Last week I tried to bring attention to Code of Princess so it wouldn’t get smothered by Dishonored and XCOM. After actually having played it for a little bit I can definitely say it’s probably a worthwhile purchase for fans of brawlers who own a 3DS.
For those who haven’t played Guardian Heroes – an old Saturn hack n’ slash which this game takes after (and recently became available on Xbox Live), Code of Princess sort of plays like a sidescrolling God of War, or Double Dragon with swords, or something like that. You hop around three sidescrolling planes going through waves of monsters in bite-sized levels.
The basic gameplay loop is very well handled, with fighting that’s fast enough while still pretty accessible. To call Code of Princess a button masher would be an overstatement, but as long as you keep defensive tactics up it’s a pretty fun game in which to pound away at the buttons despite the presence of a legit combo system. Pretty soon the game even becomes quite chaotic due to mechanics like chain explosions and the sheer number of enemies you sometimes fight.
The only downside in this area is that it can easily become a bit too much for the 3DS to handle. For starters, you shouldn’t even play Code of Princess in 3D mode because the framerate hit it causes is immediately apparent. Even in 2D mode the more chaotic moments can drag down the system, but never to unplayable depths.
The graphics are somewhat iffy as well but that’s probably just me. I was honestly never a huge fan of the graphic style of Guardian Heroes (and I’m not just talking about the XBLA version filters), but that was a Saturn game. On the 3DS I was at least expecting some good 2D art. What we have here is CG-based character sprites on rudimentary 3D backgrounds similar to Guardian Heroes. The sprites actually look very good close-up but don’t scale that well when zoomed out for some reason, making them an odd choice since you play most of the game zoomed all the way out.
What really keeps this game’s core system going is the amount of content and incentive for replayability. Code of Princeess isn’t just a straight brawler, but incorporates more or less full RPG elements like equipment and leveling up with fully distributable skill points. In singleplayer mode characters will level up very quickly as well, much of the time gaining three or four levels just for completing one stage which definitely ups the sense of gratification.
Where they try to hook you though is the fact that while you have multiple playable characters (a lot of playable characters actually), they don’t level up concurrently. You have to take each one through the levels, and the different styles seem like a nice incentive to run through the game multiple times. On top of that is the replay mission mode where you play the main missions strictly for XP with an expanded cast of playable characters, and then there’s a whole list of bonus missions with the same conditions. Lastly there is a versus mode where I think literally every character model in the game is playable, which makes up a cast of at least scores (I wouldn’t be surprised if it was in the triple digits).
After barely any time at all with this game I can at least tell that Code of Princess tries really hard to provide a really nice beat-em-up in proper handheld chunks, and a lot of them. If nothing else this should add to the 3DS’s library which is finally starting to increase in variety this fall. At worst it’ll be another hidden gem of the library as well as fall 2012’s game rush.
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