Battle Princess of Arcadias is a game that comes close to greatness, but undoubtedly falls short of what it is truly capable of. While the game has a feeling all its own, it drags the player down with what could have been avoidable repetition. Battle Princess’s story is a high point for the game and is fun to play, but overall disappointing at the same time.
Plume, the princess of the Schwert Kingdom, is not your ordinary sit back and dictate type of royalty. She is a battle princess, a strong female warrior with the strength equivalent to thousands of regular soldiers. When monsters start attacking the kingdom, it is up to Plume and the members of the Princess Brigade to protect its citizens. The characters are charming and I enjoyed their charisma and the way they interacted with each other based on their different personalities. Raltz, Plume’s squire, is shy and tries to do the best he can at his duties. Yuni is the opposite, a confident sorcerer with her own agenda. When Yuni teases Raltz about something he forgot or about what he needs to do for Plume, it provoked a slight smirk on my face as the characters engaged in playful banter.
The game takes place on a 2D plain where you will use button mashing tactics to defeat your enemies. At your disposal are light and heavy attacks that can be chained together to fight large groups of monsters. While hitting enemies and executing these attacks is satisfying, the experience gets stale when you find yourself performing the same moves over and over again. The commands menu allows you to view available combos, but I felt mashing buttons worked just as well. On the bright side, the action is complemented by the game’s beautiful art style.
Vibrant colors breathe life into every environment. Even the generic landscapes you will venture through; forest, desert, lava, and ice areas, feel fresh and unique. Unlike the hyper-realistic games of today, Battle Princess’s art is a treat to the eyes. The game is full of creativity, everything from a goose king to panda bears in the shape of spheres gets time in the spotlight. The game’s soundtrack is not to be undermined either. A soothing score plays when exploring the home castle, while intense battles evoke equally as intense music that gets the adrenaline pumping. My favorite has to be the vocal performances that accompany Sieges, even though it was spoken in Japanese I was loving the songs.
Throughout Battle Princess you will participate in three different gameplay segments. Combat segments have you defeat all the enemies you encounter. This type is easily the worst and it is a shame that it comes up most frequently. Next we have Sieges. Here you and your army will attempt to defeat a giant monster. These are interesting because not only are you active in battle, but you must also command your troops as you see fit. Do you go in for an all out attack and hope for the best? Do you play it safe and try to conserve your soldiers? It adds depth to the beat ‘em up gameplay and I appreciated it greatly for that.
Easily the most fleshed out of the three, Skirmishes has you facing off against an opponent using different classes of soldiers. During the fight you will battle enemies as you usually do, but you will also have to watch the action in the background as your army fights your opponent’s army as well. You have to constantly change which army is currently active to best fit the current situation, à la rock, paper, scissors, while still commanding what they do and trying the take out the rival leader. I enjoyed how involved my brain was in everything that was going on. If I wasn’t busy trying to raise my army’s moral by fighting, I was analyzing how well they were doing against the enemies and adjusting my strategy to accommodate. Getting the most fun out of this segment would be a lot easier if the playing field was always even.
I started to see a pattern as each new Skirmish I came across included enemies that were about five levels higher than my team was. Everything in the game goes on a linear path too, so I didn’t miss any curtail experience points or currency. This meant going back to previous played levels to grind up my team to be able to even compete against my opponents. As you can assume this got repetitious rather quickly. Battle Princess’s is in desperate need of a better progression arc. In any game with RPG elements grinding is unacceptable. It got to a point where I found that leveling up caused more pain then it was worth. It would have been better to just go into battles where the enemies were all the same level as my characters. To make matters worse, your team, which consists of 10 members, doesn’t level up evenly and requires you to level up each person individually.
Battle Princess lets you play as several different characters that you encounter during the story. As each character joins the Princess Brigade, they are unlocked as a leader, accompanied by their own faction army that they lead for Skirmishes. Battle Princesscontinues it’s tormenting grind with these factions. Each faction levels up only when you pay enough money. This means features like upgrading weapons, enchanting armor, and generally buying equipment and items are put to the side so that your factions levels will stand a chance against the overpowered opponents you must face against. Each characters has a different weapon and play style. I found that melee characters, like Plume’s sword combat, was incredibly more effective than ranged characters, like Raltz’s bow and arrow. This is unfortunate because it means some characters are never used or when they are needed, say there faction is effective in a Skirmish, it is better to just take the disadvantage rather than taking the time to level them up.
This is one of the few games that would benefit from a sequel. A lot of great elements are here and I like the direction the game is headed with its varied gameplay segments and unique art style. Battle Princess is bogged down by repetitious grinding and needed depth to its combat. Here’s hoping developer Apollo Software can realize this franchise’s true potential.Note: Battle Princess of Arcadias was reviewed on PlayStation 3. A digital copy of the game provided by the publisher.