Review: Time Princess - Tang Dynasty Hunter

My favorite smartphone game allowed a bit more of a break to prepare for the next visual novel, which allowed me to complete it within a week's time. Tang Dynasty Hunter is another Asian-inspired story set in China this time instead of Japan. The little I know about Chinese mythology comes from my binge-watch of Netflix's Ashes of Love, a gorgeous fantasy drama about gods, goddesses, and mystical realms. This story had a few minor similarities in that immortal beings are spirits of inanimate objects or elements that take on human form. The Tang Dynasty is a period of Chinese history that lasted from 618 to 906 A.D. and is considered a golden age of Chinese arts and culture. The dress-up elements of this story had some creative and exciting new hairstyles and stunning artwork.

Tang Dynasty Hunter book cover

Tang Dynasty Hunter is about a demon hunter named Pei Jin, who is on a quest to help her master that got poisoned by a demon. In order to do this, Jin must find a series of magical memories from various people in a nearby village and collect the tears that these memories invoke. Many of the people she encounters have little connection to her or her master, but she must still help them make peace with their past to achieve their goals, which emphasizes an aspect of Chinese culture that encourages community. Jin is armed with a series of enchanted talismans to ward off would-be demon attackers, which makes her less helpless than some of the previous heroines from this game. This ability would be more interesting if it were woven directly into the gameplay, such as a mini-game to find the correct talisman or to try to knock off a certain number of hit points, but this is not that type of game.

Wen Lengxiang's introXie Cheng's introChu Yunquing's intro

The new visual novel introduces three new companions. Wen Lengxiang is a mysterious woman who is too beautiful to be mortal, Xie Cheng is a soldier who allows Jin to stay with him during her quest, and Chu Yunqing is a playful merman with an instant connection to Jin. I had been waiting some time for Time Princess to include a mermaid story must admit that I never expected a merman as a love interest! Chu Yunqing is a fun and unique character with his impulsivity, devotion to Jin, and compassion toward other mystical beings. Xie Cheng is more of a generic love interest, though his sickly brother plays an important role in the story later on. Tang Dynasty Hunter is laxer on the player's choice of love interests than Swan Lake, which requires specific choices in nearly every level if you wanted to get a certain character's ending. Here, you can choose your ending in the final chapter without any prerequisites or even elope with Chu Yunqing early in the second chapter to trigger a "bad" ending (though it didn't feel like a bad ending to me)!

Xie Cheng game artWen Lengxiang game artChu Yunqing game art

Fashion is a vital aspect of the visual novels in Time Princess, and Tang Dynasty Hunter is no exception. This book incorporates brightly colored versions of ancient Chinese styles. Since I've already collected so many beautiful dresses in this game, the thing that stood out to me the most was the hair. Ancient Chinese women have elaborate hairstyles that seem to defy the laws of physics, which they decorate with exotic pins, beads, and floral ornaments that are out of this world. I liked the dresses enough, but I was particularly enamored by all of the unique hairstyles I could collect within this story. My favorite is a green satin dress and hair combo that fills a cloud of hair with flowers, combs, and beads to make it look like a true work of art that becomes even more elaborate after the player takes the time to collect enough pieces to alter it.

Blue and yellow dress with pinned hair that swirls over a golden combRed beaded dress with musical instrument accessory and hair that resembles a mermaid tailGreen satin altered dress with embroidered pink flowers and topped with a cloud of hair decorated with gold combs and pins

Though it is two chapters long, Tang Dynasty Hunter feels shorter than many of the recent one-chapter releases due to its lack of major story decisions. It is possible to get every ending without needing to replay more than one or two levels. This makes the boom more relaxing than other stories in this game, but I would not want it to become a permanent change since part of the fun of visual novels is making different decisions to see how much the story changes. This book follows the trend of unsatisfying endings that many recent visual novels in Time Princess suffer from. I'm not sure why the game developers continue this trend when so many players have voiced a desire for more conclusive endings. The story was simple enough that it would have been easy to wrap everything up if it had been taken it in a different direction.

Story previewPei Jin and Chu Yunqing art

Overall, I thought Tang Dynasty Hunter was just okay and would not recommend it over some of the stronger visual novels in Time Princess like Saga of Viera or Taishō Adventures. It gets confusing at times due to the number of characters, though it is faithful to Chinese mythology about spirits appearing in the forms of people. It taught me about a few things I didn't know, such as the musical instrument called the zither. My favorite things about this story are the faithful merman love interest and collecting all sorts of uniquely shaped hairdos. I would only recommend Tang Dynasty Hunter to people who have already completed the other visual novels in Time Princess and want to start something new to pass the time.

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