Review: Time Princess - Mysteries of Zentico

Time Princess recently released a poll on social media asking whether fans prefer fantasy or urban stories. This provided better language for me to define the discrepancies between the visual novels they've released in the past and the ones that have come out recently. Mysteries of Zentico, the newest story in the game, falls yet again into the urban category. It is the first story that the dress-up app that was released in two separate parts. There are many other great stories in this game that had open endings and could have benefitted more from a tiered release. Though I can understand the necessity of the extended release time for this particular story due to its length and overly complicated plot, it was not one that I was eager to complete for those same reasons. No matter how many new chapters I unlocked, I still had a limited understanding of what was going on and didn't care much about any of the characters.

Mysteries of Zentico takes place on a fictional volcanic island inspired by Latin American culture, which is a first for this game. I liked that they selected a setting and culture that they hadn't explored before to increase the variety of wardrobe options, but it felt more like an aesthetic choice than something that was used to drive the plot. Unlike Elena of Avalor, which directly incorporates Aztec mythology and Mexican traditions into its storylines, Mysteries of Zentico follows a completely original lore that can't decide what it wants to be. At first, it looks like a traditional cop drama in which the player takes on the role of a policewoman named Lupe who must assist clients in investigating disappearances and potential murders. The deeper the player gets into the story, the more supernatural it becomes, incorporating things like soul possession and time travel. Yet, none of these elements are fully explored because the story branches into different sections that teach the player about the visual novel's companions while sprinkling bits of its mythology in on the side, resulting in several head-scratching outcomes that rarely feel fulfilling.

The three different paths that the player chooses at the end of the first chapter determine which of the three companions' stories they will explore. Esteban was by far my favorite of the three as he was the only character that even came close to resembling a love interest. He is hired at the beginning of the story to train Lupe as a cop, but their partnership quickly grows into something more. Though he is the most appealing of the three, his story is the least complex, making it feel out of place in the larger context of the visual novel. Rafael is a genderqueer troublemaker with a torrid history of working as a fortune teller with a traveling circus. He seems to be emotionally troubled, which is why Lupe wants to help him get his life back together, but I had a difficult time determining what his goal was. Della, the third companion, doesn't even show up until after the player has completed everyone else's route, which makes her the hardest character to get to know. She has a secret identity known as the Rose Rider and serves as a mentor figure to help Lupe navigate the supernatural elements of the story once the player has unlocked them.

The clothes in this story add new inspiration to the infinite Time Princess wardrobe with some Latina flair. There is, of course, the obligatory police uniform for Lupe as well as some brightly colored flowing skirts and gowns that celebrate the vibrance of Latin American culture. There are a few casual looks as well. My favorite is the butterfly gown that includes flowing pink hair, red rose-accented accessories, and skeleton gloves and tights that are reminiscent of Dia de los Muertos. I also like the long skirts and shawls that make me think of flamenco dancers. The new looks celebrate the beautiful fashions of Mexico in a way that the game hasn't explored previously. It's a lot of fun that each new story tries to incorporate a different culture and period of fashion. I wish some of this culture had been incorporated more into the plot of this particular visual novel, but the story was focused solely on the urban cop drama and weird volcano time travel lore instead.

Mysteries of Zentico is a visually stunning addition to Time Princess, with a diverse range of vibrant and culturally inspired fashion choices. However, the story falls short in terms of plot coherence and character development. The mishmash of supernatural elements and urban cop drama makes it an uneasy fit, and the branching character paths leave some arcs feeling underdeveloped and unsatisfying. While the setting and cultural influence of the game are refreshing, it would have been better to see them more intentionally used to drive the story. Overall, Mysteries of Zentico may capture players with its gorgeous wardrobe options, but it fails to deliver a compelling and coherent narrative. Have you been enjoying the urban stories the game has released of late, or would you prefer to see them return to fantasy and historical figures? Let me know in the comments!


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