I always feel bad when someone talks about how a title is a spiritual successor to a beloved classic, when I do not know much of anything about the original title. Sure, I played the demo of Guardian Heroes, but I found it to be a bit too slow for a beat-em-up. However, I still preordered it. Why? Because Atlus is the kind of company who would rather understock than overstock, and it was $30 now, or $50 later. And it came with a CD and neat box, so that at least supplies the cushion. Yet, as someone who has little experience with anything like Code of Princess, what do I think of it? Well, let’s just say I’m a bit torn on the subject.
Code of Princess Review
Release Date: 09/10/2012
Developer: Agatsuma Entertainment
Before I begin, I realized that I forgot to mention multiplayer upon my proofreading, mostly because I forgot about the feature. So, yeah, I’m reviewing this as something I got for $30 and is solely single player, okay? Moving on now!
Taking place in medieval fantasy kingdom #85,973, monsters suddenly start attacking people after centuries of peace, with some great ancient evil controlling all of them via an even more ancient artifact. Nothing is really new, yet we all can forgive samey plots. Yet, while the story is basic, focusing on a team of mismatched adventurers. Ranging from a princess who is nearly naked and has jiggle physics up the bum, a thief who literally locked her breasts up, a soul possessing a bunch of corpse parts, which I think still classifies her as a zombie, despite her insistence otherwise, and a wise cracking bard, sorry, I mean sage.
However, this is one of my favorite narratives to come from a game where it could be good without a good narrative, and for one reason, it is wonderfully written. I made it clear that while I can appreciate a serious story, I always like something that makes me laugh, which this game did in 75% of its one to three minute cutscenes. The story is aware of things being cliche, mention exp and stats, and know this fantasy rigeromole like the back of their hands. Yet, what really seals the deal is this game’s voice work. Every line is delivered about as well as they could be, and they definitely got some grade A voice actors together.
Although, I have issues with the actual plot. The game follows a series of level based set of scenarios with our heroes exploring the countryside and trying to figure out their next course of action. With plot cutscenes shoved in to provide more of a framing device than anything for some levels, and others being worth replaying solely for the dialog made by the boss or playable characters. However, the group of heroes eventually decide to destroy all magic in the world in order to get rid of the monsters. Say people needed to destroy all electronics in the world in order to stop robots, most of which are made of tin, from attacking people who are only dealing with them due to one guy. Sure, you would be happy about it for the first few days, but if you live with technology as much as we do today, you’d be pretty depressed if you lost all of it, everyone would!
They do make the idea plausible later on, with one of my favorite moral choices in games, because they are both equally valid choices. Even though, the weighing of pros and cons when the subject first comes up gives me the impression that the writer was just stumped. Which is surprising when you consider the very cool plot twist they used near the end, even though it makes me wish the game’s story for all of the seven main characters were just as developed. Seriously, where’d the space samurai come from? Or does he just like astronomy? It might be bonus content, and I just missed it, but I already logged in enough time to delay this review once, and I’m not going to do it again.
Moving to the gameplay, I came to a bit of a problem with reviewing this title. I do not have much experience with the type of combo focused enemy juggling and staggering brawler, or really this entire genre. Then I realized that those 200 hours of Smash Brothers was enough experience, seeing as there are really just two attack buttons with their variations being moving them in different directions that never get more complex than a hadoken. You see, this game does not have a very good tutorial, in fact it is pretty bad. I had a lot of difficulty with figuring out how exactly I was intended to play the game for my first couple of hours, where I just pressed buttons while following a list of combos the game displays at the bottom screen, with no indication of what they do.
I’m still not sure what the thief’s whistle is suppose to do, and did not know that I was suppose to juggle baddies by doing a teleporting dash move until I saw the gameplay in the credits. There are only seven main characters, they could at least tell me how they work, rather than just giving me the group and trying to figure out whether or not they are balanced on my own time. Yes, experimentation is important, but a tutorial where I watch the game play itself, is not a good tutorial
The game has six visible and alterable stats that can be changed as you level up form completing and replaying the game’s story based or side levels, along with finding or buying equipment from a pharaoh cat. I kept my stats flat across all the board, even though speed seemingly did nothing, and some characters still had way higher attack than others. The Nun’s mace heavy attack where you just press one button while not moving the D-pad, was able to kill a giant robot in two hits, while it took the scantily clad Princess a good thirty, while dealing double damage. I would not mind that as much, except for how the Nun lacks any real disadvantages other than her awful running speed, which just eats up time when going from group of baddies to group of baddies.
And don’t even get me started with the bard, who, if you just press one button, does and area effect move that hits both sides, stagers them, and does not even consume any of his magic power. And what is the monk suppose to do? Most of his moves are just pushing back enemies, dealing minor damage while having a pretty limited range when he is not performing his attack that is a mix between a Hadoken and a Kamehameha.
