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Code of Princess (3DS) artwork

Code of Princess (3DS) review

"Itís easy to appreciate each of those characters, from the busty heroine, to the shifty young bard, to a disinterested necromancer and a brutish fellow who likes cuddly forest animals. There is enough charisma here to support a properly lengthy RPG, which means that one of the greatest tragedies in Code of Princess is the fact that the writers werenít given time to more fully explore the themes and story."

Once upon a time, the princess Solange was loafing around the throne room, showcasing her spectacular figure in a stylish suit of armor that left less to the imagination than most bikinis. Her father was sitting on the throne, doing kingly things, when suddenly a hostile force arrived at the castle walls.

ďThe villagers have let them in the front gates!Ē someone yelled not long after that, from somewhere, and the king wondered aloud why the people would do such a thing.

Itís a fair question, asked within a game that inspires many fair questions while failing to offer many satisfactory answers. Code of Princess isnít exactly the sort of title that does well if you examine it closely. Itís a simple brawler, a bit on the short side without any wrinkles that go more than skin-deep. There is a good game here somewhere, but blink and youíll miss it.

Code of Princess asset

Youíll notice almost immediately that Atlus has done a predictably wonderful job with the localization, so at least thereís that to appreciate. The localization is reminiscent of an old Working Designs effort, in that the characters say things that feel surprisingly contemporary and commit to every line with infectious personality. Itís easy to appreciate each of those characters, from the busty heroine, to the shifty young bard, to a disinterested necromancer and a brutish fellow who likes cuddly forest animals. There is enough charisma here to support a properly lengthy RPG, which means that one of the greatest tragedies in Code of Princess is the fact that the writers werenít given time to more fully explore the themes and story.

Unfortunately, time must have been at a premium. There are just over 30 standard stages in the proper Story campaign, and many of those donít last long at all. Youíll hear the excellent voice work, youíll enjoy the sweeping soundtrack (which is good enough that launch copies of the game ship with a CD), and youíll admire the character artwork (gathered in a booklet that also is free with launch copies). The presentation up to that point is difficult to fault. Then youíll play an actual mission and find that some stages can be cleared in a measly 15 or 20 seconds (particularly once you level up your character).

Character progression is an important aspect within the game, though that statement implies complexity that doesnít actually exist. The limited evolution that occurs over the course of the game comes in the form of stat boosts that you gain by equipping new gear--found in levels or purchased from a shop between stages--or by advancing levels. Itís almost too easy to gain a level in Code of Princess. If you keep chugging along, youíll go up a level or two nearly every time you clear a stage. Stat points can then be spread out over the usual categories as you see fit, so that your chosen character is able to withstand more damage, or activate his or her hyper mode for longer, or move more quickly, or hit harder. That last option proves to be the main one that matters. Once youíre able to string together a combo and youíve boosted the Attack stat enough, thereís not an enemy in the game thatís likely to give you much trouble.

Code of Princess asset

Level grinding is painless, which is good, but it also has the potential to break everything. You wonít have to play very much to take your character halfway to the level 99 cap, and the remaining 50 levels come almost as quickly. Thatís true mostly because you can revisit any stage you like as often as you like, or access bonus stages that also allow you to farm for experience. If you want a shortcut, you can revisit a likely stage just a few times and then plow through the rest of the game. Such behavior is practically encouraged.

Even if you donít overpower your character, though, Code of Princess largely fails as a brawler because the combat system lacks meaningful complexity. Your character can block attacks, lock onto a specific enemy, and perform a few special moves. He or she can step forward toward the front of the screen, or dance into the background, but spatial depth barely plays a role at all except in rare cases where you need to perhaps dodge dragon breath or something similar. Itís also easy to lure enemies to the foreground or background and then pummel them as they join you on one of the three planes. Aside from a few escort missions, objectives lack variety. Basically, you just enter a small area and pummel a few enemies and maybe a boss. Then you do the same thing in the next stage.

To its credit, the game does attempt to remain compelling even after you beat the remarkably short campaign, but those efforts mostly fall flat. Nearly any character you meet over the course of your adventure can lead the battle charge, and many of those new allies possess special skills that make them unique. However, the bulk of those characters can only be utilized in the Free Play mode, not within the proper campaign. Their addition is a mere novelty. You might have fun controlling one of the more fearsome enemies in the game, but that tends to remain interesting for only a few minutes. Some characters are also incapable of clearing certain levels, which makes their inclusion less worthwhile.

Code of Princess asset

Code of Princess includes some nice local and online multiplayer options, but you may have trouble finding opponents or allies. Even when you face off against someone, thereís little interaction in lobbies and your adversary might vanish into the winds after a single round, leaving you to fruitlessly search for another lobby (or create one and wait around for several minutes, hoping that someone will join). For those who donít want to spar, the game also offers a cooperative mode, but thereís not much reason to mess around with it when stages are so easily cleared even without assistance.

Atlus USA has built up a catalog of great games. On one level, Code of Princess qualifies to join some of its beloved contemporaries. The heroine and her friends are difficult to resist, and the story is capably delivered. Shallow combat removes any incentive to keep playing once youíve cleared the campaign, though, and then youíre left with a game that probably wonít amuse you for more than three or four hours in total. Even the art book and soundtrack CD struggle to justify a hefty investment. But hey, at least Solange looks good in her armor. Thatís surely worth another $10 all by itselfÖ

honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (October 09, 2012)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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zippdementia posted October 10, 2012:

Damn, almost sounds like a not-as-good Odin Sphere. Did you play this in Japanese, Jason? Just curious from the pictures.
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honestgamer posted October 10, 2012:

No, I played the US version. I don't have hardware to capture my own screenshots for 3DS games, so I included images Atlus provided. I usually go with standard press images even for games that I could capture shots from, actually. There's usually a good variety that showcases the game as well as anything I might capture myself.

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