Thursday
Aug092018

QCF: Code of Princess EX

utside of the XBLA re-release of the Treasure classic, Code of Princess is the kind of game that players pining for some of that Guardian Heroes gameplay have been able to find their fix in recent years. With its original release on 3DS, it offered players the ability to play a Guardian Heroes-style game anywhere they might be without having to resort to the vastly sub-par Advance Guardian Heroes on Game Boy Advance.

For those looking for some Code of Princess action on more powerful hardware and on a bigger screen, Degica's re-release on Steam was primed to be the answer. However, not only did it suffer from blurry textures on 3D elements, all of the characters and enemies were the same resolution as their 3DS counterparts, making for a jarringly ugly time. So where can players find the best of all worlds with proper, high-def visuals and extra features? The answer: the Nintendo Switch's Code of Princess EX, developed by Studio Saizensen and published by Nicalis!

Code of Princess EX is, at its heart, an action RPG with brawling elements the follows the exploits of Solange Blanchefluer de Lux and her ragtag entourage of allies. The goal: to rid the world of evil by both protecting and using the legendary sword, DeLuxcalibur. The gameplay setup of Code of Princess is quite a bit different than Guardian Heroes though. Progression takes place through a mission-based system that allows players to pick and choose what missions to do as opposed to taking on a complete stage sets all at once. In each stage, various mission objectives need to be met in as quick a time as possible; players usually have to take on waves of enemy opposition and bosses to complete these quests

But it's more than just a side-to-side affair; Code of Princess takes place on several “tracks”, which can be switched between to avoid stage obstacles or enemy and their attacks. Guardian Heroes worked much the same way, but Code of Princess increases the number of these tracks at times, up to a total of five layers rather than just three. By holding the defend button and pressing up or down, your character can move between these tracks, as well as dash out of harm's way on the track they're on by moving the control stick in the opposite direction they're facing.

Combat here is mostly combo based; Light and heavy attacks can be combined to juggle foes, and there are even a number of special moves for each character with directional inputs paired with attack commands for some truly devastating techniques, some of which use MP. Each character can also go into a Burst state, in which attack power is ramped way up for as long as the MP meter holds out. Landing hits and defeating enemies will boost the MP gauge mid-burst to prolong it and there are even additional damage-dealing enhancements that can be added to Burst engagement through various bits of equipment.

Of course, there are a wide variety of different types of creatures and soldiers to do battle with, and many have weaknesses that can be exploited through much of the gear that is equipped to your hero. When an enemy type is hit with their weakness, “killer” is displayed for each hit, indicating that they are taking much more damage due to the enhancements your equipment grants. No less than two pieces of my applied equipment have a Boss Killer effect, meaning that – at least in my case - bosses fall easily to Solange's onslaught. There will invariably be times that you'll be wailing on specific monsters all damned day though. Knowing what to use in what missions is pretty essential to getting the best times for every mission that is undertaken.

There is a good chunk of game to play as well, especially with all of the heroes are used in the game; level grinding can take a while, and the only real way to go about it is to play the game through with each hero at least once. But players can also take on an additional selection of extra missions as well. The EXP, treasure, and equipment from any of these battles are carried over to the main campaign as well, so level grinding doesn't have to be all about doing a bunch of main story stages over and over.

That brings us to leveling and character customization. Obviously, the additional equipment is a given, just equip the chosen type with a new piece and you're good to go. But with each level, the character whose level has increased gains a number of ability points to be distributed between a series of attributes, such as Vitality, Piety, Strength, Defense, Speed and so forth. Piety is the one attribute I paid the least attention to, opting for high HP, attack power, speed, and defense. Of course, it's all up to the individual player and their gameplay style that will shape their hero into what they want, a flexibility that is welcome, especially given the characters. In the case of the extra missions, there are even a number of additional characters that are unlocked by completing quests and defeating enemies. Neat.

Overall, the game is highly playable with a good fun factor. The difficulty is pretty accommodating throughout the vast majority of the main story, more or less. But, of course, later missions got under my skin in a couple of ways. The difficulty definitely spikes in the later missions with some enemies laying the smackdown on players in perhaps the very cheapest way I've seen in a very, very long time. Regardless, so long as gamer rage isn't a major factor in whether you stick with a game or not, it's definitely still fun. The presentation is also pretty great, with the same decent music and newly remastered prerendered, 2D visuals. Unlike the Steam version, Code of Princess EX is quite a step up from the Nintendo 3DS version.

This time around, the backgrounds have sharp textures, great 2D elements amid the 3D stages and, most importantly, the characters sprites are much, much clearer. They still have a light, artifacting effect to them, since they are still pre-rendered and all, but they look infinitely better than the Steam version even at a brief glance. This compliments the awesome character designs throughout the game, which are represented by clean, high-res and high-quality portraits during the story scenes. This means that when the game is in full swing, Code of Princess EX looks great at all times, and all at a solid 60 frames per second.

The full voiceovers in Code of Princess EX are definitely well delivered on the whole, but they are only in Japanese and often don't match what's actually being said in the text, just as in the Steam version. The 3DS original was localized for US audiences for sure, but full VO also didn't exist. A few Glaring examples just in the first few acts I found were;

  • Written text: "This is a royal gown!" Actual Line: "Geez! Pervert..."

  • Written text: "I should report this to the Sargent... Whatever his name is!" Actual line: "L-Lord Emble!”

  • Zozo's Staff and the skull hanging from it are named “Staffy” and “Joanna” in the text, but are actually named “Kapu-san” and “Suke-san”.

There's also much more, including Solange's brother mentioning her “Sexy” attire which, in the text, was more a question of why she was dressed (or undressed?) as she was. It would almost have been preferable that the full VO was omitted; people who understand more Japanese than the average North American gamer are definitely going to scratch their heads and might end up heavily distracted, put off and possibly even annoyed by this. I know I was, since there were, once again, definitely lines and deliveries that made me wonder if I was really getting the whole, proper story through the English text.

The sound design can also still be a little irritating at times as well. Allegro, the Elf Bard Sage, has an annoying guitar for a weapon that sounds totally out of place every time it makes noise both in the story scenes and beyond. Solange's constant “Stop it!” and “No!” cries every time she got hit grated on my nerves in later stages as well, especially when getting hit twenty times in a row from enemy bomb attacks and cheap shots coming from everywhere at once. However, there are also amazing elements to the sound, like the shop music. It's simply the best piece in the game, hands down.

Finally, Code of Princess EX also adds new gameplay modes to the whole experience. Leading the charge is a local multiplayer mode that allows for co-op gameplay in the main campaign, Free Play mode and Bonus Quests that are opened up as more of the game is completed—having this feature available right on the same Nintendo Switch, whether at home, or on the go is fantastic. Code of Princess EX also featured online play for players looking for some co-op action or even versus action in one of three flavors; Ranked, Free Play, and Ultimate.

Other than a couple of little hang-ups, Code of Princess EX is a fun brawler RPG that'll surely hit the spot for those out there that are looking for a decent beat’em-up with a good amount of depth in their life. This is especially true for fans Guardian Heroes. But with its enhancements and general polish this time around, not to mention the magic combination of on-the-go and big-screen-at-home accessibility, the EX version is the definitive Code of Princess experience and it's a game that RPG and brawler fans alike should definitely check out on the Switch.

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