|Title: Code of Princess
Publisher: Atlus USA
Developer: Agatsuma Entertainment
Release Date: October 9, 2012
Every once in a while, a game is released in Japan from seemingly out of nowhere. Most gamers overseas pour over the artwork and screenshots with hopelessly tearful eyes, knowing in their hearts that there is no way that the game will be released outside of Japan. Such was the case with Code of Princess, developed by Agatsuma Entertainment. That is, until ATLUS USA stepped in as savior and picked up publishing rights in North America. (Agatsuma is currently seeking a publisher in the European market).
The kingdom of DeLuxia is under attack, and it is up to scantily clad princess Solange to take up the mantle and save her homeland. Across the course of the main campaign, Code of Princess features a lot of standard RPG story cliché. This is done intentionally, as the game deliberately plays up its roots and is incredibly self-aware with its sense of humor. The dialogue is a bit hokey at some points, but again, the game realizes this and pokes fun at itself at many points. Part of the game’s appeal is the sense of humor that it has for the RPG genre. However, the real meat of Code of Princess is the battle system.
On the surface, Code of Princess is a beat-‘em-up that takes place on multiple planes. You simply mash away until your objective is cleared, whether that be defeating every enemy on the screen, defeating a boss, or protecting a villager while fending off enemies for a set amount of time. Dig a little deeper, and the game reveals a strategy-heavy campaign. Locking-on to your targets will allow you to do up to twice the damage and range attacks will follow the target, even if they move onto a different plane. There are a number of combo attacks within the game’s simple weak/strong attack set combined with different directional inputs.
The game starts you off in the shoes (and little else) of Princess Solange, and as the story progresses, your party grows and you have a wider variety of members to select. You only select one character for each mission, and only that character receives experience. There are a total of 52 characters that are playable, but only a handful are available for use in the main campaign. The only way to level up the other characters is to take them into Free Play mode.
My one and only complaint with this system is that you must level up each character individually. I spent the entirety of my campaign leveling up Solange for this review, and then I picked out a few interesting characters to start leveling up for online play.
Arguably my favorite part of Code of Princess is the online mode. You can play both cooperatively and competitively, both online and locally, and with my experience so far, matches have been as smooth as butter. Finding a low-level partner is not always easy for newcomers, so your best bet is to play through a chunk of the single-player campaign before tackling the internet. The co-op challenges are different than the single player mode, making for even more variety. When you get four players of a similar level into a competitive match, it feels incredibly similar to the Super Smash Bros. series from Nintendo, albeit with a life gauge rather than ring-outs.
In addition to all these other modes, the game presents an extra single player Bonus mode, with levels that feature much more difficult objectives and enemies, and rather than the typical three planes, there may be many more planes to bounce back and forth on.
Code of Princess was developed by Agatsuma Entertainment, and features some of the staff that worked on the Sega Saturn classic Guardian Heroes. It is considered by some to be a spiritual successor to that game, and it definitely shows in the art style of the game. Code of Princess features gorgeous hand drawn sprites, and is by far the prettiest use of the 3D effect on the 3DS console to date. Many games make use of stereoscopic 3D, but few have a premise that depends on it like Code of Princess does, and this is one game that you will want to leave the 3D on for the full game.
The soundtrack to Code of Princess was composed by the wonderful ACE, who are also well known for the critically acclaimed soundtrack to Xenoblade Chronicles. One of the composers has stated that her intention with Code of Princess was to create a soundtrack that has a lighter, more comical feel than their work on Xenoblade Chronicles, and with that objective in mind, they succeeded admirably. The soundtrack is included on compact disc with all first print run copies of the game, along with a small artbook, as an added bonus for early adopters.
Code of Princess is a blast to play, and it contains hour after hour of brawling action. The online multiplayer is fantastic, and is the closest thing on the 3DS to Nintendo’s own Super Smash Bros. With over 50 playable characters, a robust single player campaign, hundreds of co-op missions, and dozens of online competitive stages, Code of Princess is a game that is impossible to not recommend. The gorgeous art and soundtrack are just the icing on the cake of this game that is destined to become a cult classic.