Code of Princess
Action Role-Playing Game
October 9th, 2012
In the same vein as Guardian Heroes for the Dreamcast, Agatsuma Entertainment bring their RPG/Brawler mash up Code of Princess to the Nintendo 3DS. The game boasts multiple multiplayer modes, a single player campaign and 50 playable characters, but does it have the strength to muscle its way into your 3DS library?
Humans and monsters have always inhabited the world of Code of Princess. Recently however, the monsters have been growing in number and wreaking havoc on the world of man. The small kingdom of DeLuxia is the latest to be overrun by the roving monsters. Entrusted with the heirloom sword, DeLuxcalibur, Princess Solange Blanchefluer de Lux is told by her father to flee the land. Though the neighboring kingdom of Distron is said to be combating the threat of the monsters, DeLuxia still falls. Committed to helping the tormented people of her kingdom she vows to do anything she can to end the monster threat.
Along the way she meets Ali Baba, a talented thief, Lady Zozo, a non-zombie necromancer, Allegro, a "Sage" and bard with a knack for self preservation, Master T, a master of animal fighting styles, Tsukikage, master of the galaxy blade style, Sister Hel, righteous head of an orphanage, and an Egyptian feline accountant named Marco Neko. Together this odd group will discover the source of the resurgence of monsters and find out what the Distron army and their Queen Distiny true intentions are.
The story in Code of Princess is pretty laughable. It’s there, and time was spent on it, but it's cliché at best, and full of holes at worst. So many increasingly important facts are thrown at you out of left field, leaving you to wonder if the team at Agatsuma even expected people to pay attention. Even the characters are painfully clichéd, such as the scantily clad yet pious princess, the thief with the heart of gold, the soft spoken samurai looking for love, and the strong silent bruiser with a soft spot for cure animals. Yup you've seen everything here before but what makes this pill easier to swallow is that the game never takes itself too seriously. The characters and situations are tongue-in-cheek 4th-wall-breaking comedy gold at times. So if you were looking for some kind of deep introspective tale of epic proportions you won't find it here. If you don't mind humor in your Action-RPG/Brawler then you won't have any problems here.
You'll take notice of Code of Princess right away. Even the game box's artwork is a bit of an eye catcher, despite the conveniently placed logo. Yes, keeping in line with designs such as Queen's Blade, Code of Princess has a very detailed anime style that leaves much of the female form... erm... "unhindered". Yeah, we'll go with that. Complimenting this style, the game even features fully animated anime scenes. These are beautiful and animated wonderfully but my only complaint is that they are not in 3D. This is disappointing because anyone who watched any of the Kid Icarus Uprising shorts on Nintendo Video knows the potential for animation in 3D is gorgeous.
One you get into the game itself the character models are fully rendered in 3D. The animators did a great job adding a very natural fluidity to the animation for all the characters. There is even a certain amount of... ahem... "gravitational effects" on the female characters like Solange. Let's call it Dead or Alive physics. In any case it seems as if few characters were passed over at all and even minor enemies look and move impressively. The environments are pretty diverse and are detailed as well, though they are rarely unexpected. You'll have your bustling kingdoms, country roads, dank dungeons, etc. and normally I would make a point to call out any lack of imagination, but quite frankly these are done well enough to turn a blind eye. Certain objects in even work into the gameplay by being obstacles that force you onto one of the three "tracks" in the game. What the heck does that mean? We'll I'll get to that later.
Overall, design, animation, and environment all work together to give a pretty spectacular looking game. I'd say this is graphically one of the best on the system, with Kingdom Hearts being one of the few that beats it.
If nothing else the soundtrack to Code of Princess is pretty varied. The songs don't fit into any one overall theme. In addition to the various battle themes, each character seems to have their own theme as well. Solange's is an upbeat poppy little number that matches her personality. Other theme's like Queen Distiny's are entirely different, sounding like something from a Danny Elfman score. They are all unique and sound good in the game. The game itself even comes with mini soundtrack with eight songs from the game. The CD really helps you appreciate the songs on their own accord rather than as background music.
Infinitely praiseworthy however is the voice acting in this game. Performances by just about every character is great, even those of lesser importance. Veteran voice actors can be heard voicing characters and each of them has been given some great lines to work with, even if the plot of this game isn't the best work of storytelling known to man. The game will have you in stitches at times, and not just when you are playing Lady Zozo!
