Published on November 1st, 2012 | by Cliff Bakehorn III, Contributor
Code of Princess Review
Developer: Agatsuma Entertainment
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: Oct. 9, 2012
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
I have been looking forward to Code of Princess for quite some time. To hell with the stupid title, I was on board with Atlus’s 2D side-scroller/brawler/RPG from the first time I saw it in action.
To say the least, I was very excited when I finally got my pre-owned copy on October 9, and I was hoping to see that all the fuss was worth it. Lo and behold, Code of Princess is an excellent brawler and a solid addition to Atlus’ growing library of high-quality titles.
The combat RPG-lite mechanics are blended very well in Code of Princess. The resulting outcome feels deeper and more involved than most brawlers, with the simple equipment/character progression mechanics providing some extra levels of customization and an added sense of reward.
The basic button combos keep the fighting system pretty simple, while allowing the unique styles and abilities of each character to be performed with the same general commands. For example, each character can carry out different strong/weak attacks using different combinations of directional buttons plus the A/B buttons. I thought this was very reminiscent of Super Smash Bros., especially when you combine the block/evade moves. The system doesn’t completely mimic Smash Bros., but it feels similar enough to make a direct comparison.
Going a bit deeper, I was intrigued by the “Burst” concept and the lock-on system in Code of Princess. The “Burst” attacks consume MP, but greatly increase your overall attack power – it’s a shame that the MP meter seems to drain so quickly, because your character enters a brief period of ass-kicking unlike any other. The lock-on system is simple enough; each character has a weak attack designated to getting a lock on each target, and locked enemies take more damage than the others. Finally, there is a damage multiplier bonus when you knock enemies into each other, so you can potentially cause a massive amount of damage by locking-on to a boss character and launching smaller, weaker foes into it while using the “Burst” ability.
Variety is a major perk in Code of Princess, which features four different characters to use throughout its Story Mode:
- Princess Solange, protector and wielder of the Deluxcalibur
- Ali-Baba, the tricky thief
- Zozo, the morose necromancer
- Allegro, the electric guitar-wielding bard/sage
In general, I really enjoyed the presentation in Code of Princess, from its stunning 2D art style and highly detailed sprites to its plot, music and spoken dialogue. Since I just mentioned the various characters, I’d like to say that the diversity in Princess Solange’s party throughout the adventure leads to a satisfying amount of humor and light-hearted quips from the numerous supporting roles. The plot isn’t terribly compelling, but it serves as more than enough of a motivator to keep you playing through each bite-sized Story Mode quest. The events in the game (in addition to playing through Story Mode with multiple characters) give you more perspective and background for each character, fleshing out the story pretty well overall.
The story mode lasts quite a while, particularly when you consider that it can be completed by four different characters, each with his or her own perspective on the adventure. This is only the tip of the iceberg, as Code of Princess offers additional modes of play to really stretch out the replay value. First, “Free Play” mode is exactly as it sounds – an option that allows you to re-visit any cleared stage from Story Mode, giving you control over any of the playable characters at your disposal. This mode is perfect for “farming” additional XP and gold, as these figures “carry over” to your characters from Story Mode. Next, there are dozens of “Bonus Quests” to play, which reveal more about the story and provide more challenging mobs of foes to battle in each environment.
Finally – and perhaps most importantly – Code of Princess offers one of the most robust multiplayer components of any 3DS game to date. Not only does the game support both Local and Online multiplayer, it boasts both Competitive (Versus) and Cooperative modes for both options. The lag and slowdown in the online multiplayer is a small force to be reckoned with, but overall this issue does little to tarnish the gameplay.
This is where the review takes a different turn. The frame rate in Code of Princess slows down quite a bit when the action gets really hectic on the screen. Unfortunately, this issue is particularly problematic with the 3D effects active in Code of Princess. It’s too bad, because this is truly one of the better-looking 3D games on the system, despite the fact that the visuals are based on 2D designs. Even the concept of jumping between the ‘rails’ of each stage is perfect for the 3D effect. Sadly, playing with stereoscopic visuals makes the slowdown into a game-breaking issue.
The music and spoken dialogue in Code of Princess are actually pretty great, as I mentioned before–however, the sound effects are another matter entirely. Each of the playable characters only seems to have a small number of in-game lines, making the repetitive battle cries get very old, very quickly. Combine this with the generic sword-clashes and combat noises, and you’ve got a game that begs to be muted after just a few minutes.
Finally, I wouldn’t classify this as a ‘major flaw’, but the lack of single-card multiplayer is a tough pill to swallow. This might make me sound pretty spoiled, after all, Code of Princess covers just about every other multiplayer component and feature that you’d hope to see in a 3DS game. Still, single-card play seems like a smart choice for a game like this, where the limited niche appeal may prevent casual gamers from otherwise picking up the game at all. Single-card multiplayer could have easily limited the character selection and levels/equipment of the second player, still allowing them to experience what the game has to offer in a slimmed-down format. Unfortunately, players will need their own copies of the game to enjoy its vast multiplayer features. And that means giving it a shot beyond scoffing at the flowery title.
Of course, “scoffing” at a title like Code of Princess would be foolish, because ultimately this 2D brawler stands out as one of the finest 3DS games of 2012. Atlus has put together a much deeper hack-and-slash experience than you’d expect, offering not only a lengthy story mode filled with bite-sized quests and four playable characters, but extra game modes and extensive multiplayer features to get the most out of the replay value.
If you aren’t a fan of 2D brawlers, Code of Princess may not be the right game for you. However, if you generally enjoy the decidedly-Japanese style of Atlus’ RPGs, or if you got a kick out of games such as Guardian Heroes, Shank, The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai and Castle Crashers, you really shouldn’t be disappointed by this one.
+ Lush environments and highly-detailed sprites are full of color and style.
+ Story Mode is perfect for bite-sized sessions; XP carries over in additional game modes.
+ Controls are easy to pick up; combat is surprisingly deep and full of variety.
+ Some of the most robust online/local multiplayer options on the 3DS.
– Frame rate issues are a major problem, preventing the 3D effect from being enjoyed properly.
– Would have really liked to see single-card multiplayer. Too much to ask?