Code of Princess 3DS Japanese Version Review
Code of Princess is a modern brawler that's notable for being a semi-sequel to Guardian Heroes which was one of the most popular games for the Sega Saturn and was also recently ported to Xbox Live Arcade. Perhaps the reason that Code of Princess is so similar to Guardian Heroes is that supposedly the developer Agatsuma Entertainment is made up of former employees of Treasure who of course made the original game. Fans of Guardian Heroes will be pleased with the similarities between the two games combat system, level up style, and the return of the famous three plane battlefield. Oddly however dialogue choices and branching paths in the story are mostly absent from Code of Princess. Regardless the game is still fun even if it has trouble differentiating itself from its predecessor.
First let me point out I will buy the game again when it's released in North America, which will supposedly be October 9th. However until then this review is based entirely on the Japanese version of the game which was released back in April, and I am just now getting around to finally reviewing it.
Since I don't read or speak Japanese my assumption of the game's story and characters could be completely off base, so keep that in mind while reading. The kingdom is under siege by an evil witch who wants to steal the Imperial stone embedded in the hilt of the sword the main character and title Princess Solange wields. I'm not really sure what the name of the sword is, but it might be called Deluxe Excalibur, because they say that a lot in cutscenes. They also often say that it's "My Destiny" all the time, regardless of the situation. Seriously they must say "My Destiny" at least 30 times throughout the game. The Imperial Stone also seems to be the subject of much conversation. Oddly they only mentioned the Code of Princess on three occasions that I've noticed, which makes me wonder why the game isn't called: "My Princess Destiny: The Deluxe Excalibur and the Imperial Stone " Anyway the main blonde Princess whose name is Solange takes the sword and goes on a quest to put a end to the turmoil of the land. Almost immediately after starting her journey she meets up with Ali a black haired rogue who carries a scimitar sword and joins her. Eventually they come upon a graveyard and meet Zozo a necromancer with blues skin and pink hair and she oddly agrees to help them, despite her evil appearance. Later in a tavern they meet Allegro who wears a green outfit with a pointed hat. Allegro is a minstrel with a electric guitar that sound waves from for some reason actually damage enemies. Together the four of them are the main playable characters in the game. There is also four other characters that I haven't figured out how to play as yet. Sister Hilda is a Nun with a giant mace and shield that runs an orphanage. Mr. T [Yes that's actually his name.] is a tall pugilist that wears a strange leather mask and travels with a Shogun warrior. Mr. T also seems to mention UMA 48 a lot for some reason. There's also a strange blue talking cat that wears an Egyptian pharaoh headdress that I think is called Fang. Fang seems antagonistic to the group, yet also runs a store that sells them weapons and armor. There are also some weird villains in the game like a dagger throwing magician, a witch that carries around a large toy bunny or a little girl with a giant elephant skeleton thing coming out of her back. It seems like a lot of characters in the game are possessed by someone else, like a demon, it's hard to say since I didn't completely understand story. The plot of the game seems to fairly entertaining, and can sometimes be pretty funny. My only objection really is that the cut scenes can go on for a while, often as long as 10 minutes, and although they can be sped up by pressing A, I haven't found a way to completely skip them, which would be useful when replaying stages in order to level up.
At the start of single player campaign you can only play as Solange, but you'll unlock the other three characters by the end of the fifth stage. The game is a brawler so the goal of every stage is to simply beat up every enemy on the screen. Occasionally you'll have to walk to the right or there'll be waves of enemies that you must defeat in order to face a boss, and some stages will just start with a boss fight right off the bat.
One of the best things about the game is that each character's attacks and play style are wildly different from one another, and because of this you'll probably want to try out each character so you can better decide which one suits you the best.
The game has three attack buttons. Every character's primary attack is the B button. The A button does a finishing move that usually has a lot of knockback. The Y button is usually also a knockback move that does less damage, but also causes you to lock on to a target, which is useful with projectile attacks. The X button triggers your magic. Using magic will make your character do more damage and refill red areas other health bar back to green. Starting a combo in the game is pretty easy and chaining attacks together is very satisfying. It's particularly fun to jump up in the air and continuously swooped down to strike enemies and then propel yourself back into the sky repeatedly. My one objection to the controls is that you have to press up in order to jump, and double tap left or right in order to dash, which might not sound like much of a big deal, but it causes a lot of problems with the circle pad, to the point where I recommend exclusively playing the game with the directional pad instead. I also always prefer it when t jumping is mapped to a face button like A for example as I find it's much more precise and responsive.
Much like Guardian Heroes the battlefield is split three different planes, or tracks that you can move along. As a character moves to farther back planes due to perspectives the character will appear smaller. The main reason for splitting the battlefield is to fit more characters on screen at once and there are sometimes as much as 40. Another advantage of the system is that Dodge or run away from enemy attacks by quickly switching what plane or track your character is on. A good strategy is to jump away to another track and then immediately attack an enemy who tries to follow you and get the jump on them.
