At long last, Brittany based indie studio, Träumendes Mädchen released their fairytale inspired visual novel, Chronotopia: Second Skin. The project was crowdfunded on Kickstarter in 2016, but due to various circumstances spent years in development limbo. But, the developer has been working on the game and now it is finally available to play. Chronotopia: Second Skin is a unique rewriting of the Donkeyskin fairytale, a darker variation of Cinderella. Follow Kionna into a painful but ultimately rewarding search for her true self.
- Genre: Fantasy | Amare | Adventure
- Developer & Publisher: Träumendes Mädchen
- Where to Get the Game: itch.io | Steam
- Similar Games: Cinderella Phenomenon | Cinders | Made Marion
Story of Chronotopia: Second Skin
Chronotopia: Second Skin is a dark rewriting of the fairytale Donkeyskin inspired by a wide range of influences including anime like Haibane Renmei and Madoka Magica and games like Steins;Gate and Child of Light. The story is a unique and more mature take on a forgotten fairytale that includes many twists and choices that affect the ending: the princess can either escape with her servant, become a fairy, or die a horrible death. Multiple times. It’s up to you to save…or doom her.
The plan was supposed to be simple, almost ridiculously so.
When her father, driven mad by years of grief, suddenly decided to force her into marrying him, Princess Kionna enlisted the help of her childhood friend. Together, they managed to contact her long-lost fairy godmother. Surely, her powers would save her from this hellish fate. Kionna would be able to escape the castle, a prince charming would find her, and they would live happily ever after.
Alas, magic can only do so much. Things keep spinning out of control. Trapped in an endless nightmare, the princess ceaselessly rewinds time in a race with death itself. Is a happy ending truly waiting for her at the end of the tunnel?Official Game Synopsis
Characters of Chronotopia: Second Skin
Kionna perfectly encapsulates what you would expect from a fairytale princess. Naïve and sheltered, she means to do good but comes across as haughty due to her upbringing.
Unfortunately for Kionna, she cannot rely on others forever. To escape her fate, she will have to learn to fight for herself…
Nahima’s whole world revolves around Kionna. She has been her confidant for as long as she can remember and she is dead set on staying this way.
Deep down, she knows this is impossible but she is not ready to let go. After all, if Kionna truly leaves, she wouldn’t have use for her anymore, would she?
Médeia is not quite the traditional fairy godmother. She makes it abundantly clear she is not interested in becoming Kionna’s magical sidekick. The sooner she helps her, the sooner she can return to the magical realm. And that is all that matters as far as she is concerned.
Or is it? For someone who always appears so unfazed, she seems to care an awful lot…
Chronotopia: Second Skin Review
Fairytales have been around for ages growing and evolving with the ever changing social and cultural norms. While most are familiar with the heavily sanitized Disney versions, where good always triumphs over evil, many of the original folk stories and fairytales have darker origins. Princesses get eaten by ogres, well meaning Princes destroying entire kingdoms, mutilating body parts… gruesome stuff.
Over the years, many modern retellings have strayed away from the Disney-esque versions by attempting to tell more nuanced fairytale inspired stories that tap into the darker elements that are often overlooked (or purposefully omitted). And it is through this that stories like Träumendes Mädchen’s Chronotopia: Second Skin are developed. This latest fairytale inspired game explores the events of Charles Perrault’s little known fairytale, Donkeyskin.
In the story, a young princess, Kianna finds herself the unwitting recipient of her father’s romantic advances after the death of her mother. Not wanting to marry her father, she devises a series of schemes to evade her father’s proposal. She eventually enlists the help of her trusty lady-in-waiting, her fairy godmother, and horrifying pelt of donkeyskin to escape her impending incestuous nuptials. Not an easy story for the Good Ol’ Mouse to sanitize for the kiddos. But through the visual novel medium and with Träumendes Mädchen’s masterful storytelling this tale is given a new life.
Chronotopia strikes an interesting balance. Both paying homage to the original tale and deviating just enough to make this a wholly unique and worthwhile experience. Given the branching narrative structure of visual novels, the developers can explore Perault’s original story in one path and completely shake things up in another and still retain the spirit of the work.
Things like having the story set in medievial times, but having Kionna and many of the key characters of the story be POC. Explaining this inclusion through the characters’ Moorish ancestry, rather than slavery (which as a Black woman, brought me so much joy to see not included).
Even the inclusion of female love interests in this story works to enhance the relationships between the characters. It also offers a different avenue for Kionna other than the usual fairytale outcome of just marrying a prince. Though, for those of you that do want Kionna to get her fairytale happily ever after with her handsome prince you’re in luck. Second Skin has three to choose from—though only one is technically a love interest.
There are even some subtle jabs at traditional fairytale romance tropes in the way of courtly love stories that Kionna reads. And on that note, while romance is a part of Second Skin‘s story, it isn’t the most prominent aspect, rather the game is more about Kionna’s journey from sheltered princess to more worldly young woman. She starts the story very naïve, seemingly helpless in the face of her misfortune, relying not on herself, but rather those around her. But, as the story progresses she comes into her own and her relationships with those around her change as well.
In fact, all of the characters are phenomenal. Nahima is the bestie we all need in our lives! She’s fun, confident and is Kionna’s biggest hype woman. While Médeia embodies the chaotic and at times aloof nature of the fae. She isn’t the grandmotherly godmother we’re used to, Médeia gives off the impression that she doesn’t care one way or another what happens with Kionna, but deep down you know she cares the most. And I won’t say much on the princes, since they are wrapped up in plot, but just know each and every character helps to bring this world to life.
Chronotopia: Second Skin is an experience, incorporating various gameplay styles into the story. There are point-and-click investigations and minigames unique to each path that give players more to do than the usual reading and making choices.
Of course, I would be remiss in not talking a bit about the dual narrative of Chronotopia: Second Skin. Initially the game is split between two separate, but interconnected narratives; that of a wayward spirit in purgatory and that of Princess Kionna from the Donkeyskin fairytale. The dev has confirmed that this story is meant to be a series. In which the purgatory opening is set to tie together each new story into a planned expanded universe. I will admit, not knowing that going in made the disconnect between the opening scenes of the game and the Donkeyskin storyline a bit confusing. But, given the level of world building and thought put into the purgatory scenes, I am curious to see how it plays out in future games.
Is Chronotopia: Second Skin worth playing?
A lot has changed since Träumendes Mädchen first announced their dark fairytale inspired visual novel, Chronotopia: Second Skin. Darker fairytale games have become more common and given that I can see many overlooking this newest release. But, that would be a huge mistake.
Chronotopia: Second Skin is an imaginative and lovingly crafted retelling of a little know fairytale that should be on everyone’s radar. In fact I hope this starts a new wave of more “obscure” fairytale adaptations. I am tired of the Cinderella remakes! Träumendes Mädchen’s retelling is a faithful homage to it’s source material while also setting the stage for the studio’s own unique interpretations. Chronotopia: Second Skin was worth the wait and I can’t WAIT to see what else this team has in store for us in the future!
Thank you to Träumendes Mädchen for providing a copy of Chronotopia: Second Skin for this review.