Every time that I play anime-esque RPG games, I always find myself asking the same question over and over again: Why are they so horny? Banner of the Maid is no different, but this time around the inherent sexuality of the game is wrapped up in a very tightly controlled and interesting historical RPG. The world is full of real people like Napoleon Bonaparte and Marie Antoinette, albeit much more aesthetically pleasing versions of themselves. The strategy elements of the game are fun and exciting, as long as players don't get too distracted by the half-dressed anime girl versions of historical figures.
The story of Banner of the Maid is actually very interesting as it follows an alternate universe version of the French Revolution. Players are put in the shoes of Pauline Bonaparte, the sister of the much more famous Napoleon, who is a commander in the French army. Pauline begins the game very unsure of her military capabilities after her troops took heavy casualties in a recent battle. Despite her doubts, Pauline decides to join up with her brother in defending France and as she works her way up the military hierarchy.
Pauline Bonaparte (Yes THAT Bonaparte)
Over the course of the game, Pauline must team up with other officers in the military while simultaneously making allies in the French aristocracy in order to build up her army and fight against the encroaching armies of rival nations. The story isn't incredibly complicated, but it manages to take real historical situations and inject them with some fantasy elements and changes to history that keep things feeling fresh throughout the whole game. On top of this is is very exciting to see how Pauline grows and changes as Banner of the Maid progresses, and players eventually get to see her become a very competent commander that rivals her brother Napoleon.
It's very interesting to see a woman in such a prominent position in the military during a time period where women weren't giving many rights. That winds up being one of the bigger changes to the timeline, as Pauline will work with many different female soldiers and leaders during the course of the game. Pauline and some of the other woman are what people in this universe refer to as Maids, who have special combat abilities that they can use against their enemies. Pauline, for example, has the ability to inspire her troops and make them stronger against their enemies. These Maids were discovered by the French royal family and were specifically trained and recruited into the military to strike fear into the hearts of their enemies and boost the royal family's popularity with the general public. This increase in popularity is integral to the royal family, as they are trying to keep their heads off the literal chopping block.
Build Trust and Kill Enemy Soldiers
Outside of combat, Pauline spends the majority of her time interacting with other factions in Paris like the Royals or the Citizens. By doing missions for these factions or responding in different ways during conversations, you can build trust with each specific group. This will grant you more options in a faction's shop or give other benefits as they progress through the game. Building up trust with each faction is a great way to get some great items for each character, so it's a good idea to do so as much as possible. These side-missions are where players will interact with figures like Marie Antoinette, who attempts to sway Pauline to the side of the Royals.
Combat encounters are very difficult and require a lot of strategic thinking on the part of players. Once you start a mission, Banner of the Maid switches from an anime style visual novel to an isometric strategy game with pixelated graphics. All actions are turn-based, so players will have to select each character individually to move them around the map and make them attack. Unlike a lot of strategy games, a character can move and attack in the same round which makes combat very fast-paced.
Good Luck Keeping Pauline Alive
Characters all have different classes and abilities. Pauline is line-infantry, which makes her strong against light cavalry units, and she can also fire her weapon from two tiles away. Other characters, like the cannoneer, enable you to attack from further away while sacrificing speed, while the heavy cavalry units can build up more damage by moving more tiles before attacking. Each character class has different strengths and weaknesses that you will need to be aware of before fighting against enemies. This adds another layer of strategy to combat that is exhilarating.
Combat encounters are incredibly difficult on almost all difficultly levels though. If players make a couple of poor choices while fighting, they will most likely wind up losing a member of their team quickly. One of the best ways to avoid getting characters killed is to use the environment to your advantage. One of my favorite aspects of the game is that you can use things like tall grass or campfires to hide your units or heal them up after a particularly difficult fight. These mechanics force you to not only be aware of what abilities your units and enemies have, but also where they are placed in the environment.
Marie Antoinette Showing Off
The only problem I ran into with playing Banner of the Maid is its insistence on sexualizing the female characters in the game. Every time Marie Antoinette appears on the screen, it seems as though she is one wrong move from ripping her dress open. Not that the dress covers much to begin with, as players will see the majority of the famous queen's breasts whenever she appears. While I already find it problematic to unnecessarily sexualize women in video games, the fact that Antoinette was a real person who had no say in the matter feels wrong and creepy.
Despite Banner of the Maid's problems with female sexualization, the game itself is one of the strongest strategy RPGs I have ever played. Every encounter is exciting, and learning how each class works against each other is a fun experience. The storyline is a fresh retelling of a well known time period, so even history buffs will find some surprises here. Banner of the Maid is a must-play for strategy game fans.
TechRaptor reviewed Banner of the Maid on PlayStation 4 using a copy provided by the developer. The game is also available on PC and Nintendo Switch.
- Strong Strategy Gameplay
- Interesting Story
- Fun Trust Building Mechanic
- Overly Sexualized Female Characters
- Can Be Very Difficult