"Don't Judge the Game by its Cover"
I am honestly surprised and tremendously pleased that Code of Princess got localized. Not only because North America tends to have an interesting set of priorities when it comes to the topics of sexuality and outright violence (in this game, the former is much more obvious than the latter), but because this game's handheld home is that of the family-friendly Nintendo 3DS.
The main character in Code of Princess is a buxom blonde princess whose attire certainly leaves little to the imagination. While she may be bereft of much clothing, her story, as well as the stories of her supporting cast, are as outlandishly dressed to nines as they come. After her kingdom falls to a bevy of monster attacks and her family is framed as being responsible for the vicious assaults, the fugitive Princess Solange makes it her goal to weed out the unexpected truth.
On her vital journey she encounters an eccentric cast of misfits that assuredly do not fall into your typical genre fare. There is a necromancer comprised of an amalgamation of previously used body parts who prefers to not be regarded as a zombie, an androgynous Elven bard who uses his instrument and music to dole out pain and is indebted to an Egyptian feline-looking merchant, and a lone thief who was the subject of her guild's mutiny. These main playable characters in Code of Princess, among so many others, all have deeper layers to them, both gameplay and storywise, which makes for the most entertaining game I have played in ages.
If you are familiar with the old-school SEGA Saturn game, Guardian Heroes (which was remastered for Xbox Live Arcade last year), Code of Princess is often described as the spiritual successor to that beat-'em-up classic brawler. Those influences shine through quite obviously in some choice gameplay elements. Each playable character employs a unique set of flashy moves and abilities to take into battle, and those options afforded to you mean you are not forced into playing the game a specific way.
While predominantly a 2D action game, Code of Princess is rife with RPG content wherein you accumulate a variety of valuable loot from victory, including the expected experience points, currency, and equipment. Some nice character modification is available, as you can equip each with ever-increasingly useful items. Of course, pouring skill points into various attribute categories like attack or vitality furthers that customization.
Combat is actually rather accessible as you mix in slow, powerful attacks with weaker but quicker ones, where combo chains are possible with the right attack timing. Further, either activating a temporary Burst attack or choosing to lock-on to an individual target increases your damage output; combining the two is devastating. While this simplicity of Code of Princess might seem plodding, there is a certain rhythm to the combat that rarely ever gets tiresome.
To up the diverse experience, you can then unlock and play as over 50 characters. From normally unplayable NPCs to the lowliest of enemies and main bosses, practically every character you come across in the campaign becomes controllable as you battle, competitively or cooperatively, with up to 4 players either locally or online in the multiplayer Versus mode. Completing chapters of the main Code of Princess campaign, which features multiple endings, also opens them up in Free Play mode where you can use any of the unlocked characters, offering massive amounts of replayability.
Based on Kinu Nishimura's stellar illustrations, each and every character feels incredibly unique. With sleek location designs and distinctive character animations, the presentation is wondrous. The battlefield is broken up into three parallel planes that your characters are free to hop between freely, and with several dedicated layers for the playing field, foreground, and background, the presentation really benefits from the handheld's stereoscopic 3D capabilities. If there is one thing this game does not lack, it is charm.
Despite its externally somber story, Code of Princess does well to keep levity in mind. Through its wacky heroes and villains and a remarkably amusing script, the game keeps the experience relatively light-hearted in. Where so many modern games make failed attempts to connect with the player on some emotional level by taking themselves too seriously, Code of Princess succeeds by doing the exact opposite.
It is likely that with so many big-named, heavy-hitters releasing this season this game will go unnoticed at retail. That is an awful shame, as Code of Princess encompasses not only elements of gaming's great past, but also proves that modern games do not have to follow a specific formula to be immensely fun.
GameDynamo's Score for Code of Princess (3DS)
Writes for a few media outlets, does graphic design work for a few clients, as well as production work for a few studios (all poorly). Believes the best correlation between the words "twilight" and "sparkle" has less to do with vampires and more to do with a sarcastic pony.
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