Tag Archives: Cinderella



My rating: 5 of 5

You all know the story, right? A young, orphaned noblewoman oppressed by her evil stepmother and stepsisters until her fairy godmother steps in, saves the day, and gives the girl the opportunity to meet Prince Charming. But what if none of it is that simple? What if Cinders’ stepmother and stepsisters are more than just evil oppressors? What if there’s a chance to really be a family? What if there are other people involved, other secrets to uncover? And what if Cinders decides to take matters into her own hands and decide her own fate?

Cinders is such a great visual novel! It takes the classic fairy tale and utterly transforms it in an amazing way. The creators describe it as a “mature” version of the story, and it’s definitely that–but not in the sketchy way that might seem to imply. Rather, it’s mature in the sense that choices have consequences and people are complex individuals. I think the characters are some of the best, most developed ones I’ve ever seen in a visual novel. There are so many different facets of their personalities, and even the unlikable ones (like Cinders’ stepmother) have a depth that is unusual. Cinders herself is a far cry from the typical stereotyped “Cinderella” character–fiery red hair, determined self-confidence, and a witty tongue complement the dreamier side of her character, making her a rich, enjoyable character to role-play. And there is a good deal of role-playing and decision-making involved in this visual novel, with the choices you make significantly influencing the ending you get and what you encounter along the way (although of course, there are numerous set events along the way as well). I found it interesting that the creators put in a small, tasteful indicator in one corner to show the places you could have a different outcome if you chose differently (it popped up a lot). The music and art add a lot to this visual novel as well, with the art being particularly notable. It takes a more western semi-realistic style (as opposed to the anime-styled art of many visual novels), and the work is really quite beautiful. There’s so much attention to detail that I found myself pausing just to stare at the scenes and take it all in–colors, expressions, fashions, even subtle animations on flames and such. For those who enjoy visual novels–or who just enjoy a great retelling–Cinders is an excellent game that I would highly recommend.

Credits: Game & Story by Tom Grochowiak/Art by Gracjana Zielinska/Music by Rob Westwood/Writing by Hubert Sobecki, Agnieszka Mulak, & Ayu Sakata

Note: Cinders is available on Steam, and you can find more information at the official MoaCube website. One play-through took me about 3 hours, and the game definitely has replay value, with at least 4 distinct endings available.



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Author: Donna Jo Napoli

Xing Xing, whose name means stars, was always a precious, shining treasure to her father who loved her companionship and educated her far beyond what most girls in Ming China would ever learn. Upon her father’s death, however, she finds herself an orphan, bound to obey and serve her unkind stepmother and petulant older stepsister. Doing her best under the circumstances (for what other choices does an unmarried girl with an education and unbound feet have?), Xing Xing persists, sensing her dead mother’s spirit watching over her through all the trials she endures. And when it is announced that a local prince will be at the seasonal festival, Xing Xing decides to sneak in to enjoy the festivities–and the free food–never knowing that attending would change her fate forever.

Bound is a fascinating retelling of the classic Cinderella story, setting the tale in Ming China. Napoli sticks to the basic premises of the story as it is found in Chinese traditions, while adding some significant touches of her own, including the decision to place this in the Ming Dynasty. One of the most outstanding of these choices to me, however, is her decision to make Xing Xing a bright, strong, slightly impertinent girl who breaks the molds of subservience, foot binding, arranged marriages, and other things that made the women of her day truly “bound.” In a lot of ways, she chooses to be free, even while her circumstances demand that she not be. It works really well for the story. I also really enjoy Napoli’s general writing style: it has a sparsely poetic feel, each sentence relatively simple, yet the whole a beautiful picture. Bound would be a great story for those who like retellings, stories set in Ming China, or stories with strong female protagonists.

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