If Indiana Jones took place in London and involved pirates, that would be Mia and the Dragon Princess. You join Mia, a bartender who runs into Marshanda who is hiding from the police. What initially looks like another day of helping the homeless quickly turns deadly in a few hours. Mia must learn what Marshanda’s true goal, before more people die.
The FMV looks great and it’s filled with action sequences that you wouldn’t expect in a visual novel. A branching storyline provides several endings, some of which provide different expositions based on the events.
However, the game does guilt trip you for some choices, and it’s not always clear how you unlock scenes. There’s also not much character-building, making it hard to get attached to the cast. The result is a decent story, but it feels lacking after a few playthroughs.
Mia and the Dragon Princess is currently on PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 & 5, Xbox One, Xbox O|S, and Android for USD 12.99.
Story – A Woman Out of Time
The story starts with a prologue where you are introduced to Marshanda running away from some men. You then focus on Mia, who is dealing with some annoying bartender chores when she meets Marshanda. After Mia tries to help Marshanda, the story kicks off when Marshanda tries exploring the bar. Her pursuers catch up and start threatening everyone. The resulting story explores history, compassion, and old pirate secrets.
Mia and the Dragon Princess has FMV scenes similar to Ten Dates, with animation used when discussing historical scenes. There’s a lot of fighting in the story, which is choreographed well. It almost feels like you are watching a movie where you have actual input.
One of the biggest strengths of the story is its branching paths. Depending on the choices Mia makes, the story can take vastly different directions that investigate different aspects. There are several good and bad endings, along with the best ending. Fortunately, it’s difficult to lock yourself out of the bad ending, because the game subtly encourages you towards it.
On one hand, it’s nice to know the game encourages a certain type of behaviour that gets you the best ending. On the other hand, it’s a double edged sword as it feels like the other paths aren’t as great.
Direction – Not the Best Idea
It’s obvious when you start the game that going along with Marshanda’s desires is crucial. But even before the story starts, there is guilt tripping about choosing answers that make Mia exhibit negative behaviours. If you pick a choice that the story doesn’t encourage, characters will often tell you that you should have done something else.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with being nudged towards the correct behaviour, but it does make you wonder why it’s included. Part of the fun of branching stories is wondering if you made the right decision. Having the game outright tell you that you didn’t make the right choice feels unnecessary.
Fortunately, none of the “bad” decisions have any lasting consequences. If Mia is being a jerk to someone, they will seemingly forgive her by the next instance. It’s almost as if the cast knows Mia’s going through a tough time and that’s why she’s acting weird. As nice as it is, it does lead to a weakness in the story: character development.
Character Development – Not Enough
It’s not hard to tell that Mia is a kindhearted person who does what she thinks is right. That’s about as much character development as you get, which is hard to be attached to Mia or anyone else. While other characters may get some exposition about their background, it’s barely touched upon.
Getting invested in the characters is hard and some key moments don’t have as much of an impact. While the game only covers the events of a single day, it’s difficult to care about what happens to people. Marshanda is probably one of the easiest characters to relate to because she had exposition. Even that isn’t enough to relate to some of her actions in the game.
This also means it is hard to understand character motivations. It’s a key point for the story, but you really only understand Marshanda’s. Everyone else has motivations and actions that don’t match up. For example, the villain is ruthless, but there really is no reason for it other than dramatic purposes. As far as you know, a peaceful solution did exist, but they didn’t take it for reasons beyond your understanding.
Plot – Feels Rushed
On the surface, Mia and the Dragon Princess looks like a story of what someone would do if they found a helpless woman. It’s similar to Loretta in that it’s a story about someone in a unique circumstance and seeing where it goes. After the first playthrough, the story is decent and you want to see more.
It’s only after going through the routes that you start seeing instances of the story not making sense. Going back to the villain’s ruthlessness, you find out Mia’s bar probably couldn’t stay open for long. The owner has been resisting buyout attempts because his father said not to sell. But he doesn’t know why and given the circumstances, it’s a good deal. Not selling leads to the events in the game, but subplots like those aren’t given enough time to develop.
Some instances have Mia escape with Marshanda only to go back into danger. Why this happens is never explained, especially because both of them would be safe. Even if you assume Mia goes back because she sees running is wrong, her reactions upon returning don’t make sense.
If the story took more time to flesh itself out, it would have been able to improve on several fronts. Otherwise it’s a decent story but one that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny after a few playthroughs.
Gameplay – Choose Your Own Adventure?
Mia and the Dragon Princess is a branching story, with different paths as you choose different options. Most of the choices do lead to new scenes, which you must watch in full. As mentioned earlier, you are railroaded towards a certain series of events that must happen for the story to work.
It does take some fun out of the story because it does feel like only a few choices actually matter. Those also happen towards the end of the game, which doesn’t give you that much control. The fun of branching stories relies on seeing very different outcomes depending on your choices. Seeing most options lead to the same outcome cuts into the variety.
That doesn’t mean the game must investigate every outcome, but if your choices don’t matter much, it doesn’t help the story. Thankfully, any bad ending can easily be reversed and scenes you have seen before can be skipped. This helps speed up future playthroughs as you try to get all the outcomes.
Unfortunately, the game does not differentiate between identical scenes that happen due to different choices. While it does this to avoid players skipping vital scenes, it is frustrating for future runs because you know what will happen.
Audio & Visuals – Good Action Choreography
There’s little to criticise for the visuals since you can’t get more realistic than human life. But one thing Mia and the Dragon Princess does well is the action choreography. There are more action sequences than one would expect in an FMV, and it is seamless. It feels like you are watching an action movie, even when amateur fighters participate.
The acting is also done well, even if you don’t understand the motivations. Each character acts exactly how regular people would in that scenario (even the villain). The emotional range and depth is accurate, and even other languages are done properly.
Mia and the Dragon Princess was previewed on Steam with a code provided by HomerunPR.