I know you've heard the phrase, "Don't judge a book by its cover." Well, while that idiom applies to a lot of things, I succumbed to this game's cover. I had never heard of it and its cover was artsy and alluring cover that a lot of games just don't have. Anyhow, I read the box, I opened it up and read the pamphlet, I get as much info about the game as I could while standing in a Gamestop and eventually gave in. I was just too curious. Anyways, here's my review of Code of Princess buying blind.
Also, here's the cover. Since I mentioned that.
The tricky thing about this review is where to begin. I guess we'll start at the beginning. The back of the box says "multi-plane side-scrolling action mixes with RPG customization -- all with a 3D twist!" Well, you only have to be on the intro screen to have your world rocked since all the anime-styled animations have the 3D turned off. All the way off. It's a minor complaint, but when the green 3D light goes off it's quite jarring.
Okay, how about story? Well, I was not impressed to say the absolute least. It just launches off into the story when the castle of DeLuxia is attacked by the evil queen and Solange has to make sure she doesn't get the DeLuxcaiber. You meet Ali, a thief and you thus you are just thrown into the story. You meet people and your party grows, as does the number of playable characters, and the characters make decisions and it feels linear. I can understand why a game would just throw you into a game like that, but I don't know anything about these characters or this world or anything. I'm reminded of The Simpsons Arcade game where Smithers kidnaps Maggie because she has this giant diamond, and even if you somehow don't know who any of these extremely iconic characters are, seeing a baby kidnapped is a good motivation to go do stuff, so you go do stuff. Once you get through, there's clearly a larger story behind everything, but you're not let in on any of the secrets. There's just not enough time, there's a grand total of 30 missions in the Campain mode. The game doesn't invite you to ponder the grander story by enticing you with secrets like Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward does.
Let's talk about game play next. Oh man, I thought it was a bit messy. Reflecting on it, I'm seeing it in less of a negative light, but as I was playing I remember not having much fun at all. You control your character along three planes of the field and engage enemies in combat. I can't help thinking back to fighting games I have played, like Turtles in Time, and wonder why not just have free range movement? It helps to avoid enemy attacks and keep your enemies in line for your own self. No more punchinig the air right in front of your enemies, right? Right, that's the answer. Your characters all have special moves depending on your direction and button mashing. The one I got the hang of was playing as Solange vvA would have her spin her sword a few times and advance with one big strike up into the air before using >>B to aerially juggle enemies, but this would work on small enemies and not as much with the magnitude of gigantic enemies. Ah yes, some enemies are absolute behemoths. Sure, other games have that as well, but with the plane system this game uses, it's fundamentally easy to have your character completely obscured by a juggernaut arm, or a dragon wing, or a... tree. That's bad game design.
Just saying. Anyways, I was talking about game play. There's something nice in here. All characters are capable of locking on and bursting. When you lock on, you can see the enemy's remaining health and do double damage. Bursting will also do double damage and give you a bonus depending on if you have certain items equipped. Both are cool ways to get an edge when push comes to shove, though I pretty much only equipped Moon once I got it, since it would recover HP while bursting.
Oh, and there's a plethora of difficulty spikes. You're just going along, beatin'-them-up, and WHAM! Here's a boss that suddenly has a rate of attack five times that of anything else you've fought, and he comes with a swarm of mooks that attack constantly enough to make you unable to drop your guard if your lucky enough to even get it up and have your HP rocked. Large enemies will also spam cheap attacks to hell. Juggernauts will do this running, slamming move that also gives them super armor multiple times in a row. Dragons and the giant-skeleton-boss have multi-plane attacks that hit multiple times they will use in succession in succession. It's FRUSTRATING! Mind you, I did have to wrap my head around what was unique about this game to eventually overcome all obstacles in my way, which ends up being another case of good in retrospect, but it didn't feel like a great accomplishment or improvement of myself as I took down these walls, it was a relief that I didn't have to deal with that level ever again. Every time.
I never got a chance to try the multiplayer, since the online is empty. Though, this game has something interesting, virtually any character or enemy is playable. It sounds more interesting than it is, since they took the time to program the Bomb Bug as a playable when it can do a grand total of two attacks. I even tried some other characters which are absolute garbage, though Orphan and Barkeep aren't anything important in a beat-em-up, but at least in Dragonball Z: Budokai Tenkcaichi, Saibamen are coherently playable.
Ultimately, I think the problems I'm having with this game are my fault. Remember at the top, "RPG customization?" Yeah, it's there. Level up and you get points that you can put into character stats. I'm told plenty of other games do that and this is just the first game I've played that does. Problem is I was expecting Golden Sun: Dark Dawn RPG elements or something out of Final Fantasy VII. Even having more members of your party on the field at the same time would be something, but it's off-putting to me when you are one character in a party and only you are fighting. That said, this is a beat-em-up that I wanted to play as an RPG. I kept all my characters leveled up for a while before leaving them in the dust to play as one character I was good with. Souring my mood about it even more is that in the cutscenes, the characters are extremely aware of RPG elements. Ali says the party needs a healer and when Allegro offers himself up for the role, she identifies him as a bard, though he says he's a sage, too. There are no healing spells, so what the flying fuck are these characters talking about?!
The game is... alright. It does what it does, but not in a way that feels satisfying, and nowhere near enough content to justify paying forty bones. In any case, even if it's my fault, I sure didn't enjoy this game. Final verdict: