System(s): PC, Android and iOS
Release Date: December 16, 2014
Publisher (Developer): Woodsy Studios (Woodsy Studios)
ESRB Rating: “Mature” for strong language
Visual novels are all about the story, right? Well, I’ve never seen such an elaborate story as the one told Serafina’s Crown. It’s the official sequel to a game called Serafina’s Saga, but there is so much more behind it than that. The series spans multiple forms of media, and it’s obvious that the creator has put a lot of thought into this universe. The characters are living in a fantasy world unlike our own, and yet it feels real. Who knows, maybe the kingdom of Darzia really does exist in an alternate universe!
When I volunteered to review Serafina’s Crown, I didn’t know anything about Serafina’s Saga, or the lore behind the series. Therefore, there were definitely times that I was confused. There is so much that has already happened in this universe, and it can feel a little intimidating at times. I almost felt like an unwanted trespasser in this fantastical realm, at first. However, I eventuallu came to the conclusion that Serafina’s Crown was a fine introduction to this world, and it piqued my interest to learn more.
The Grand Traitor novella is the start of Serafina’s story. Her mother (Queen Nadia) scorns a suitor, Arken Jeridar. Later, a mysterious stranger appears with a key they claim opens a room in Castle Krondolee that hasn’t been open for centuries. Arken schemes to get the key for himself and win the queen’s love in the process. Things don’t go the way he planned, and eventually he takes Serafina and raises her in the jungle. This is where the Serafina’s Saga animation comes in. This shows more of Serafina’s life in the jungle, and the events that lead to the game Serafina’s Saga. After that, of course, comes Serafina’s Crown.
Serafina’s Crown takes place seven years after Serafina’s Saga. The current queen of Darzia passes away, and a court of nobles is called to Castle Krondolee to choose a new monarch. Moments after the court decides who the new king or queen should be, it is revealed that the previous queen’s death had some suspicious circumstances. The decision is immediately called off, Odell Perin is proclaimed crown regent, and the murder investigation begins. A new king or queen cannot be chosen until the murderer is found, or at least until all of the accused are cleared of suspicions. While Odell is the main character in Serafina’s Crown, Serafina herself is still present as a potential candidate for the crown.
Whew, that was a lot of information to absorb, I’m sure, but it really helps to have to the whole story. I didn’t know anything when I went into Serafina’s Crown, but the intensity and expansiveness of the story dragged me in. And now I’m seriously considering playing Serafina’s Saga and reading some of the books to learn more about this world.
Odell wears a special necklace called the Divinity Dial. It strengthens her connection to four wild gods. These gods are worshiped by the houses that the four candidates for the crown belong to. For example, House Jeridar is aligned with the god of greed, Mallion. Whenever Odell makes a choice, it lends strength to whichever house is behind it. This all sounded confusing at the beginning of the game, and definitely made me consider my choices in a different way. When I normally play visual novel games I go for the choice that I agree with the most. However, in Serafina’s Crown there are immediate repercussions to which person you stand behind, so I made some choices that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
The main reason for that is because of the mini-game in Serafina’s Crown. When conducting court, Odell argues different issues with the other members. She has to decide who to side with, and then the mini-game ensues. A circle appears that looks much like a clock. The numbers one through 12 are shown, but not all are available. You have to choose a number, and your decision depends on whether high or low wins the round. If high numbers win, you’ll want to choose one that you think will be higher than your opponent. However, your numbers are only shuffled when you run out of choices or every other round (so are your adversary’s). While you might be picking high numbers one round, your opponent could choose to do high numbers again the next round. They could leave you in the dust because they’ll have all new high numbers while you’ll only have your low numbers.
This concept is pretty original, but incredibly confusing at first, and it takes some time to get a solid strategy down. I came to the conclusion that I was going to lose some debates at first since I didn’t know what I was doing. But then I realized that supporting one house over and over really comes in handy… When I supported Serafina through enough choices, I gained an ability that helped me immensely during the minigame, as it allowed me to reshuffle my numbers at any time. After I had gained a few of these different abilities, the debates became much easier, and I was really able to come up with a strategy that worked for me.
There was a reasonable balance between story, regular choices, and debate mini-games in Serafina’s Crown, so it definitely didn’t feel like I was doing the same thing over and over again. It was entertaining, but felt like a tiny part of a big world. I wanted to know more about all these little details I was hearing about so briefly. Serafina’s Crown hooked me enough that I’m going to go back and play it again. However, I really think it would have benefited from being a longer game. It really only focused on one event, the aftermath of the queen’s death. Granted, not all games have to provide 30+ hours of gameplay, but I think the expansiveness of Serafina’s story would be better undertaken with a longer game.
Serafina’s Crown is more than the typical visual novel game. It’s steeped in lore from an expansive world that reveals its history in many media forms. On its own, it felt like a tiny part of this bigger world and probably would have been more satisfying if it included more than one main event. The inclusion of a unique mini-game gave some relief, but it was confusing at first and took a while to get the hang of. Also, the mini-game affected my choices dramatically and made it harder for me to choose honestly. Serafina’s Crown is a great addition to a fantastic world, but it doesn’t stand up very well on its own.
A review copy was provided for this review.