Sometimes life is rough. Maybe you have far too many bills to pay with far too little money in your bank account. Perhaps you’ve gotten so far behind on household chores that you can no longer tell whether the mountain of dishes in the sink or the towering heap of dirty laundry in your room is higher. Or it might have simply been a struggle at work this week. Regardless, something has put you in a bad mood, and you feel just a teensy bit evil today as you settle in to play a game at home. You want to snark at somebody that really has it coming. You want to participate in sinister plots. You might even want to burn everything to the ground because Randy cut your hours again for next week even though you really can’t afford it which means another week of potatoes for dinner and if you think about that for too long you’re either going to smash a window or break down crying. Some part of you desperately wants to assert control over your life, in the most diabolical way possible.
If this sounds familiar, Wanted: Dragon is the visual novel for you.
Wanted follows a week in the life of ex-Princess Chrysandra, a young woman who’s currently in the middle of a temporary banishment from her kingdom. The exact reasons are never explicitly stated (other than the fact that she’s challenged her older sister Magnolia for the right to the throne following their mother’s death), but one can safely assume that it probably has something to due with Chrysandra’s poisoning of her sibling’s tea. Both her sister and father would be quite happy to welcome Chrysandra back home, provided that she publicly gives up on her challenge for the throne and willingly participates in Magnolia’s coronation. Never one to do anything by halves, Chrysandra has not only refused this offer but has gone to a castle that serves as a prison for rogue dragons with the intention of recruiting one to help her crash the celebration and take the throne for herself.
Chrysandra is an absolute terror, and I love her for it. Our protagonist is not some doe-eyed optimist trying to regain control of a kingdom from a wicked tyrant; quite the opposite, in fact. Chrysandra resents her sister for being favored thanks to her age and warm personality, and believes the kingdom will fall into incompetent hands if Magnolia takes the throne. Magnolia has kind words and grand balls; Chrysandra, by contrast, already has a fully-developed spy network. Chrysandra is unflinchingly pragmatic in her quest, clearly dividing people into categories of minions, allies, and everyone else as she puts her schemes into practice. There is no internal conflict or hesitation in any of her actions; she has a goal in mind that dictates her life choices, and views everyone around her in terms of how helpful they can be in reaching that goal.
This pragmatism and self-surety give her an admirable level of confidence that bleeds into her relationships with the three romanceable characters in the castle. She immediately disdains the sincere goody two-shoes wizard guardian Merlonius, whom she constantly refers to as Moronius, because he offers nothing useful to her plotting. She simultaneously acknowledges that the two dragons of the castle are the powerhouses she needs to take back her kingdom and yet spends most of the story labeling them as minions or pawns in her master plan. At one point a dragon threatens to hold her hostage with him in the castle, and she bluntly informs him that he’ll need to completely renovate her rooms and fetch her a completely new wardrobe if he has any hope of that plan working in the long-term. In most of the romantic routes, the endings involve the castle’s inhabitants becoming co-conspirators or worthwhile underlings, rather than some bland hero who sweeps her off her feet. She is in control from start to finish.
Visual novels are inundated with female protagonists that are portrayed as strong and capable characters only until a man comes along and turns their world upside-down. Wanted:Dragon gleefully inverts this trope by having Chrysandra initiate the major changes for all the other characters around her, and do it with gusto. Maybe she takes the throne. Maybe she ends up having to fend for herself and her partner in the forest when he’s injured. Maybe she turns into a dragon and flies off to see what other lands are out there waiting to be conquered. She’s clever, forceful, and is one of the better written female leads I’ve read in a visual novel recently.
Despite her willingness to dismiss people who have no use to her, Chrysandra’s behavior rarely devolves into outright cruelty. Regardless of how you go about regaining her throne, Magnolia is never killed on any route. Rather, she tends to be shuffled off to somewhere away from the castle (like the University) and their father fades into the background. Chrysandra clearly has mixed feelings about her kin, but not true hate. One can’t help but wonder if some part of her actually wanted the poisoning to fail. Yes, some endings are a bit more gruesome than others, but you actively have to work to make Chrysandra harm anyone outside of her typical subterfuge. She doesn’t want to destroy everything; her focus is on making her kingdom stronger, and if you’re willing to help her with that goal, she’ll gladly take you along for the ride.
Wanted: Dragon is available for free to download off lemmasoft.