Mahō Shōjo Fancy Coco, a Japanese Princess Maker game with an obscure origin story. – Dank Zine Podcast
Princess Makers are a style of game that appeals to your inner need to make something of yourself through the actions of guiding another. You get all the feelings of failure and rewards of being a parent without the 18 year IRL commitment. For a while, there were many “Princess Maker” style games that popped up in the late 80’s and elements of this genre are now found in many games today.
When most people talk about Princess Maker games, they are of course referring to the most popular game in the series, Princess Maker. Designed and published through the Gainax game department, Princess Maker had a huge effect when it first launched for Japanese computers in the 1980s.
Multiple endings, endless chances of customizing your daughter, tweaks with clothing, items and weapons, along with RPG style quests, Princess Maker games bring a lot of addictive stat building.
But today, we were looking at a different Princess Maker game, and one that is so obscure that it’s relatively unknown in English speaking countries. Mahō Shōjo Fancy Coco is a princess maker style game for the PC-98 in 1996 by the Planning Office WADA. This game also later saw a PS1 release that diverts a bit from its PC-98 counterpart, with a few extra bonus features.
The main goal is to make schedules and train your magical princess Coco. When booting up the game, a quick message pops up that tells you that this game is made in the same style as Princess Maker before a delightful intro splashes in. We see images of Princess Coco, her family, her cat, her boy friend Lyme (who I kept calling Lyme Disease on stream), and a whole cast of fleshed out anime friends who all have that distinct look of being traced from a Sailor Moon colouring book. Suddenly, the intro gets SERIOUS and Coco runs in with a giant anime mech suit and anime fans everywhere perk up with interest, as who doesn’t love magical anime girls who turn into mech?
Okay- let’s go, Coco.
Almost everything you do is limited to a few screens for the first three years you are raising Coco. You have the main Coco’s bedroom where you can check her stats, assign her schedule, and have options to go to town where you can take a vacation to rest, play in the playground, or go to town where people will tell you how much you suck until you start raising your levels, and a carnival that does nothing at all, but you can go on dates with your boy Lyme and make him pay for everything. There is no money, no items to buy, and no quests to go on, just raise Coco.
There are a few ways to train Coco, and most of it is magic training. Besides building your magic stats up, you also need to focus on things such as basic education, working your physical strength, practicing your manners so you don’t come off like an awkward stuffed pig in social situations. All the regular things parents should be helping a child learn are there in the game. The main focus of Coco’s magic training is to collect all the transformation magics, where Coco can magically change into a career woman such as a Japanese Copywritter, a nurse, a crazy obsessed school girl (yes, that is one of them), a diver, a race car driver….. There are well over 50 transformations, depending on which ones and how many you collect will affect your end game.
Every year Coco gets a birthday celebration, and when you raise Coco for 3 years, the game suddenly dives into the story part of the game where Coco now needs to go to the human real world and use her magic to help people. The reason? Because! Coco is a helpful wholesome princess, and you thought all PC-98 games were lewd porn interactive novels.
This part of the game gets interesting because suddenly you are in control of Coco on a town map and you can interact with people and stores. My head popped when I got to this part of the game because I was convinced by someone there would be no questing or many RPG elements (oh how wrong they were about this and many things about Coco). This is also where the transformation magics come into play as you have to transform into different career women to help the people in the town. If you choose the right transformation magic, you get two large hearts on the top bar. Choosing another would lead to smaller or less hearts depending on what magic you chose. For example, I needed to help at a concert hall in the town and I first changed into an Idol Singer. When I saw that only gave me 1 1/2 heart, I reloaded and chose Rock Star and then got the full 2 hearts.
And as soon as the craziness of wandering around pixel town and having strange NPC conversations about exams, rice dishes we like, and who’s the real queen of high school, the game ends. Suddenly. It was rather jerking and a bit of a let down as the ending depends on your score, transformations acquired and how many big hearts you got helping people. And all the endings have Kingy telling you how Coco did and to try again for another ending. Exit to boot screen.
