter possible. Was it evil? Yes. Was it glorious? Definitely. Long story short, Long Live The Queen is a solid title. If the idea of anime and magical girls do not ruffle your gamer sensibilities, this one is definitely worth checking out.

Official website here.