As goofy as the premise may be, it's actually a fun game.
Princess Debut is a game for the Nintendo DS that combines traditional Japanese dating simulation elements with light rhythm game mechanics inspired by the likes of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan and Elite Beat Agents. The game centers around Sabrina, a young teenage girl who encounters a double of herself from another world. This other Sabrina happens to be the princess of a kingdom. In a switch of The Prince and the Pauper proportions, Sabrina the student agrees to masquerade as the princess and take her place at a special ball being held in a month's time.
The player's goal in all of this is to make it to he end of the month, building relationships with the princes that serve as Sabrina's potential dancing partners. This is primarily done through traditional dating simulation gameplay in which the player's choices, such as what to say at key conversation points, will affect Sabrina's relationships. The six princes that make up Sabrina's choices range in standard dating sim personalities and moods, like the popular athlete, the prankster, and the narcissist, and the partner that the player ultimately chooses will ultimately influence the direction the story goes, leading to multiple endings.
To get ready for the ball, the player must practice ballroom dancing. The dancing gameplay is very much like a simplified version of Ouendan, in which the emphasis is following a marker along a series of tracks and lacks the numbered markers and spinner. As the player practices dancing, Sabrina will increase in level, unlocking new songs, dance routines and dresses. The wide tracks, lenient penalizing and fairly simple patterns make these parts simple to play through, though it may be more of a challenge for the game's target demographic or anyone not weened on the hectic pace of the Ouendan games.
Princess Debut's graphics are predominantly clean 2D manga illustrations that fit the mood of the game. During dance gameplay, the top screen displays 3D models of Sabrina and her dancing partner, which, while not the best or most detailed models, are well-animated using motion capture. The only real problem wtih the graphics comes when Sabrina is wearing a dress with a particularly wide skirt, which her partner's legs can noticably clip into.
The highlight of the game's soundtrack is its selection of classic ballroom dancing music. Songs include "Nocturne," "When the Saints Come Marching In," and "Swan Lake," which while not performed with a full orchestra, are recognizable and pleasant to the ear. Outside of the dancing sequences however, the soundtrack is subdued and largely forgettable.
After beating the main game, some extra modes are unlocked, including a Ballroom Mode in which the player must dance through a series of progressively more difficult songs and earn high enough scores to continue. The other is a mode that allows the player to view the 3D ballroom dancing sequences outside of gameplay. Although Ballroom Mode does not substantially increase the challenge over the dancing sequences in the story mode, the ability to view the game's dancing sequences is a nice touch since it's not really possible to view them when playing the game.
Princess Debut isn't very challenging, and its narrative is obviously very simple and tailored for young girls, but it's not really a bad game. What it is is a distinctly Japanese dating sim with a simple rhythm game mixed in, and there really aren't many games like it that are available in the U.S. It's not for everyone's tastes, but the game is charming, and for those interested in the game's concept, it might be worth a look.