Review: Code of Princess is a case of style over substance

Code of Princess, or as many are hailing it, the spiritual successor to Guardian Heroes, is one of the best examples of instant satisfaction on the go. It definitely wears its heritage on its sleeves, and anyone familiar with the Sega Saturn game will feel instantly at home here. It's got a gorgeous art style, fast paced combat, and a bevy of characters to unlock. So where does Guardian Heroes fall short?

First let's talk about the premise. Code of Princess stars the scantily clad and voluptuous Princess Solange and her band of warriors she meets on the way, on an adventure to save the Kingdom. You got all your anime stereotypes here; the girl tomboy, the hulking warrior who speaks in simplified words, a pervy samurai, a busty zombie girl, the works. What's great is that each of these eclectic characters can be unlocked and used in the campaign, or in the other Free or Bonus modes.

codeCode of Princess relies on presenting players with bite-sized levels (some consisting literally of about 30 seconds of gameplay) which will mostly task you to kill anything you see moving on screen. Suffice it to say, combat is a huge component of the game. It's fast and frantic, and does have some slight nuances which can make it fun.

Besides your normal and heavy attacks, you also have a few button input commands that unleash more powerful moves. Combine these with the fact that you do double damage whenever you activate your Burst mode, and then double damage on top of that to any enemy that you're locked on to, you'll find that there are some great ways to exploit powerful enemies and bosses.

The problem is that the combat never evolves from a few simple commands and excessive button mashing. This is a shame because the game does have a leveling system, which allows you to increase various stats, such as attack damage, health, magic points and more. Why then is there no move progression. The same uppercut I've been doing with Solange from the very first mission, is still the same uppercut move I've done in the game's final level, the only thing different is the amount of damage she does.

codeThe other problem is that you'll often find yourself forced to go grind a few levels until you're a sufficiently high level enough to tackle the next story quest. To remedy this, the game does offer Free and Bonus modes, the former which allows you to replay story quests with a few more characters, and the latter which lets you take on completely new quests which unlock as you progress through the story.

You might be thinking, 'That sounds like hell of a lot of content!' The problem is that even though there are a ton of different missions to partake in, they all still feel largely the same. Whether I'm pummelling a band of skeletons in the graveyard, or some trolls in the forest, the fact remains that I'm mostly button mashing my way to victory. The game would have definitely benefited from a little variety in quest design.

Even after all that grinding, you'll find that your stats can be somewhat inconsequential. For instance, as an experiment, I've leveled up my attack damage completely full. That should mean that I should be able to take on pretty much any enemy in a matter of a few hits, granted I don't get hit first. That wasn't really the case, as I saw that most of my attacks were still doing mediocre damage. What's worse is that now, any piece of equipment which raises my attack damage is useless, as it doesn't raise it above my threshold.

codeNot all is bad however. While the game can get repetitive, it's still largely fun to pick a character that you've been leveling and unleash him on a horde of enemies. Also given that each of the quests will take you anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes, it's a great pick up and play game while you're waiting your turn at a crowded public restroom, hell, you might even squeeze in a game or two while going number two. TMI I apologize. The fact remains that Code of Princess is one of those games that are built to be played on the go, and that's cool.

The game does offer some online modes as well, such as a co-operative and versus mode. My efforts to try these modes out were fruitless, as most of them had either only one game going on at a time, or none at all. The only game I successfully joined was a four player versus match. It was completely laggy, and the characters all moved in slow motion. I also thought I'd try to play as one of the more obscure characters, since in any Multiplayer mode, you can also play as any of the NPC's and enemies you meet or fight along the way. I thought I'd be funny and played as the granny, though much to my surprise (or lack thereof) she didn't have any attacks that actually did damage. So I mostly had to just wait out this terribly slow match until the other three characters put me out of my misery. Why make these characters available if they don't do anything?! Needless to say, unless you're playing local with a friend, you won't find any games worth joining online.

It's also worth noting that playing with the 3D effect on does tend to slow the game up a bit, especially when there are a lot of characters on screen. With that said, it definitely looks better in 3D, and it's much easier to tell which plane (background, mid or foreground) your character and the enemies are located on.

If you loved Guardian Heroes, then chances are Code of Princess is already nesting in your 3DS. For those that are still on the fence, Code of Princess can be fun, if you know what you're getting yourself into. It doesn't have that much substance to it, and the combat will undoubtedly get repetitive. Not to mention it once again proves that age old theory that less armor, always means more protection.