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Code of Princess Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . With its bite-sized stages and basic arenas, I have a hunch Code of Princess worked better on the Nintendo 3DS. As a computer game, the short attention span elements feel jarring and out of place. Despite a few problems, this is an enjoyable 2D beat-em-up for solo and group parties. But even at its best, Code of Princess left me wanting a proper sequel, not an ill-fitting port. Rating: 64%
Code of Princess
Code of Princess Code of Princess Code of Princess Code of Princess
  • Review Score:

  • B-
Portable games have come a long way since the days of the black and white Game Boy. Those simple 8-bit graphics have led to huge 3D worlds all perfectly created on tiny handheld systems. But for all the advancements we've seen in the last thirty years, there are still huge differences in the way developers approach making games on a system like the PS Vita or Nintendo 3DS. We tend to see smaller stages, more bite-sized missions and experiences better suited for on-the-go gaming. This is good for portable systems, but a big problem when porting those games to home consoles and computers.

This is the problem Code of Princess has run into. Originally released on the Nintendo 3DS back in back in 2012, this story-heavy brawler was clearly built with the system's limited hardware in mind. Now the game is getting a re-release on PC, where the short levels and repeating backgrounds are a little harder to swallow. These things may not bother some people, but I found myself yearning for a proper sequel built with modern consoles and computers in mind.

Code of Princess takes place in a fantasy world populated by humans and monsters. After a recent attack, Princess Solange Blanchefleur de Lux has been exiled from her kingdom and sets off on an adventure to get to the bottom of the recent violence. As it turns out, there's something compelling about Princess Solange (and I'm not just talking about the fact that she's practically naked throughout the journey). Just about everybody is drawn to the princess is one way or another, and aid her on a truly epic undertaking.

All this plays out through a series of lengthy conversations, all designed to make this deeper than the typical side-scrolling beat-em-up. We're introduced to a roguish thief, a zombie-like Necromancer, Allegro the bard and a whole host of other colorful characters, each with a different reason for tagging along. The result is a story filled with the typical high-fantasy drama and swashbuckling action.

After everybody has finally finished talking, the game throws you into what amounts to an arena battle. You're stuck in a limited environment filled with enemies and bosses to defeat. Completing the mission will send you to yet another cinema, followed by choosing another stage, more talking, a brief arena battle, rinse and repeat. This is a formula Code of Princess maintains through dozens of stages, for better or worse.

Code of Princess (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Using sprites that bounce between three 2D plains, the gameplay bears more than a passing resemblance to Sega's Guardian Heroes. This is not accidental, as the director, character designer and lead programmer from that Saturn classic were hired on as contractors for Code of Princess. Each character has a weak and strong attack, along with a burst and lock-on strikes. You can change moves by holding different directions, jumping and dashing, giving the player quite a few attacks to work with.

While you start out playing through the game with Princess Solange, completing stages will open up new playable characters. These are not carbon copies of our hero, as each of the fighters handles completely differently. I went in expecting everybody to have versions of Solange's various moves, but that certainly wasn't the case. It took me some time to get used to Zozo's magic-focused attacks and Allegro's rock star kicks.

For the most part, the action is fun and handles well. It veers into button-mashing territory from time to time, but there's enough depth to the combat and characters to keep you going through the story mode. Unfortunately, it often feels like there isn't enough action. Most of the game is spent reading endless conversations and waiting for the fighting to start. And even when it arrives, the combat normally only lasts for a minute or two.

Code of Princess (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

The good news is that Code of Princess comes with a lot of levels to fight through. Beyond the initial quest Salonge undertakes, her three companions also have separate levels and story beats to uncover. And then there are the bonus stages, which offer dozens more fights. These levels may not last very long, but the developers made sure to give you a lot of them.

Unfortunately, this introduces the game's other big problem. While it's true that there are a lot of stages to complete, you'll quickly grow bored of seeing the same few backgrounds. The same goes for the bad guys, which otherwise look great. A lot of the repeating stages and enemies makes the game's Nintendo 3DS roots that much more obvious. And the occasional low-res images certainly don't help.

Speaking of the Nintendo 3DS, purists will be happy to find several ways to bring the portable's second screen into the mix. You can display the screens side-by-side, in different sizes and one on top of the other, or just go full-screen. But here's the thing, the information found on the second screen isn't important enough to take up that much room. I found myself sticking with the full-screen approach and putting up with the occasional low-res art asset.

I have a hunch that a lot of my concerns wouldn't have been as glaring on the Nintendo 3DS. The short levels and bite-sized extras would likely be fun and rewarding in short bursts. But as a computer game, this approach is extremely jarring. Every time I started finding my rhythm in battle, the stage would end. All of the elements are here for a great 2D brawler, but Code of Princess left me wanting a proper sequel, not an ill-fitting port.
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