Side-scrolling brawler meets RPG is the best was to describe Code of Princess. Story mode has four characters to choose from, each with a different style of attacking though each has similar button inputs. Princess Solange Blanchefluer de Lux carries the DeLuxcalibur and quite frankly knows how to use it. One could say she is the most balanced of the four, with hard hitting attacks and decent combos her only drawback her single ranged move makes attacking from close up a necessity. Ali Baba is the "thief class" being fast with good combo potential, distance closing moves, and even bombs. Lady Zozo is a heavy magic user who relies a lot on her MP but can deal damage to multiple foes, but severely lacks the same melee combo potential as the others. She even has an AoE move that petrifies enemies which is niiiiiice~. Allegro Nantabile Cantabile is the spoony elf bard and self appointed sage of the group. His move set is by far the most interesting of the four main characters, with a great mix of offensive, defensive, long range, and short range attacks. He even has a song that will increase your attack. Nifty!
Each mission is selectable from a list so going back to certain missions to farm EXP or items is easy. As you progress and level up you can customize your character's stats to meet your play style, or to take advantage of that character's moves. Equipment furthers your stat customizations with weapons, shields, headgear, hand gear, and accessories. None of these change the appearance of your character but do wonders for your ability to take down foes. Some equipment even has secondary effects such as increasing your damage to boss type foes, or higher level foes in general. Between missions you can also visit Marco Neko's shop after a certain point in the story and "purrrruse" his ever changing selection of items.
Battle itself is rather well done, you have three "rails" to fight on, a foreground, middle ground, and background. Switching is easy, holding the block button and pressing up or down on the d-pad will do it. Making use of certain strategies, such as pulling foes to you if you are outnumbered, or attacking a large group of foes, will really help you. You can also go so far as to combo regular attacks and special moves to each other making for some pretty fun combat. You also have a Burst attack that will stun enemies in short proximity to you, and allow you to deal extra damage to them as your MP gauge rapidly depletes. A "lock-on" button also exists, performing a single attack that will allow you to see the locked-on enemy’s health gauge while also increasing your damage done to it. Any projectiles you use will home in on your target as well, regardless of which rail they're on, which is a nice bonus.
Unfortunately there is always some bad news. As stand up as the game is, it does suffer from frame rate drops, even in the single player offline campaign. It's pretty evident the game runs at 30 frames-per-second which really hurts the action when you have hordes of foes on screen. Thankfully the slowdown was never the death of me in single player, but online lag and framerate issues usually make for a dangerous cocktail online.
How long is this game? Not all that long if all you are aiming for is a story playthrough. There are 30 so odd missions (I actually think it's 29 but who's counting?) and each will run you anywhere from 30 seconds to eight minutes. I managed to knock out the story in about six hours which isn't bad given the fact this game has more to it than just that.
Not one to disappoint, Code of Princess has great ways to keep you playing long after the story is finished. You can play through the story again (or any specific mission of your choosing) as Solange, Zozo, Ali, or Allegro for additional experience and gold/treasure. There are entirely new challenges based on many of these levels by selecting Bonus Quest. These can be played offline, but an entirely different set is also available for online co-op. Any of these bonus missions can be completed with the 46 additional usable characters. Any of the main story's missions can also be played online in a 2-player co-op mode. Those seeking to be the best can use their custom characters to face off against others in 2-, 3-, or even 4-player brawls for fun or rank. The only thing not impressive about this game's online connectivity is the lag you can sometimes experience. The first two 4-player online co-op games I played had some forgivable lag, but a more recent match I played in actually had me on a frozen screen for a minute until all of my team mates dropped. Thankfully Co-op and versus is available for local connections as well, and hopefully feature less lag.
When it comes to the ease of playing online, Code of Princess gets it right... kind of. Unlike Mario Kart, where you can jump into a friend’s game via the friend list, you can't quite do that here. You can ensure you play games with friends though by creating a lobby with a password. This way, you and whoever you want to play with can avoid public lobby snafus, but at the cost of having to use an outside method of communication to let friends know your password. The ability to join in games is a wonderful feature the 3DS allows for; I just wish more developers would use it.
Ironically enough, there is an in-game achievement system. After unlocking several by playing online, I was baffled as I could not seem to figure out where to view them. Oops! Not a deal breaker by any means, but if you include achievements, it would be nice to be given the ability to see what to aim for, or at least review your previous achievements. Otherwise achievements just seem kind of silly.
Overall Code of Princess is a really fun game with many reasons to consider it a worthy addition to your 3DS collection. It is a competent brawler with great character diversity and multiplayer options. The mechanics make more a far more interactive experience than most brawlers, ensuring you won’t be simply mashing "A" to win. The RPG elements in this game let you enhance each character in their own unique way to further compliment how you play, without being overly complicated. The frame rate drops are certainly a problem, which in turn can make the multiplayer frustrating in large games, but the game's undeniable charm helps make up for it. The varied multiplayer modes both on and offline are also a great addition to the game and help make the short story mode feel like the tip of the iceberg. So if you are the kind of person looking for a good brawler with charm and... errr, volume you will want to give Code of Princess a try. Oh, and can we all stop calling Lady Zozo a zombie!?