The 3DS isn’t bursting out the seams with original content. Take away the first party support, the console ports, and you’ve got very little left to check out at retail. Thankfully, Code of Princess is set to turn your 3DS into a whimpering piece of plastic, fearing for the next button mashing stage. Needlessly to say, Agatsuma Entertainment’s grind-heavy side-scrolling RPG beat-‘em-up makes you wonder how durable your “A” and “B” buttons are.
The story in Code of Princess is customary to many other RPGs we’ve seen before. The Fate of the world/kingdom is under siege, and it’s up to a ragtag group of travelers to make things right by destroying an ancient evil and restore peace. You know, you’ve heard it all before. The leader of this band of heroes is the princess of DeLuxia, Solange Blanchefleur de Lux, carrying the monolithic royal sword of “DeLuxcaliber.” Monsters and rival armies attack the princess and her acquaintances for the sacred sword. The rest isn’t pertinent to know, however, a couple of twists and turns in the storyline later and you should be done in over 15 hours. Just remember, it’s a very small world.
In Code of Princess’ campaign, you control four diverse characters of personality and play style. Solange has heavy, wide physical strikes that are generally slow, but mop up well. Ali, the nimble and gruff thief with her quick short sword is able pull off close range stabs and bomb tosses. Zozo, the immortal necromancer made up of different body parts relies on her long range magical spells. Then, my personal favorite, Allegro the elfish bard (also sage), wields an ear piercing electric guitar (lute) puncturing the area around him. Not only was it entertaining to defeat enemies with the power of Rock, but Allegro continued to cracking wise with puns and breaking the fourth wall throughout the story. He’s just one of the many in Code of Princess that contrasts the heavy “saving the world” story with oafish levity and silly antics.
Every character in Code of Princess plays the same, but doesn’t. Confused? Good. They all have a template of light, heavy, block, target, and blind actions. With the D-pad and a light/heavy attack, you perform special moves that can emit a projectile, a proximity hit, a throw, evade or a toss-up. Unlike fighting games, they’re all easy to pull off and satisfying in action. A move list is placed on the bottom screen of the 3DS for reference on the current character in use. Targeting an enemy, is a strong attack that marks an enemy (conveniently picking the toughest from a group) and deals double the damage with the circle mark beneath the enemy. Blind uses much of your MP (Magic Points) to stunlock surrounding attackers long enough to escape or fight with double damage (you can stack targeting with this!).
Simply heading straight to the campaign will get you nowhere: the tutorial is there to give basic guidance of mechanical systems within the game to keep you from playing for two hours without knowing what “Blind” and “Target” do in your selection screen. With that said, the leveling system and items are menacing upon first impression. After a level up, you allocate the amount of points given toward typical attributes (Physical, Magic Defense, Damage, and Max Health/Magic) and overall speed (movement/striking). Equipment you assign to your character are items that increase/decrease attributes for elemental absorbency or to trade off certain skills. Finishing a quest gives you XP, equipment, and gold to spend in Marco Neko’s “Empurrium” equipment shop (it will make sense), where you can buy eight of his wares at a time, accompanying this, is his adorably catchy acappella shop theme.
Every map in Code of Princess has static and generic backgrounds (forest, cemetery, town, etc.) and three lanes to fight and shift between, adding another challenge to scuffing with monsters and armored foes. Whereas focusing on only two directions you have adversaries awaiting you in the other lanes ready to hop on right next to you. You’ll be able to evade unblockable projectiles, crowding, and ready up for the next sparing between these lanes. That being said, the furthest lane in the back shouldn’t be fought on: things are already pretty chaotic in the game, so being further away from the screen makes it that hard for you to figure out what’s going on.
Combat is Code of Princess’s best asset. Starting out with Solange, the distastefully revealing and annoyingly innocent princess, wielding her sword deals a sizable “subtraction” to the opposition’s health. Each skyward and downward attack of hers on throngs of foes was immensely fun. Each hit with any character, shoving or throwing groups to the floor or sky hardly wears thin, you sense the power of the swing. Code of Princess requires you to juggle and spam repetitive combos, which to say is easily pulled off, but they never make the game simplified when baddies are ready to counter and flank your attacks. As your playable character count grows early on, you’ll be perplexed on who better suits your style better, or which fighting style suits the mission. Either way, you’ll be constantly leveling up between the four campaign heroes and the four supplemental characters for bonus/free play quests.
The 2-dimensional look of Code of Princess is beautiful. Animations and the nostalgic sprites are something you need to see in motion; there’s so much polish and so many visually striking moments that these pictures that I’m including in the review just don’t do the game’s graphics justice. We’ve experimented with the 3D slider and it’s quite a nice experience with the three lanes showing the depth of the game. However, 3D becomes quickly irritating once frantic combat of the game comes into play.
As we here at Front Towards Gamer covered before with Code of Princess earlier this year, the soundtrack is included with a pre-order/new purchase. The eight song sampler is included with the game, giving you fantastic music like Ali’s battle theme and main theme “Turn it Up”.
A fear with a lot of lesser known games with great multiplayer is the apprehension of lack of players. Sadly, Code of Princess falls victim to this currnent disease of multiplayer games as it was difficult to find matches to play against others. The Co-op and three versus modes are great, but they’re all useless if you can’t find others to play with. Co-op isn’t needed to fully enjoy Code of Princess, but you definitely feel like you’re a part of a group in it, as opposed to going solo in every mission with no AI characters following you. Additionally, the lack of drop-in-drop-out style multiplayer doesn’t help at all, obviously widening the gap for player interaction further. The free play and ranked versus mode have potential, for they pit 2-4 players against each other with every NPC and enemy in Code of Princess playable, while Ultimate versus puts your own upgraded characters to the test against other folks’ versions. It’s truly a disappointment when great game modes like these are gathering cobwebs because I can’t find anyone to play with.
Code of Princess will become a forgotten gem and cult classic, remembered as one of those rare greats on a Nintendo system that doesn’t involve an Italian plumber in any way; a standalone update on sprite-based beat-em-up role-playing games that’s as fun upon first pickup to the time it takes you to reach each character’s level cap. Out now for the 3DS for $39.99, Code of Princess is one non-Nintendo game to have in your collection.