So uh…. where is my magical anime mech girl? You know. The one you played up in that splashy intro when I first loaded up this game 8 hours ago. In fact, where are the rest of our friends they eluded to in the intro? OH SHUCKS, it made a POINT of showing me her crazy looking cat and I looked EVERYWHERE and I couldn’t find it. I go back to my friend who shanghaied me into playing this game and told him straight up the mechs don’t exist. “You’re not looking hard enough!”
So… going back, I boot up the game again. This time, I make more effort to max out all my stats. Coco is going for broke! “The mech must be a magical transformation you get,” my friend says. I buy into this. Why would the intro lie to us? It’s not like when I search for this game any anime or comics come up. In fact, a lot of nothing came up on a basic english search. I bet you all my BEANS this article will reach at least the 1st two top page results once I publish it simply because no one knows. All this crazy lore and world building they allude to would surely not be fabricated for just an intro.
I play with dead eyes, an empty soul, I mash the mouse only to raise Coco. I can do this in 2 hours this way, I keep telling myself. I’m going to raise Coco. Raise her up, empower my child, give her all the best things and tell her how much she matters, and maybe she should try on that mech suit for mommy. Just to see if it fits. Your aunt made it, and she’ll be in pieces if she found out you never wore it.
After unlocking every magical transformation, griding thru to level all my stats to max and streamlining my actions when helping people to get the best score possible, I start feeling anxious. No mechs. Where is the rest of this game?
My first obvious conclusion is that this could maybe be a prototype game where all that world building, mechs and so on are featured in the amazing PS1 port that came out only a few years later. Which means, I had to play Coco for the PS1 and at least find out. I owe it to my illegitimate Magcial Girl Princess Coco.
Mahō Shōjo Fancy Coco FOR PS1!!!
COCO NOW ON PS1- LOOK AT THE FULL ANIMATED INTRO! WOW IT’S SO 90’s AND ANIME! EVEN MORE ATTENTION IS PLAYED TOWARDS THE GIRLS TURNING INTO MECHS AND DRAGONS. YES. NOW DRAGONS. I mean, they had me at mechs but now we have DRAGONS trying to kill the entire planet, it seems. Okay, PS1 Coco. Let’s go.
Why is it that new Coco is a lot like old Coco? Yes, it’s the same game but now with updated cute animations when Coco learns things. However, new Coco has a money element that old Coco didn’t have, and you can spend your allowance on items in town to boost your stats.
Another element that new Coco has over the old Coco is that every year Coco competes in a festival against all her friends. It’s kind of a wack festival, as they only have one game, and it’s a simple number card game that eats your soul the longer to play it. AND OF COURSE you can only get the best ending possible if you win at every mini card game. There is also no way to skip over the repeated voice samples of the kids reactions to a good or bad move dragging these scenes out longer. All the festivals drag on pointlessly, and as you level up, these card games take longer to finish. I’ll tell you straight up that you can skip all these card games, as they don’t amount up to a load of dingo’s kidneys’ to your stats or unlock anything cool like a better game.
I alluded to “getting a better game” because there is something that this game has that makes it the only reason you’d pick this up at all. Hidden in this game are two mini games, a fighter and a shmup stage where you play as Coco fighting enemies. Getting them is tricky, but if you play with dead eyes and a dead heart, you’ll never figure it out. You have to play like you LOVE magical anime princess girls. You have to play like you NEED to spread that message of peace, love, and helping people. You need to encompass everything about being a proper princess, and that’s breaking down and searching Japanese blogs in the wayback machine for ANY kind of guide, hints, or tips.
I did find one. It was a simple review with only two lines of text that said “focus on combat and get Fighter Transformation then go to the shops.” Alright, slightly obscure as heck to not only make it a certain difficult transformation you need to learn, but also to learn it and then visit the shops to trigger it. But bliss was me when I did it and a little mini fighting icon showed up on the main menu. Will I now be a mech and kick the power of love into people’s faces?
