Girl's RPG Cinderellife is the newest 3DS title from Professor Layton creator Level-5. Marketed as a "girl's RPG", Cinderellife is the story of a plain girl coming to live in the big city for the first time.
Before long, she is working in a Japanese hostess club and dreaming of finding true love amongst her clients. But does Cinderellife hit its mark as a girl's RPG or does it fly straight into a minefield of questionable content?
Good — Want to Date an Anime Character?
By far the best part of Cinderellife is the ability to date famous anime characters in your job as a hostess. From Lupin III to Tuxedo Mask, you have a chance to spend time with each of the 12 cameo characters. Knowing the back stories of these characters makes the conversations with them both fun and interesting — and a true reward to fans of their respective series.
Good — Shop Til You Drop
In keeping with the idea of a "girl's RPG," Cinderellife is filled to the brim with shopping to do in your time off. You can spend your money earned at the hostess club on new hairstyles, clothes, makeup, hats and lots of other little accessories. Each of these alters your on-screen character model as well as your stats. In addition, many Japanese fashion styles are represented: from hip-hop to gothic-lolita. It's really impressive how much work went into all the different appearances your character can have.
Mixed — A Real World Fairytale?
Cinderellife, as the name suggests, is a modern day retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale Cinderella. A normal plain-looking girl meets her fairy godmother (a hostess) who dresses her up in a beautiful gown and sends her to the ball (hostess club) to meet her prince charming (clients). On the surface it seems a pretty good fit for a modernisation of the story. Of course, one question remains: is hostessing really something that should be glamorised in this way? What's presented in this game is hardly anything like life in a real hostess club, but since many people view hostess clubs just this side of strip clubs, even implying that being a hostess is a wonderful, romantic job could be considered in bad taste.
Bad — A Boring Cycle
The actual gameplay of Cinderellife can be more than a bit monotonous. Each night you head to the hostess club and spend time with two or three clients. These pairings are comprised mostly of conversations punctuated with multiple choice questions. If you get the right answer, they will like you more and in turn buy more food and drink — in addition to returning to the club to see you again. This nets you more money that you can spend during the day to get better outfits and/or spend time becoming more beautiful at a day spa. Once you're all rested and made-up, you return to the hostess club and do it again. Other than the short snippets of the overarching story, that is all the game is. Host and shop, host and shop, over and over again.
Bad — Aimed At Kids
Despite its age 15+ CERO rating, several features in Cinderellife imply that it is a game designed to be played by young girls. Given that the setting is a Japanese hostess club, this is more than a questionable choice as all other games that feature hostess clubs are clearly directed at an adult audience. While it's fine for adults to interact with any fantasy they wish, a little girl growing up to believe that an industry full of sexual harassment is actually "romantic" is more than a little problematic, to say the least.
Worrisome setting and moral issues aside, Girl's RPG Cinderellife is a pretty-looking game if a boring one. The overarching story isn't very interesting, nor are the original characters — and the gameplay cycle gets very old, very fast. However, if you are a girl who enjoys Japanese fashion and the anime cameos interest you, there may be enough of a game here for you to enjoy.
Girl's RPG Cinderellife was released in Japan on March 8, 2012, for the Nintendo 3DS. There is currently no word on an international release.