IMPRESSIONS: Battle Princess Madelyn Royal Edition

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020

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As much as I’ve been a Kickstarter junkie in the past, I have a small confession – I usually don’t get to games I have backed until long after I’ve gotten my code. It’s not something that always happens, but in an industry where the march of progress is impossible to stop, it’s easy to have tons of games pile up in the interim. And sadly, I didn’t really get a chance to dig into Battle Princess Madelyn after I got my Switch key. Which is a shame, since I was hyped for the game. But sometimes things turn out well, and that happened when I was recently offered the opportunity to cover a new build, called Battle Princess Madelyn Royal Edition. While the original game was a complex Metroidvania style game, Royal Edition is much more faithful to the Ghouls ‘n Ghosts style that inspired both games. In many ways, Royal Edition was worth the wait.

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While at first I thought that Royal Edition was just a remixed platformer using the same visual assets, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I confirmed with the developer that in fact it was all rebuilt from scratch, and while some backgrounds may look familiar, it’s an entirely new experience. Most importantly, this is a linear game, so if you’re one of those that got stuck in the original Battle Princess Madelyn, you have nothing to worry about here. Your only concern in Royal Edition is getting to the end of each level and defeating the boss to progress. The game likes to throw enemies at you as distractions in the interim, but the real challenges are those delightfully wicked bosses. Plus, if you’re a fan of the classic Ghouls ‘n Ghosts series, the level map that appears before you tackle each stage will be a nice callback.

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One thing I really liked about Royal Edition is that the simpler format makes it really easy to appreciate what the game does well. Namely, the old school combat, but also the stunning visual assets. Though both the original game and Royal Edition have wonderful art, it’s much easier to marvel at it here. Everything from the lowliest skeletons to the fire breathing minotaurs just sparkle with personality and flair. I might even go so far to suggest that the art here is more memorable than the classic games that inspired it. One of my personal favorite designs is the mischievous pumpkin boss that spits seeds at you, then transforms into a skinny gourd to attack you. But all the monsters in Royal Edition are great, and most of them are unique. There’s only one boss that’s rehashed, the dancing skeleton that guards the crypt in the first stage. And I will say, the final boss in the game pleasantly surprised me, while at the same time irritating me with some tricky attacks.

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Speaking of bosses, there’s three new ones here – the aforementioned minotaur and pumpkin, as well as a creepy pulsating heart that generates worms and slime. But that’s not all that’s new in Royal Edition. Madelyn also has a new trick up her sleeve, using her puppy Fritzy as a weapon! And I don’t mean as a satellite that spits bones, which he can also do. No, if any foe gets too close, just hitting your regular attack button swings Fritzy as an ethereal blue blade of might. It’s really powerful, and the only limitation is it can’t hit distant foes. Thankfully, nearly all of Madelyn’s other weapons work as ranged attacks. Fritzy’s sword can even be used while airborne to bounce off foes below Madelyn, pogo’ing off their heads like Scrooge McDuck. Another new feature are the giant skull coins hidden in each stage. Collecting enough of these brings more cheering characters to the credits after you beat the final boss, which is a nice touch.

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I also appreciated that you can change the banner wallpaper from 4 different selections. Oh and did I mention King Daddy Mode? It lets you play the game as Madelyn’s father, the king. It’s essentially hard mode, since you only have his sword and can’t acquire armor to protect yourself. On the plus side, that sword is massively powerful, but it also means he has no access to unlimited ranged weapons. Apparently beating King Daddy Mode twice unlocks the real ending to the game, but I was too weak to achieve that goal. I got up to one of the last stages, the Great Forest of Darkness, but couldn’t manage to beat that boss as the king.

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Now while there’s a lot I enjoyed in Royal Edition, there’s also aspects that were occasionally frustrating. Many enemies can hit you before they are fully displayed on screen, such as the wicked skeletal archers. It’s also very easy to get Ninja Gaiden‘ed to your death by flying enemies, especially those damned bats and other aerial menaces. Granted, you have unlimited continues, but I hate losing a life due to landing in a pit. And though most of the game is very intuitive, I did get a bit flummoxed a couple times. Once was fighting the giant crab boss. I couldn’t deal damage to it, and then discovered there’s a switch you have to activate to open the crab’s weak spot. Another happened in the Forest stage. I didn’t realize a group of disappearing platforms branched a certain way, so I kept trying in vain to cross spiky death pits. And lastly, while the game looks and generally sounds fantastic, I wish each and every foe had a distinct audio cue warning you of their impending attack. None of these issues ruined the game for me, but it would have been a better experience had they been dealt with first.

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Overall though, I’m very happy I got the chance to make up for lost time with Battle Princess Madelyn Royal Edition. It’s much more linear, and in many ways it benefits from that model. Best of all, even though it can be challenging, it’s always fair so long as you spend time learning attack patterns. If you love classic spooky platformers and want something fun that isn’t gonna take too long to beat, I’d highly recommend you check it out.

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About Josh Speer

Josh is a passionate gamer, finding time to clock in around 30-40 hours of gaming a week. He discovered Operation Rainfall while avidly following the localization of the Big 3 Wii RPGs. He enjoys SHMUPS, Platformers, RPGs, Roguelikes and the occasional Fighter. He’s also an unashamedly giant Mega Man fan, having played the series since he was eight. As Head Editor and Review Manager, he spends far too much time editing reviews and random articles. In his limited spare time he devours indies whole and anticipates the release of quirky, unpredictable and innovative games.