Thursday
Jun092016

QCF: Code of Princess 

reasure's games seem like such a distant memory. Their last original game, Sin and Punishment: Star Successor (Wii) was released all the way back in 2010, with nothing more than re-releases of its now-ancient properties seeing release since.

One such game, Guardian Heroes, would see a release on Xbox Live Arcade, finally making it available to the masses for a very affordable price compared to its original Saturn release. Fast forward to 2013; Code of Princess debuts on the 3DS, by way of Atlus games. It features nearly carbon-copy gameplay to Guardian Heroes with a neat ragtag cast of interesting characters, led by the practically unclothed Princess Solange. It was also a pretty limited release, all told, which is where Degica Games' newly released Steam version of the game comes in.

Code of Princess is, at its heart, a side-scrolling brawler with RPG elements. Players control one of Solange's entourage as they make their way through a danger-filled journey to stop an mighty power form consuming the world by way of a magical sword. Just like Guardian Heroes. The gameplay setup of Cod of Princess is quite a bit different though. Progression takes place through a mission-based system that allows players to pick and choose what missions to do as opposed to taking on a complete stage set all at once. In each stage, various mission objectives need to be met in as quick a time as possible; players usually have to take on waves of enemy opposition and bosses to complete these quests.

The thing about this particular brawler though, is that it takes place on several “tracks”, which can be switched between to avoid stage obstacles or enemy and their attacks. Guardian Heroes worked much the same way, but Code of Princess increases the number of these tracks at times, up to a total of five layers. By holding the defend button, your character can move between these tracks, as well as dash out of harm's way on the track they're on.

Combat is mostly combo based, with several different ways to go about inflicting death on unsuspecting foes. Light and heavy attacks can be combined to juggle foes and there are even a bevy of special moves for each character with directional inputs paired with attack commands for some truly devastating techniques, some of which use MP. Speaking of which, each character can also go into a Burst state, in which attack power is ramped way up for as long as the MP meter holds out. Landing hits and defeating enemies will boost the MP gauge mid-burst to prolong it and there are even additional damage-dealing enhancements that can be added to Burst-engagement through various bits of equipment, both found or purchased.

Of course, there are a wide variety of different types of creatures and soldiers to do battle with, and many have weaknesses that can be exploited through much of the gear that is equipped to your hero. When an enemy type is hit with their specific weakness, “killer” is displayed for each hit, indicating that they are taking much more damage due to the enhancements your equipment grants. No less than two pieces of my applied equipment have a Boss Killer effect, meaning that – at least in my case - bosses fall easily to Solange's onslaught. There will invariably be times that you'll be wailing on specific monsters all damned day though. Knowing what to use in what missions is pretty essential to getting the best times for every mission that is undertaken.

There is a good chunk of game to play, as well, especially of all of the heroes are used in the game; level grinding can take a while, and the only real way to go about it is to play the game through with each hero. But players can also take on an additional selection of extra missions as well. The EXP, treasure and equipment from any of these battles are carried over to the main campaign as well, so level grinding doesn't have to be all about doing a single stage over and over.

Which brings up to leveling and character customization—obviously, the additional equipment is a given; just equip the chosen type with a new piece and you're good to go. But with each level, the character whose level has increased gains a number of ability points to be distributed between a series of attributes, such as Vitality, Piety, Strength, Defense, Speed and so forth.

Piety is the one attribute I paid the least attention to, opting for high HP, attack power, speed and defense. Of course, it's all up to the individual player and their gameplay style that will shape their hero into what they want, a flexibility that is welcome, especially given the characters. In the case of the extra missions, there are even a number of additional characters that are unlocked by completing quests and defeating enemies. Neat.

On the whole, the game is very playable and pretty fun throughout. The difficulty is pretty accommodating, or so it seems, throughout the vast majority of the main story, though later missions got under my skin in ways that I didn't expect. The difficulty definitely spikes in the later missions with some enemies laying the smackdown on players in perhaps the very cheapest way I've seen in a very, very long time. Regardless, so long as gamer rage isn't a major factor in whether you stick with a game or not, it's definitely fun. The presentation is also pretty neat, with decent music and visuals... for the most part. Code of Princess is a game that was more or less ported directly from the Nintendo 3DS, and by default only the top screen is displayed. But there are options to see the bottom screen as well, which can be positioned in a number of different ways, which is pretty cool. But the visuals have issues.

Some of the backgrounds are kind of iffy in terms of texture quality and 2D stage elements. They can be muddy, and blurry, and maybe even a bit ugly in full-screen, though it all moves at a pretty snappy 60FPS. Worse still, the characters sprites, while awesomely animated, are pretty painful to look at at first, as they are blown-up, pixilated and not smoothed at all. This is in stark contrast to the high-res character portraits, which are, for all intents and purposes, pretty awesome. As such, the character sprites are definitely a pretty harsh downer, given the awesome character design throughout the game... what I wouldn't have given to get Code of Princess in true HD, let me tell you (don't judge me.) Thankfully, when the game is in full swing, it's less noticeable, especially on the middle track and further back. A smaller screen in windowed mode also helps.

The sound design is a little irritating at times as well. Allegro, the Elf Bard Sage, has an annoying guitar for a weapon that sounds totally out of place every time it makes noise both in the story scenes and beyond. Solange's constant “Stop it!” and “No!” cries every time she got hit grated on my nerves in later stages as well, especially when getting hit twenty times in a row from enemy bomb attacks and cheapshots coming from everywhere at once. However, there are also amazing elements to the sound, like the shop music. Best piece in the game, hands down.

Aside from those little hang-ups, Code of Princess is a fun brawler RPG that'll surely hit the spot for those out there that are looking for a decent beat-em-up with nice depth in their life, especially for those looking for more in the vein of Guardian Heroes. It's definitely rough around the edges and may end up being much better on 3DS as a result – especially visually - but the snappy performance, fun gameplay, wealth of extras and neat screen formats are a neat step in the right direction for Steam ports of 3DS original titles.

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