There are a fairly diverse menagerie of enemies in the game. My favorite are the evil trees that are wonderfully animated. The trees have skinny arm like branches that slaps characters and move frail about as they run in a very spastic and humorous way. Other enemies include evil knights, robotic knights, robots, ogres, skeletons, ghosts, fiends, donkey men, wasps, dragons, dragon men, and green slime.
The backdrop of levels in the game seems pretty diverse at first, but later on you'll realize that you visit most areas two or three times during the campaign, such as the Forest, Castle, Courtyard or the town. However some places only appear in one stage like the tavern or the bluff. It's not too much of a problem the first time you played a game, but it definitely hurts the replay value, and I wish there was more variety.
At first the game doesn't seem that hard, but enemies will take a lot of hits to kill. Then once the wasps show up in groups with their really cheap electricity ball attacks you'll notice that the margin for error gets a lot smaller, and you could die pretty easily if you're not careful. The first magician boss is the games first difficult hump, as he's really cheap with teleporting and throwing knives, but if you beat him then you shouldn't have any more problems until the halfway point in the game. Then there are two bosses that do a lot of damage, but are pretty easy to hit. If you get past that, then it should be smooth sailing up until you reach the graveyard boss, who is really cheap with unblockable attacks and does tremendous damage, plus he only appears after you beat four waves of enemies so you'll probably be really low on health by the time you finally get to face him. If you could somehow managed to beat him, then you shouldn't have any more problems until you reach a final four stages in the game.
One of the big problems I have with the game is that it pretty much forces you to go out of your way to grind your characters and level them up in a precise way in order to beat the game. You can get seriously screwed over if you don't level up the right stats early on, and make the game much harder. For example enemies love to abuse magic attacks and use them constantly, to the point where they actually run out of mana, yet still keep doing the attack even though nothing happens, out of spite for the player. Leveling up your vitality or defense stats will have no effect against magic attacks. Instead you should increase your magic skill, which will also increase your defense against enemy magic attacks, and makes the second half of the game a hell of a lot easier. Basically by the time you get to the graveyard boss you should have defense and magic skills at 50 in order to survive. You should split the rest of your skill points between attack and vitality and get them as high as possible. The game is pretty short and is only about four hours to beat with one character, but it take as much as an additional two hours of leveling in order to high enough stats get past some of the more difficult stages later in the game.
I recommend over leveling your characters in the game since enemies are often really unfair and cheap with their attacks, and totally gang up on you. Examples of cheap attacks include electricity balls that stun you for so long that you can't move out of the way of the next one and the cycle repeats. Beam attacks that enemies use when you run up to them that knock you back to the other side of the screen, and take off a huge segment of your health. Then when you try to hit them again, they'll throw another beam attack at you. There's a area effect attack that covers two planes in the battlefield, and if you get caught in it you'll be turned to stone and have to mash buttons to escape. You could try jumping to escape being turned to stone, but your jump doesn't last long enough unless you're able to bounce off a enemy, and it doesn't matter when you jump, multiple monsters will often cast the spell at the same time or consecutively. What I really hate though is that every time you kill an enemy they'll drop something. For example; a item chest, a leaf to refill your health, a crystal to refill your mana, but 90% of the time they'll just drop a bomb at the exact spot where their body was. The bomb explodes a few seconds later, but if you run into it, it explodes instantly and it's really hard to avoid since by even swinging your weapon you'll move forward a little bit and hit the bomb. Toward the end of the game there is a stage where you have to fight about seven robotic knights that have high defense and at least 40 donkey men. Donkey man love to constantly throw bombs, so much so that one time when I was playing as Solange they juggled me in the air for three solid minutes with a constant barrage of explosives until I died. what gets me is I was level 61 at the time and I had 40 defense and the max vitality of 10, 000 health, It's insane. As they say the best defense is a good offence, and as I always say the only way to counter cheapness is with further cheapness. So I find the best strategy to deal with all the unfair attacks is to max out your attack stat. Then figure out what your cheapest, safest, most spamable move is and use it over and over again. One tactic I love is a using a knockback move on a group of enemies against a invisible wall, so they'll bounce off the wall, and into another one of my knockback attacks, and I just repeat the process until they're all dead. It's cheap, but effective.
A minor problems with the game is that the ratio of gameplay of cutscenes is really unbalanced. It seems like every stage will start with a 5 to 10 minute cut scene, then you'll actually play the game for two to four minutes and then there will be another 10 minute cut scene to end the stage, which is pretty absurd. To make matters worse it doesn't seem like you can skip cutscenes either, which makes replaying stages to try to level up your characters even more tedious than it already is.