Onto a more positive note, I like the system where there are either three or five 2D planes you can fight on, with some attacks going across the screen to enemies that were either up of the character or below them. It addresses one of my biggest problem with most beat-em-ups, where it can be hard to get one the same plane as your foes. Even if there are times when enemies forget you exist id you leave the plane, causing them to get confused, which always makes me smirk a tad. I am also a fan of the damage multiplication system they utilized. By pressing Y, you do a move that locks onto an enemy, displaying their HP and letting you do double damage, with the only downside being how it often is not a very useful move otherwise, so you must be strategic about it. At the same time, pressing X uses up your ever replenishing magic meter, which also fills up as you inflict or block damage, to stun the enemy for a second, and doubling your attack power with a depletion rate that also seems to vary for every character.
I really do like the system, because it can really get you out a of a pinch when you learn that pressing X to enter the double damage mode, you can replenish your health that has lost its defense. Let me explain, as you deal damage or take it, health bars start to become both green and red, when the green is gone, their defense is crap, and they go down very easily. Or at least I think that is what happens. Although, I do not like how powerful the guard is, because it pretty much allowed me to max out the main seven character’s levels if I just navigate menus. About the fourth or fifth final level is a scenario where you do not need to kill enemies, the only one I can think of in the entire game, where you get about one level’s worth of experience everytime you beat it, even if you do it ten times in a row. How do I survive, I placed some tape of the left shoulder button, and my guard rarely ever broke, and went back to blocking after the character automatically got up. I gained 20 levels for all seven, with the stage and menus taking up about 2 minutes each time, all because I wanted to do some optional levels where you needed to deal damage faster.
Now, that’s a pretty big flaw, and I would mark the game down for that, but after beating the final boss, I unlocked about 40 characters to play as, the enemies I have been fighting for most of the game, even the slimes and exploding chickens could be theoretically leveld up to the point where they could fight the final boss and win. They provided a reason why the monk and samurai could not equip the normal armor, because most of them could just equip a sword that raised their defense by 15, and not a trinket more.
And most of them can not block like the main seven, so they need to be strategic throughout. I am so grateful that they let me play as a little girl who fights ghosts that fire electro-balls, that I am hesitant to complain about anything. That, and I think the game is still a blast to play through. Which is surprising when you consider how combat is the best kind of mess. With my favorite moments being where I hit some dudes, they explode, their explosion causes other guys to explode, which causes the original guys to explode, which causes the second wave to explode, which causes me to join the pile of explosions.
I played through nearly every normal quest with all of the seven main character, and I still had a blast, with the notion of playing as every single model in the game just making me all the more tempted to try and spend 100 hours on it. Except that I have over 200 games on my “To Play” list, so I just cut it off about two hours after I properly beat it. Yeah, you think you have a big backlog, I have made it a goal to review nearly every game I own! Yeah, most people are getting fat off of games, I’m getting to the 400 pound level of obesity from trying to go after every good one I can find. What was I talking about? Right, the gameplay. As a whole it is very flawed, but it manages to remain enjoyable if not a little repetitive after I went through my 25 hour run with it, even though you could still beat it in less than five, if you just focus on one of the four characters who are playable in the story mode, excluding the last three due to… Reasons?
Sifting into the audio, as previously stated the voices are great right down to the oft repeated clips during gameplay, even though I would have liked to hear the Japanese voices just to compare. The sound effects are very satisfying and all carry the proper weight of hitting a creature. While the music ranges from the a-bit-too-loud title screen music, to the fierce and booming battle music of the gameplay where it really does help you feel like a badass, even when fighting a living tree for five minutes straight. Even though I heard the normal battle theme at least 150 times, I’m still not sick of it.
At the same time, the visuals are nice, assuming you do not look too closely at them. I have stated that I prefer 2D images over 3D models for most 2D games, and if it gives me smooth animation and a ton of characters, I am willing to compromise, yet the game still looks very rough. The actual models for the characters are devoid of faces during combat, with only their really cool looking visual designs separating them, which is fine due to how they have portraits from the waist up in the cutscenes, but something just feels off. The animations are actually pretty jerky when you look really closely, and there is some kind of filter over most of the game, causing the models to not look very sharp when you are shoving the 3DS up to your face to see them.
Even then, the game seems to be trying to look 2D while using the models, through a process I can’t really describe beyond cel shading of some sort, and when I analyze it, the game actually looks pretty subpar. But that is only when I am focusing on the quality of the visuals up close. When you are just comfortably holding your 3DS away from you, which is about 25 cm for me, it is actually a bit hard to notice the models’ shortcomings unless you are looking very closely at it. Also, the backgrounds still use sprites, making me really think they wanted to do sprites early on, yet production costs, time, universal animations, all that jazz.
In a rainbow colored shoebox, I do really enjoy Code of Princess. Great and funny dialog all around, frantic gameplay, and a ton of content to explore, but I still have a number of issues with it. While I love the mechanics in the gameplay, the characters and stats can feel unbalanced, the visuals are blurry when you look closely at them, and the actual plot’s outline seems like it was made during a lunch break, with the personality being added afterwards. There are indeed issues, but I can overlook them due to how much simple fun can be had from the title. Besides, I only really noticed them when I looked closely enough.
An impressive product, won’t always astound due to a fair number of flaws, but is very enjoyable and worth a purchase.
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