Battle Princess of Arcadias Review
Going against the grain on many of their recent releases, Nippon Ichi (with the help of Apollosoft) attempts to take on the the side-scrolling hack-and-slash genre which has seen a nice bump in activity lately mostly from the folks at Vanillaware. It may provide as stellar an experience as a title like Dragon’s Crown does, but Battle Princess does provide a few unique systems to help boost it up.
While the game starts off slow, it does ramp itself up to become what is ultimately an enjoyable experience for fans of the genre.
The plot revolves around the young, crimson-maned girl Plume of the Schwert Kingdom who has taken on the role of Battle Princess whose role is to protect humanity from the dangerous monsters that roam the land using their tremendous fighting ability.
Her innocence makes her appear to be a bit of an airhead, but she clearly means well. She is assisted by the mage Yuni who keeps her in line and her older brother Sigurth who is the ruler of Schwert Kingdom and for some reason a duck, which makes for some interesting dialogue.
The combat featured in the game is pretty straightforward as you would expect from the genre. You have your normal attack and strong attack which can be modified using the analog stick to attack enemies both low to the ground and high in the air. Some of the characters have the ability to double jump and guard incoming attacks which becomes especially useful while surrounded as you would expect.
You will be able to take up to three different characters in battle that can either be switched between each other with the tap of a button or can jump in for assist attacks or triple-team special moves during the course of battle. There are several playable characters featured in the game, each with their own unique moveset and their own strengths and weaknesses.
Battle Princess of Arcadias also tries to inject variety into the mix by adding different game types. In the normal missions, the ground makes their way from left to right, attacking any of the monsters that appear on screen and grabbing the different item and money drops along the way. Some of these maps do add features like traps and other hazards, but these are low in the overall count.
Siege Battles have you and a battalion of fighters take on the different colossal boss creatures. The army can be controlled through a rotating action bar at the top of the screen which has you ordering the others to focus on attacking, put emphasis on defending unless the enemy is really close, strike a balance between the two, or even unleash special attacks if the Morale meter fills up.
Probably the most in-depth mechanic in the game are Skirmishes. Back in the town, Plume is able to visit the Barracks and level up different class types individually. Their level is capped by whichever playable character they are led by - if Plume is Level 30, that particular brigade can only level up to 30 themselves. Just like party members, certain classes are better at dealing with certain enemy classes than others, so you better expect a fair amount of grinding coming into this to handle some of the more difficult encounters later on.
During the Skirmishes, players will be fighting off squads of enemies in the foreground while their brigade fights in the background, a meter the only real indication of the health of any particular brigade. It is vital to take out the identified leader in the group you’re fighting as soon as they appear to help feed the Morale meter which lets you change tactics or perform the aforementioned special attacks that can completely change the tide of battle.
The entire time, the enemy is doing the exact same thing, so being able to micromanage this Morale bar that continuously fluctuates with what's going on is key to winning.
Visually, Battle Princess of Arcadias is remarkable. The background art is beautiful, character portraits are stunning, and there’s this incredible attention to detail that helps give the game its own interesting personality. While the game looks good, the animation of the characters, especially during combat, looked pretty stiff, but wasn’t outright noticeable unless you were really paying attention. Of course, it could have been by design to give the game a storybook feel.
The plot also tended to flail a little bit at times not knowing which mood it was trying to go for and only briefly touching on some of the more intriguing aspects of where it could go, like how a Battle Princess is essentially a military weapon built to destroy anyone they label as their “enemy”. Even during some of the more evocative moments, the feeling got lost only moments later when Plume and her bubbly personality returned.
However, the dialogue between characters offered plenty of entertaining moments especially with the more quirky members of the cast. The music also served its purpose well, bringing a nice mix of pop and rock music to keep players engaged.
Battle Princess of Arcadias may not stand up to the likes of Dragon’s Crown, but it offers a fascinating mix of gameplay elements like Skirmishes and Siege Battles that breathes fresh life into a tired genre. That along with a budget price while clocking in at over a dozen hours with a decent amount of replayability with trophies that encourage it means there’s some solid value to be had.
Battle Princess may not handle its story-telling that well, but I certainly enjoyed the time I spent playing this one, and I do feel it warrants a look.