haruko's Code of Princess (Nintendo 3DS) review

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  • 12 out of 14 Giant Bomb users found it helpful.
  • haruko has written a total of 2 reviews. The last one was for BioShock: Infinite
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An unfulfilled potential for greatness

Atlus's latest US release Code of Princess has an unfulfilled potential for greatness marred by technical issues, a shallow plot, and erratic character designs but, through it all it manages to show that the beat em' up RPG sub-genre is still alive and well.

A spiritual successor to Treasures' classic Guardian Heroes, Code of Princess blends classic side-scrolling beat-em-up action with RPG leveling mechanics and loot with moderate success. The game follows standard JRPG conventions of having the titular "Code of Princess"(Yes, she is referred to as such), being thrust into a world in the balance struggle where she must awaken the power within her magical sword the "DeLuxcalibur" in order to vanquish the invading armies of monsters and enemy troops, along the way gathering allies and thwarting evil wherever it's found. What the plot lacks in originality it more than makes up for in humor and character design (main character aside). With dozens of characters to unlock and play as, featuring different and fun movesets, fully voiced dialog, and some truly great character designs Code of Princess actually reminds me more of the Suikoden series more than Guardian Heroes.

The character design in Code of Princess is in a word astounding, the myriad of interesting characters from a battle nun, ninja masters, a necromancer who uses a sentient skull as a ventriloquist dummy, and a bard who inexplicably uses a lute/keytar as an electric guitar. The characters are well thought out and cleverly designed, everyone that is except our heroine Princess Solange Blanchefleur de Lux who is wearing what can best be described as pasties a thong and plate gauntlets. Her outfit which is described in game as "A royal gown" is probably the worst case of fanservice I've seen in a long time. Which is made all the more strange by the fact that no one else in the game either acknowledges this, other than a few throwaway lines from thugs, or wears anything else resembling it.

The heart of any beat-em-up is its combat which is fluid, fast, and fun. Having 2 main attack buttons for combos, a lock on attack that increases damage of the last enemy hit, and a charge button to unleash more powerful attacks that can be combined with the lock on attack to increase your damage output 4-fold, all while keeping a "3 plane system" to give players and enemies the foreground and background to fight in as well as the central fighting plane. The ability to dodge roll and block round out your characters' arsenal of moves with which to dispatch your foes. The soundtrack to the game is nothing to sneeze at, it closely resembles arcade beat-em-ups of days past, and the first run of the game does come with the soundtrack and an artbook featuring character art of 12 of the games characters. All of this would be well and good if major technical issues didn't hold the game back, even when playing with 3D mode off I was unable to break what looked to be 20 frames per second even with one enemy on screens and neither of us attacking. Though in its defense turning the 3D on all the way didn't hurt the framerate noticeably.

In the end (technical issues aside) Code of Princess had a lot of potential but it just that potential, it fails to live up to the legacy of Guardian Heroes and fails to carve out its own identity. The true saving graces for this game are it's well thought out and executed combat, truly great character design for the most part, and its truly wicked sense of humor though in the end it isn't enough to make anyone overlook both its technical issues, bland plot, and fanservicey nature. It's worth playing through at least once if only for the humor as it at times has made me laugh just as hard as something like Saints Row the Third or Sam & Max.

8 Comments
Posted by Eribuster

It's a shame that the frame rate doesn't hold up. I noticed it when trailers were coming out for the game and I hoped for it to be addressed in the finished game.

Posted by medacris

The only thing I would have added are screenshots (if possible), examples of the writing (non-spoilery funny bits), and an explanation of what Guardian Heroes is like, if someone hasn't played it yet. Otherwise, very well-written review.

Posted by MankMachinery

What if it was called Technical Princess?

Posted by Genjai

This sounds TERRIBLE!!! ...and incredibly intriguing at the same time. Sounds like it's definitely worth a playthrough in a good "B-movie" sense.

Posted by BurgerTrench

The technical issues are annoying, but not game breaking. The frame rate is very noticeable throughout and results in a much slower paced game than Guardian Heroes, but it is something you adapt to. But I can say, having finished it, I had the game crash to the 3DS home screen on one occasion Something I've never had happen in a 3DS game before. It was especially annoying given I was about 10 minutes into a particularly hard bonus quest.

Sometimes though, when scaled out, due to the small screen, it's hard to tell where your character is facing which can result in some in-game mistakes. But given the chaos going on, this is rarely a real issue. Just keep spamming down+down+A and stuff will blow up. Not exactly a game that really rewards a lot of precision.

Other things worth noting:

  • There are 8 playable characters that you unlock through the course of story mode. 4 of which are playable IN story mode, the full 8 can be used in the bonus quests (which are also unlockable through story mode). There are alternate colors for all characters, but no alternate costumes.
  • The game features full co-op throughout both online and local. However, after about 6 attempts, I was unable to find an online game to join. I'd be happy to setup a time/lobby to try it out with someone to see what it's like.
  • The main game does err on the easy side. As far as I can see there is only one difficulty level. However, the optional bonus quests mentioned earlier can be pretty challenging (and long). There is at least one bonus quest you unlock for every story quest you complete, some have multiple bonus quests. This is meant for "end game" sort of play.
  • There is an item system in this game featuring 5 different equip slots. However, many items have the same name as others with slightly different or improved stats. It's never really explained when you're buying items with the same name that you're actually getting a different item. The shop system is also quite odd in that regard; you're never clear if you're buying something you already have.
  • There is a full on arena mode a la Guardian Heroes where up to 4 players can select from ANY character in the game that you've defeated previously. This goes from the lowly soldiers all the way up to the last boss. This mode isn't meant to be balanced at all, and can be a blast.

I'm pretty positive on this game, on the whole. While it doesn't live up to Guardian Heroes high standard, it's still a very welcome addition to the genre. Would love to see a Vita version where it doesn't have to suffer from hardware constraints.

Posted by shishkebab09

I agree with a lot of this review, but there's no mention of the 4-player online co-op, which I think huge for a handheld RPG. The only real issue I have with this game so far is the slowdown when ANYTHING happens.

Posted by Haruko

@shishkebab09: Having been unable to convince any of my friends to plunk down the $40 for this I felt unqualified to review that portion of the game so.

Edited by Warpchy

Now should I get this on sale?

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