The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Code of Princess embraces depth and simplicity with its combat in ways few titles have. Usually one trait is sacrificed for the other, but Code of Princess functions aptly as a beat ‘em up with some substance. However, as impressive as that feat is, Code of Princess is hardly for everyone. You either thrive off a frenzied challenge where missing a single block reveals a game over screen, or you abhor repeating content and unforgiving battles. Still interested? Then Code of Princess is in your wheelhouse.
As a 2D brawler, Code of Princess mimics many early hack n’ slash titles, such as Golden Axe, but also takes cues from Treasure’s classic Guardian Heroes. The inspiration isn’t hard to spot – switching between the three planes during battle is required – but returning to the familiar formula is fun. Just like Guardian Heroes, annihilating waves of rapidly spawning enemies is put front and center.
During the against-all-odds battles, you alternate between a variety of attacks: light and heavy, specials, and combos. A wealth of different fighting styles between characters make it easy to find your fit. Levels are broken up into quests, and successful completion grants you statistic points. You customize your character by distributing points into different attributes, such as attack, speed, mind, and defense, any of which can be integral to success. I had plenty of fun getting my character just right, and then finding items that buffed the perfect stats for my play-style.
The early levels are little more than cannon fodder, but missions steadily progress in difficulty. Surprisingly, Code of Princess’ AI is competent; enemies work together with magic and special attacks to outsmart you. For instance, if I accidentally walked into a special attack that froze me, another enemy would queue up a power while I was helpless. Later levels also test your ability to read your enemy appropriately; neglect the block button and expect death.
While the challenge is refreshing and inspired me to keep mastering the game, the longer, more difficult levels are frustrating. These stages require additional time investment, throwing you against several enemy hordes with punishing boss battles tacked onto the end. The bigger issue is many battles rely on learning the bosses’ patterns with their special attacks, and effectively coordinating your attacks takes several attempts.
Battles are a strategic undertaking that involve balancing aggression and caution. Both approaches result in success and death, making it crucial to always adapt strategy. That’s Code of Princess’ greatest strength: Most would think it’s all about button-mashing, but it also requires thought. Sometimes clearing out a certain enemy type first, like those that inflict status elements, is the most useful strategy. Other times eliminating the boss so that other enemies flee is the best decision.
As with most brawlers, Code of Princess’ story isn’t the emphasis. The plot is extremely lackluster, shallow, and derivative. Our lead, the princess Solange, is protecting a mysterious and powerful sword after her kingdom has been overrun by an opposing force. Throw in an evil queen that is summoning monsters and you’ve heard this all before. The cast interactions are probably the most entertaining bit, with interesting personalities like the snarky sage Allegro. They grow on you, but they’re still an average-at-best cast that can’t compensate for the poorly crafted story.
Code of Princess surprised me with its combat depth, offering a challenge for those with enough patience to see it through. As a handheld title, the short missions and easy-to-remember controls suit the 3DS well. In the greater scheme of things, however, Code of Princess’ difficultly spike is overwhelming if your tolerance doesn’t extend to repeated content and frustrating bosses.
Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.