I mash the icon and it loads…
… and its glitched. Like straight up missing no Street Fighter Style grossness is flashing my screen and at this point I just grit my teeth and start mashing buttons trying to pull off special moves. Why not? I suffered so much to get this, I’m going to make the best of it.
I reset and load again, but somehow when playing I lost the icon again to go back to the fighting mode. I figure you need to constantly go to the store every turn to keep it unlocked. However, if you finish Coco even without getting the unlockable mini games they are now an option on the Main Menu. You select that and the game glitches. SHUCKS.
Fear sweeps over me. Am I using the wrong emulator core for this game? Where did I get this rom again? Am I the one who’s wrong?
With a low growl, I fetch a new rom, this time not from some crazy person’s cool as ice rom haxzors sites, but instead off archive.org because I’m doing it for the game preservation, baby. We gotta know if mechs are in this thing! We gotta know what the mini games are. The world needs more wholesome girl games that promote good vibes, help people, and look stylish while we do it. I even made a choice to play the game on an entirely different emulator, just to rule out an emulation issue. Put your dank dead eyes on, mom is going hardcore.
I’m now a Coco pro. I feel like I could raise 8 children without losing a tear. If I still smoked, my ashtray would look like a blooming onion garden. I would imagine this is how most Japanese players played games like these in the day – hunkering down and smoking one or two packs of smokes as their stats slowly rise. This is the true vibe of classic PC gaming.
Guess what? Two hours in and doing all the steps to get the mini games equals EXACTLY THE SAME GLITCH. Is it possible NO ONE cares about Fancy Coco that when the only person 10 years ago dumped this, that lonely ROM went unchecked and somehow got shucked up being passed around from torrent to torrent?
So you made it this far into my tale of woe. The mystery of Coco is lost to the ages until a better copy can be uploaded or someone tests out another emulator. We will never know about the world Coco tried to build, the friends we made along the way, or the mechs.
However, I kept searching and found out by chance what Fancy Coco is all about and the answer is fascinating.
Fancy Coco was never an anime or a comic, but was a popular radio drama that appeared on KBS Kyoto with the voice talents of Yuri Shiratori and Nobuyuki Hiyama. The radio drama follows the story of Coco who is a bit insufferable, but has a good heart as she makes friends, plays with her cat, learns magic, and transforms into a giant mech with her friends to save the world from demon dragon turtles.
No really, there even looks like a mech dating element of sorts happens in the radio drama, but after dumping around 48 hours into raising an army of Fancy Coco’s I’m not about to sit through the very expansive CD library including doujin CDs of pirate recordings for the full story. But what is delightful is that there was an answer as to what is this crazy princess maker game and why it has magical anime princess girl mechs in it.
Coco is about growing up and discovering yourself. It’s about what is real and what’s not in this world. Fancy Coco takes you on an epic journey to save the world through love and friendship, and hopefully it’ll be worth it when we get to the ending. The real problem with Fancy Coco is when you assume radical ideas by piecing together fragments of the truth to build on a false narrative. However, if you have integrity and take a closer look and follow educated leads, you will discover all that is true, and the truth is often simple and silly. Fancy Coco taught me this and more.
SHOULD YOU PLAY FANCY COCO?
Sure! If you are a fan of Princess Maker style games, you would enjoy Coco. And if it’s possible to get the PS1 version to work, the mini games are worth your time. However, the biggest reason you play Coco is because legends Ryu Umemoto and Takeaki Watanabe composed all the tracks on the PC-98 release, and every track is a jam.
I give Fancy Coco 5 Radio Dramas out of 20 obscure Japanese search strings.
Hey for those who still need more Coco, my SuperMod Ada ripped the images from the CD so you can at least get an idea of how cool the two mini games are. Enjoy!