Battle Princess of Arcadias (PlayStation 3) Review

By Az Elias 16.02.2015 2

Review for Battle Princess of Arcadias on PlayStation 3

From ApolloSoft and NIS comes a familiar-looking side-scrolling beat 'em up in the Odin Sphere vein. Battle Princess of Arcadias seems to very honestly take influence from some of Vanillaware's past works, and throws in a strategy element in an attempt to forge another layer of gameplay to be handled on the fly during real-time hacking and slashing. Although a great idea in theory, it's executed poorly.

It is rather bizarre how easily the most interesting aspect of Battle Princess of Arcadias was messed up, but it is best to start with the good. Not just a side-scrolling beat 'em up, there are actually three different types of stages that appear throughout the course of the game.

Combat stages are the typical 'left to right' affairs of getting to the end, slashing up enemies along the way, and taking them out with cool moves and combos. Despite it getting rather samey the more of these that are played, combat levels are by far the most fun parts of the game. Plenty of moves can be unlocked, and partner characters can be switched in at any time (provided their HP hasn't depleted), to mix up the style of combat. These characters will also weigh in with special attacks of their own when performing the controlled character's specials (the fact these AI moves actually do connect for the most part is very pleasing, and can really help keep combos alive).

With a large roster of 10 characters - three of which can be taken into combat and alternated between - there is a great deal of choice when it comes to weapon styles and move lists, with each unique party member covering swords, guns, spears, staffs, bows and more. Both ranged- and close-attacking combat is deployed well, with a good weighty feel to characters that allows for air combos, as well as blocking and dodging that can be used in the air to defend at any time. In short, combat mechanics are solid, even if it has to be said that sticking with just one character for the entirety of the game is perfectly doable. It means picking a favourite style will suffice, as long as the character is levelled up well enough.

Screenshot for Battle Princess of Arcadias on PlayStation 3

Skirmishes are where the game takes a bit of a tumble, which is very unfortunate. The idea is that the main character, Battle Princess Plume, is the leader of a brigade of soldiers, and can dish out orders mid-battle to defeat the opposing force of enemies. In the foreground, Plume (or whichever other character is chosen) is controlled as normal, fighting in a short area and going back and forth to defeat the endless enemy soldiers, whilst the background sees the brigade taking on the other swarm of enemies.

Each brigade specialises in a specific weapon type and will be more effective against a certain group of enemies. Therefore, keeping an eye at the bottom of the screen to see which enemies are currently switched in is the key to defeating them. The big problem is how the game presents a rather archaic control system for issuing commands.

The R1 button must be held down, with Square and Circle used to cycle left and right in a menu at the top-right of the screen to select and use items. R1 and Triangle are pressed to bring up the brigade commands menu and, again, the face buttons are needed to choose between defensive, attacking, special, and other forms of combat for the soldiers under Plume's command. If that sounds rather difficult to grasp, imagine trying to perform all this under pressure in real-time, where the game does not pause to compensate for the poor implementation of commanding an army.

Screenshot for Battle Princess of Arcadias on PlayStation 3

Needless to say, this whole system does get used to, but never does it ever get to a point where it can be accepted as the only way this could have been created. There are two analogue sticks that could easily have had their directions used to issue commands. The left stick can be used for moving characters, but allowing the option to choose D-pad or stick would have been a simple solution if the left stick would have been needed; otherwise, the unused right stick is more than enough.

Finding the right moments to quickly apply necessary orders soon finds its way into the mind-set, and that's usually once a number of enemies have been cleared to give a few seconds of respite, or distance has been made between character and enemy. This gives just enough time to input the command needed.

Orders become much easier to issue in the final stage type: sieges. This pits just an army of 150 soldiers alongside Plume against a boss. With the defence barriers and strong attacks of these major foes, using the defensive and attacking commands is important during these showdowns. Brigade orders can be issued during certain noticeable moments of the boss being stunned or idling, and there usually aren't any other enemies to worry about, making these battles less tricky than skirmishes. The downside is that there really aren't enough of these boss fights.

Screenshot for Battle Princess of Arcadias on PlayStation 3

Perhaps the biggest concern of all is the opening hours of Battle Princess of Arcadias. Aside from this rather difficult-to-grasp combat system for any new player, the actual difficulty level itself is set very high from the get-go, making it pretty natural for failures of early stages to occur far too often. Thankfully, accumulated EXP and levels are kept even after getting KO'd, but early grinding is about the best way to get over this initial barrier that potentially has the power to turn people off straight away.

What this can turn into rather quickly is overpowering of characters. As previously mentioned, it's the case that it is possible to stick with just the one character and blast through combat stages without ever really feeling the need to switch to another one with a different weapon type, since they all function in the same way in the end, but simply sticking with a favourite, levelling it up, as well as levelling up just the one brigade, is enough to power through every combat, skirmish and siege stage with little-to-no problems. It's thanks to the tough early levels that going this route becomes the main method of progression, and although it means not having to worry about flicking between the best-suited brigades and characters, whilst dishing out orders during combat, it does defeat the point of the core gameplay system. The number of stages with goals of getting high ranks is enough to keep the fun alive till it's over, however.

In the meantime, the story doesn't go overboard, which is unusual for a Japanese-centric title, but it is actually rather pleasing. There are still various tropes and stereotypes in there (a panty-obsessed pervert, for example), but it is light-hearted stuff that holds a few laughable moments, with Plume - despite her ditzy personality - a likeable heroine with a good heart.

Screenshot for Battle Princess of Arcadias on PlayStation 3

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

If the implementation for issuing orders of brigades was streamlined, Battle Princess of Arcadias would be a far more accessible and recommendable 2D beat 'em up. The bold mixture of mechanics has strong potential if only it is executed in the right way, but the forced high difficulty spike does no favours so early on, making power-levelling pretty much essential, and eradicates the need to even use the brigade strategy system. With these problems fixed, and with more engaging and tougher boss battles, there would be a lot more to like about ApolloSoft's pretty little title. Even as it stands, though, Battle Princess of Arcadias certainly should not be overlooked if in dire need of a good side-scrolling hack and slash game.

Developer

ApolloSoft

Publisher

NIS America

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date None   

Comments

this one looks really bad in motion... looks like cheap flash.

Think I've seen that comment said about it elsewhere. The animations are low on frames, making things look a bit jittery, but it feels good in motion. The actual level drops look to have had some degree of effort put into them - not too many repeated sections of backgrounds - but it doesn't go too far beyond covering the usual snow, fire, forest, desert themes, etc. It serves its purpose as a decent brawler alternative well enough, but I think it's better to buy half price.

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