Princess Crown
Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

Vanillaware is famous for titles such as Odin Sphere, 13 Sentinels, Grim Grimoire, Dragon's Crown Muramasa: The Demon Blade, but the company's origins actually pre-date its foundation (as Puraguru) in 2002.

Founder George Kamitani previously worked for companies such as Capcom, creating pixel artwork for titles such as Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom, Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara and Muscle Bomber / Saturday Night Slam Masters. His first game as a director was 1997's Princess Crown, a side-scrolling 2D action RPG that shares many similarities with Vanillaware's work (in fact, Dragon's Crown is considered a successor of sorts).

The game began life at a company Kamitani had joined after leaving Capcom, which then went bankrupt/ Sega stepped in, also involving Atlus in development. Sadly, Princess Crown was a commercial flop, and it led to Atlus' Kansai studio being shuttered and the reputation of both Kamitani and his team being diminished. Thankfully, Kamitani would eventually establish his own studio, which has gone from strength to strength in the subsequent years; its latest effort, Unicorn Overlord, launches next year on Switch, PS4, PS5 and Xbox Series S/X.

Despite all of this, Princess Crown remains a focal title in the history of both Kamitani and Vanillaware, despite the fact that it never got a Western release back in the day (the subsequent PSP re-release was also exclusive to Japan).

While it contains a lot of Japanese text, it is possible to play the game to completion without understanding any of it, thanks to the fact that key conversations with NPCs contain coloured text, denoting progress. Even so, a full English localisation for Princess Crown has been something Vanillaware (and Saturn) fans have been keen to see for quite some time – which is why, back in 2013, there was much excitement when RomHacking member Cyber Warrior X announced that they were undertaking the project.

The announcement was met with a wave of gushing replies, with many pointing out that they had been waiting years to play the game in English. Obviously, a project of this size would take time, but people took encouragement when in 2016 (with the RomHacking forum post now nine pages long) Cyber Warrior X posted to say that "we're getting to the point where a real release is getting closer."

Then, in 2017, Cyber Warrior X posted:

Just wanted to let you know we're not dead and the project is still alive. Personally I've been swamped since last fall with my father passing away. He unfortunately was a hoarder and the whole process has taken a life of it's own. So I've had to put aside all personal projects I've been working on until it's resolved. I wasn't anticipating it to take this long but hopefully I'll have more time soon.

In 2018, he said that "work has been slow lately but we're getting closer to the end." Then, in 2019, he reconfirmed that he hadn't forgotten about the project, even going as far as to say that it would be finished within two months.

By 2021, many forum members were voicing concern at the lack of updates. SamIAm, who has been working alongside Cyber Warrior X on the epic translation workload, posted: "It's definitely not dead. It's just been stuck as a low priority for a while, with the usual real-life curveballs making it difficult to get around to it. I still think about it often, and I'd like to see it finished, if that counts for anything."

The final post from Cyber Warrior X was submitted last year, which appeared to reference reports online claiming the translation had been abandoned:

Sorry for the radio silence on my end. Just to clarify so it doesn't get wings the story seems to originate from NeoGAF where it seems they misunderstood an earlier post dealing with the aftermath of my father's passing from a few years ago as a current affair. GitHub project was an old build that I haven't updated in a long time since I've been using a private repository for a while now. So I decided there was no real point in keeping it up. The current hold up is basically trying to juggle working on this with my work life.

However, there's been nothing since then, and a RomHacking moderator locked the thread in March of this year to prevent it from becoming a flood of people asking for updates.

So, is the Princess Crown translation really dead? We'd certainly hope not; it's one of the best Saturn games of all time, so we'd love the chance to finally experience it in English. It's also worth noting that nobody should be getting angry over a fan translation being abandoned or failing to meet a deadline, regardless of the level of expectation – the people who undertake this arduous work do it for the love of the game, and, more often than not, receive no financial reward for years of effort.

Hopefully, the decade of work done by Cyber Warrior X and SamIAm might help pave the way for a future run at this particular project – or the pair may even return to the venture in the fullness of time. For now, though, if you want to experience this absolute gem of a game, then you'll have to soldier through the Japanese version.