When I first got a chance to check out Battle Princess of Arcadias at E3 last year, I was mildly surprised at how simple yet complex the game seemed, but was also wary of how it was all going to be pulled off come release date. With the game now out on the market, this is a different kind of game that many have come to expect from Nippon Ichi Software and that’s not a bad thing at all. Take everything you know about what a princess should be and throw it out of the window, because this is not your average peach here.
Battle Princess of Arcadias puts you in the dress of Princess Plume as you try to keep the kingdom of Schwert safe from evil monsters. Plume started out as a normal princess girl, but when big monsters started to attack the kingdom, she picked up a sword and became a battle princess. Now it is up to you to travel through all seven kingdoms and help eradicate all of the evil you can find, with the help of a unique set of warriors. I say unique, but in reality there weren’t a lot of surprises in the characters. From the obvious lesbian that is overly touchy around the princess to the new squire who is timid and has never been in battle. The characters are funny and they work within the story, but there isn’t a lot you haven’t seen from other games.
The game is a side-scrolling action game that despite its appearances, relies heavily on defending at the correct time over just blindly mashing the attack buttons. If you don’t properly use your defense, potions, and switch out characters, you will quickly be overrun by enemies who don’t give you much time to breath. Players can take three characters into a basic battle with them and these characters can be switched out mid battle. Normal areas in the world will have you moving from left to right through short stages, battling enemies that pop up as you go along. Think a game like Ghouls n’ Ghosts or Altered Beast (yes, I know these are old references but hey, I am old!). These enemies will be attacking you from the air, underground, up close and from a distance. You will want to pay very close attention to their patterns and use the block button as much as possible.
Each character you recruit into your group has a very different style of attacks and weapons, so you will want to pay close attention to who you are bringing and since all styles will be needed at some time, you will want to keep everyone leveled up. In an interesting twist, gaining experience only happens with your currently selected character, so if you go through the whole level and never switch characters, you will only level up that one person. The weapons your characters use range from bows and staffs, to gun-swords and spears. During each level and at the end, you will also be able to collect loot which can be used to upgrade weapons, but I will get into that a little later on.
Outside of these basic battles, which you will find on the main map of the seven kingdoms, there are also sieges and skirmishes that you can take part in. Sieges will pit you and your brigade against a single enemy boss in a battle to the death! These battles can be rather tricky, as you have to maintain your brigade’s formation and watch out for your own health and the enemy’s attacks. Formations are basic, a middle ground between attacking and defense. Attack formation is high damage but lowered defense and of course defensive formation is the exact opposite of attack. You must use the morale that you have gained during battle to switch out the different formations, with each switch reducing morale by a certain amount. There is also a retreat option if your brigade gets low in health. This option is great to try and quickly replenish your units but leaves you all along against a boss that you really cannot do damage against. Once you have done enough damage with your group, you can stun the boss and then with 100 percent morale, you can unleash a showdown move. This will have you button mashing the square button before the time runs out to try and get a high level attack.
The other mode, skirmish, is a whole different animal from the siege mode. In this battle, you will be taking your brigade against another brigade. Before the battle, you will be shown the types of armies that your opponent will be putting onto the field and you must select your armies to oppose them. If they are putting out spears first, you will need to find your best group that can oppose the spears, following the on screen guide showing what weapon type does best against each other. Once the battle starts, you will have to command your selected brigade, which is seen in the background, to attack or defend and also pay attention to your opponents weapon time and switch out brigades when needed. However, as you are paying attention to all that, you will also need to attack enemies that come at your main character in the foreground. Defeating leaders here will boost the morale of your troops and once maxed out, will allow you to do a Brigade Arcana attack, doing high amounts of damage to the enemies.
In both of these modes, it can become a bit chaotic as you are trying to balance out what your troops are doing, what the enemies are doing, and also what your main character is doing. There is no “slowdown” feature to help you make decisions and when you’re flipping through the commands for your brigades, it does not pause the game, so decisions must be swift. It can be a bit much at times to keep up with it all but it makes each battle intense and interesting, which is good because the basic combat of the game is fairly straightforward and without the difficulty of getting everything done, would be rather dull.
In the kingdom of Schwert, you will have the ability to accept quests from people around the kingdom, which usually results in a “kill this monster type” of mission. Players will also be able to visit the merchant, blacksmith, and barracks to improve the characters and brigades. Stopping by the merchant’s shop will allow you to purchase items, weapons, and accessories for your upcoming battles. Each character can carry one weapon, an accessory, and up to ficve items. At the blacksmith, you can upgrade weapons a total of three times or unlock skills from the weapon to use. The barracks will allow you to upgrade your brigade units, improving their stats, weapons, and skills. Here is where you want to make sure that each one of your main characters are leveled us, because the troops in the barracks can only be leveled to the number of their leader. So, swordsmen can only be upgraded to the current level of their leader Plume, which is the same with archers and their leader, Raltz.
Battle Princess of Arcadias does a great job when it comes to the presentation, though there are some definite bumps in the road. Character models are cute, full of color, and there is a surprising amount of detail to the world itself. Cut-scenes are presented much like past Nippon games, with a character portrait shown for whoever is talking. On the audio side of things, the music score throughout the game is just outstanding with a shade of brilliance that you’ll want to listen to it over and over. The opening score is just lights out superbly done, and I often found myself humming tunes from the game while not even playing — much to my wife’s amusement. The entire game is voiced in Japanese with English subtitles, with some of the characters voices bordering on annoying, which will possibly put off some people from giving it a shot. Dialog between characters is actually rather funny at times and even when it’s not, the game is nice enough to give players an option to skip scenes.
Going into the game, I really didn’t have high hopes for the title and figured I would dismiss it rather quickly. However, as I dove into it, I found myself enjoying almost every aspect. Battle Princess of Arcadias is a tricky game that might look simple on the surface, but provides a great challenge for players out there. You will get frustrated during battles, as you are juggling five different things to do, and you are getting tossed around by a rag doll because you missed a block. However, after each frustrating death, I found myself wanting to figure out what went wrong and adjust my tactics. With a great musical score and just the right level of cute without being annoying, Battle Princess of Arcadias is a game worth checking out.