The phrase less is more has never been more applicable than when used to describe the armor that is commonly provided for female characters in fantasy games. This is especially true of the battle garments donned by Solange in the PC port of the formerly 3DS exclusive title, Code of Princess. She fearlessly charges into battle with only the parts of her that cannot be shown on network television covered as if her armor is composed of metal censor bars. Her giant sword, the Deluxcalibur, which I guess is the deluxe model of Excalibur, is equally ridiculous when consider it is larger than her and possibly even heavier.
As she progresses in her journey she is joined by a myriad of equally colorful companions. There is the thief Ali-Baba, who resembles Disney’s Aladdin in mild fetish gear including a padlocked chastity brassiere. Zozo, a necromancer (not a zombie) whose blue fleshed body is a collection of spare parts pilfered from graves. And lastly there is Allegro, an axe wielding elf bard who claims to also be a level 99 sage. His axe is rather unusual, it has a body shape of a Gibson Flying V but the headstock is more like that of an Explorer. Perhaps it is a more affordable Jackson or LTD. It looks acoustic but sounds electric even though he carries no visible means of amplification, never mind the fact that a Marshall stack would seem anachronistic with the fantasy setting. And those are just the characters that can be played as part of the main story campaign.
Solange has a tendency to collect any unusual ally she comes across to be assimilated into her ragtag crew, despite some fourth wall breaking voice of reason that states they need a healer instead of a bard. The breaking of the fourth wall is one of this game’s more endearing qualities. To be honest, the use of anime tropes, silly dialog, and the half naked heroine make it difficult to take the game seriously. This element of it being self aware and not taking itself seriously gives it some charm. This game is silly, the developers are aware of it, and adding the self referencing jokes make the experience more entertaining. Getting to the actual gameplay, what we have here is an old school arcade style beat ’em up wrapped up in an RPG package. Each level can be completed in just a few minutes. They are side scrolling brawls that take place on a three leveled plain. Holding a shoulder button and moving will move up or down a level, which can be used to either escape a gang of enemies or chase after someone.
Each character has a distinct move set and combat style. Solange’s massive sword isn’t the quickest but it has a wide range of motion, which is a stark contrast to Zozo’s use of magic attacks. A press of a button can switch on burst, which burns through MP quickly and increases damage. Using the thumbstick in conjunction with the attack buttons can alter the attack, such doing a quarter circle attack button that has become common in some fighting games. However, even with all the character variety, most levels can be beaten simply through button mashing and the gameplay is very repetitive.
After each level experience points, money, and often times a new equipment item is awarded to character. Every time a level is gained skill points are given to spend on various attributes such as attack, defense, health, etc. The difference is most noticeable in regards to HP and MP, as the attribute bars are so long that the small amount of points that are given to spent on them do not seem to make any significant difference.
There is a story in this game, but it does not seem to be conveyed in the most clear manner. Solange is a princess in a kingdom that is attacked in the prologue of the game. She flees the carnage with her new friend Ali-Baba, amassing a small battalion of strange and unusual people along the way. Her enemies really want to take the Deluxcalibur from her, but a mission such as grand theft giant sword seems to be too daunting of a task for such simple minded villains. This criticism of the limited cranial capacity is targeted at the majority of Solange’s foes but specifically at Sergeant Emble and Ergeant Semble, the bumbling not so dynamic duo that starts trouble with Solange and company in a tavern.
Being a port of a 3DS game to PC does result in some unusual screen display options. Thankfully for this game the second screen can be F5’ed away to allow for a full screen experience and do away with the essentially useless second screen. With the full screen display enabled the portraits and full motion video cutscenes are anime movie quality but the actual sprites are as pixelated as Solange would be on network television should her armor break. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise since this game was originally designed for a much smaller screen. To some gamers this can add an element of retro charm.
Outside of the main campaign the player can select previous cleared scenarios to gain levels if they need to power up a character, or play some challenge scenarios with the party members that are not among the four primary choices. While the basic gameplay in all these modes is essentially the same, it does offer a lot of content making this game a good value for the asking price.
Code of Princess is a modern take on old fashioned arcade action with some RPG elements thrown in for good measure. The core gameplay is extremely repetitive, but the character dialog and plot development between each level helps break up the monotony. The game’s level of self awareness enhances the experience. Code of Princess is a simple lighthearted game that relies on common anime tropes, silly dialog and cartoonish humor to make it more entertaining. Breaking the fourth wall and poking fun at itself shows the game takes itself as seriously as most people playing it would, which in this writer’s opinion only improves it. This game has personality and that elevates it to being a more memorable experience than if it was just left to the repetitive button mashing.