The graphics in the game are bright and colorful, and the stages look really good. Character designs are certainly one of the game's strong suits. Character portraits during cut scenes are quite striking, and I really like that they change their expression depending on the dialogue. Most of the enemies designs look really cool as well, though some are a bit hit or miss like the green slime isn't very interesting for example. The character models in the game look good at first glance, but I noticed some distortion during movement. I think that the character models might be prerendered 2D sprite images of actual 3D character models, that are a little bit too compressed. However if the character models are done in real time then this is by far the most graphically impressive game that I've played for the 3DS. When I first started playing the game, I thought that the frame rate was horrible, since it seemed like there was a massive delay for all my movements. Then I later realized it was just because the main character Solange is incredibly slow, and everyone else moves at a normal speed, so it wasn't the frame rate at all. However the game does freeze for a second when a new group of enemies loads during a stage sometimes.
Music in the game is spectacular. I really love the different characters themes, especially when Fang the cat appears during the story and when you enter his shop. It's so good that I actually want to put the system down and start dancing. Voice acting in the game seems like it is of a very high quality as well. The performances certainly sound really good, especially Fang the Cat who has a particularly cool voice but I can't understand anyone since I don't speak Japanese.
Code of Princess is a really fun game with very satisfying combat and great enemies to pummel. The character designs are really nice, the graphics are good, and the soundtrack is amazing. My main problem with the game is that it's too short since it's only about four hours long to beat with one character, but it's dragged out by forcing you to level up your characters for another few hours on order to be able to withstand the unrelenting and overpowered attacks from later enemies in the game. I think I would be more satisfied with the game if it were about three times as long as it currently is or if there was a more epic story, or crazier levels. As it stands Code of Princess is a really good brawler, but unfortunately doesn't live up to the greatness of Guardian Heroes and becoming a classic game that you play over and over again. Fans of the genre should check Code of Princess out, but I don't think that the game will be worth it to most people, so I give it a 7/10.
In this bonus feature I'll examine the strengths and weaknesses of each of the playable characters in the game.
Solange carries a giant sword similar to Gutstu from Berserk. She even swings it the same way he does. I don't understand why she wears knight's armor on her hands and feet, but not on the rest of her body, particularly her torso which is where you would most want to be protected from getting stabbed. Solange does decent damage but doesn't hold a candle to Zozo or Allegro. Solange is best used for taking on large groups of enemies since her sword's long range and knockback moves make her great at crowd control. Her main disadvantage is that she moves incredibly slow by default, and even if you increase her speed a lot she'll still be the slowest character. Her slow speed also makes her recovery time from getting attacked much longer leaving her susceptible to being infinite combod by enemies.
Ali carries a scimitar sword. Ali is the fastest character in the game, but is by far the least versatile. She only has one main attack where she slashes her sword. She can also throw bombs, which is pretty useful early on, but later in the game they don't do much damage and are pretty ineffective, especially because of the wide arc that she throws them in. The range of her attacks is pretty bad, especially for her running attack which makes it really difficult to tag an enemy that's trying to run away. What makes matters worse is that she does pitiful damage as well. So you'll have trouble getting a combo going, and even if you do it won't have much of an effect at all. That's why I think she's probably the worst character to play as.
Zozo carries a magic wand with a Ram's Skull at the top that she uses to cast spells. It sort of looks like Skeletor's havoc staff. Since she's a magic user, unlike the other characters you don't really have to focus on leveling up her attack skill, or even defense stats that much, since if you're playing her right you should only be attacking enemies from a distance anyway. Zozo is really versatile since you can actually use every magic attack in the game. Beam and poison attacks are good but I find magic that you can chain like the rolling fire attack or the electricity ball work much better at taking out tougher enemies and large groups. Her forward B attack is probably the best since it locks in on enemies and does a decent amount of damage to them. Zozo is too dependent on magic, and if a enemy curses her such as a wasp or a ghost and she loses all of her mana, you're kinda screwed. Especially since whacking people with her staff does hardly any damage and has pitiful range. Another problem is that it takes her a while to start attacking, so an enemy has an opening to get close to you. Also if a monster is too close to you when you cast a spell it will miss them completely. She also doesn't have that great of defense. Due to being a ranged character Zozo is actually the easiest character play through the game as without going out of your way to level her up. In fact I beat the game with her when she was only level 48, whereas I couldn't beat the game with all the other characters until they were at least level 70.
Allegro carries a electric guitar and somehow makes it a effective weapon. I must also point out that she is the most androgynous looking of all the characters in the game. She moves quickly, but has slow recovery times for her attacks, which makes them unsafe if you miss. Her best attack is simply standing still and mashing the B button to jam out and surround her with a circular sound wave that is very easy to combo. Her forward running attack, as well as her downward attacks are very effective as well. However her aerial butt bounce move and kick dance while playing the guitar moves are almost completely useless. Allegro is probably the best character in the game, since she does absurd damage with her guitar attacks, to the point where she can actually kill bosses with one combo, and basic enemies with one hit when maxed out. The downside to using Allegro is that she has no defense and to make matters worse very little health as well. So the strategy is to kill everything quickly enough so that they don't have time to hit you, since if they do you'll die in one or two hits. You can make her less fragile though through excessive leveling however.