Review: Battle Princess of Arcadias (PS3)

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Title: Battle Princess of Arcadias
Format: PlayStation Network Download (1.0 GB)
Release Date: June 17, 2014
Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software America
Developer: Apollosoft, Nippon Ichi Software America
Original MSRP: $29.99
ESRB Rating: T
Battle Princess of Arcadias is exclusive to PlayStation 3.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

Battle Princess of Arcadias is a story about a mystical kingdom of Schwert, of the land of Vertex. This peaceful kingdom has recently been overrun by monsters and enormous Ancient Weapons, which are large machine-like monsters, that are terrorizing the kingdom. This game tells the story of the brave and mighty Battle Princess Plume, and her companions, in their quest to protect the kingdom.

Gameplay:
In the beginning of the story, you’re introduced to Plume, who is not only the sister of the King of Schwert, but is also the Kingdom’s Battle Princess. As far as I can tell, each kingdom in the world of Vertex has a Battle Princess, which is a female warrior whose sole purpose is to protect the kingdom and its people.

The first scene of the game shows Princess Plume walking through the forest where she finds that her chief squire, Dahnel, has attempted to battle an infamous Ancient Weapon all by himself. Dahnel is barely alive when you find him, he soon dies, and Princess Plume is forced to fight the large dragon creature on her own. This becomes a tutorial of sorts to get you acquainted with the battle system. After the battle with the large red dragon ends, you go back to the castle where you meet the cast of zany characters whose story this game follows.

Once at the castle, you go to the throne room to find your brother Sigurth, who has been magically transformed into a goose—and a talking goose at that. At this point, you kind of get the flavor of the entire game. The characters that you meet in the game each have their own quirky personalities and the writers of the story did a fantastic job of giving each character a life of their own.

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The game itself is a two-dimensional side-scrolling brawler with RPG elements. You have access to a world map in which you can zoom in to five distinct sections and each stage is represented by a flag. Once you select a stage, you can take up to three characters from you party into it. Once in the stage, you play as the first character you chose and you can switch between the three characters on the fly by hitting the R2 and L2 triggers.

As mentioned before, the battle system in this game is two-dimensional and scrolls from left-to-right. Enemies appear on screen and you’re limited to how far in the stage you can go. As you defeat the waves of enemies, you’re allowed to progress to the next section of the stage. The controls range from simple button presses to a bit more complex, which will be detailed later. But the basic controls are Square to do a standard attack, Triangle to do a heavy attack, Cross to jump, and Circle to use an item. Items, including health-regenerative items and potions, must be equipped prior to entering a stage. From there, you can cycle through the equipped items by holding down the R1 trigger, and using the Square and Circle buttons to shift the items left or right.

The battles themselves are so very satisfying. The range of characters you get in your party have seven distinct weapon types: Longswords, Magic Wands, Bow & Arrow, Axe, Buster Swords, Guns, and Spears. I found every single one of these weapon types to be extremely fun. Swordmen, including Princess Plume and Hevelke, are fast and agile. Spears are great for striking from a distance and hitting a large number of characters at once. Buster Swords (probably my favorite), are huge, flat swords which were popularized by Final Fantasy VII, can do a massive amount of damage, as well as have a huge reach on the screen. Bows and Arrows make it easy to hit flying enemies, guns are great for hitting enemies from far away and magic wands are good for dealing out elemental attacks.

Battle Princess of Arcadias also has a pretty good combo system that allows your character to deal absolutely massive amounts of damage using multi-attacks. The combo system itself is not too complicated or complex, dealing with only a maximum of four or five button combinations. I ended up using the standard Square times four attack, and the Square times three, then pressing left or right plus the Triangle button to do a large multi-hit attack almost all of the time.

There are three main gauges in this game: one for health, one for Skill Points (SP), and one for your experience (which shows how much experience you need to go to the next level). As you fight enemies you accrue SP and once the meter is full, you can deal a massive special attack by pressing the Square and Cross buttons simultaneously. Each character has a different special attack, but most every character’s special attack can take out an entire screen of enemies. These special attacks, along with the standard multi-attacks, were so gratifying it never got old, even throughout the end of the game.

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Though the battle system is almost the same in every stage, the stages in this game are divided into three distinct types of missions: Combat, Skirmish, and Siege. In Combat stages, you choose three characters from your party to go into the stage. On the character selection screen, you can also equip each individual member with potions and other health or status regenerative items. Once in battle, you do not have access to your inventory, so you will need to make sure each character is stocked up.

The Combat stages are the simplest of the three stage types; you go from left to right and wipe out all of the enemies in the stage. As you defeat enemies, some will drop chests and bags of loot. At the end of the Combat stage your stats will be tallied up and you will be given an overall grade for that stage, as well as being awarded experience points and gold. After you get your grade you are presented with a screen that shows you all of the loot you have acquired for that stage. This screen allows you to take all the items or pick and choose which items to take. Once you’ve made all of your selections, any items remaining when you exit will be converted to gold (the value of each item is shown when you select it).

One other aspect of the battle is an honor or affinity system. When you match characters together, they will gain affection amongst themselves and help each other out in battle. When you take characters with higher affinity into battle with you, they will jump into the battle and do attacks every so often to help you out. You can check your character’s affinity level against the other party members from the status menu.

The next type of level in the game is the Skirmish level, where you take your brigade and pit them against enemy brigades. Each character in your party commands his or her own brigade of warrior women. So Princess Plume and Hevelke have a brigade of swords-women, your spear characters Kilios and Violone have a brigade of spear-wielding warrior women, etc. From the town, you can level up these brigades by using gold. You can’t really see the individual brigade members, but they’re represented as a distinctive female warrior, each having a different look to them. As you level them up, they automatically gain better weapons and stats.

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When you select a Skirmish level, you are shown the opposing brigades on the right-hand side of the screen, and you will get three to seven slots to fill with your choice of brigade. When you start out, skirmishes are three-on-three, but later in the game, it can be three-on-five up to six-on-six. Each type of weapon brigade will have strengths and weaknesses to other types, for example, axe-wielding brigades are very strong to sword brigades and magic brigades are weak to archer brigades.

The digital manual that accompanies this game has a whole chart that shows each type’s strengths and weaknesses in a grid format. Also, when you select your various brigades, you will see a small diagram with how the selected battalion matches up to the various other types. For most of the skirmishes, it’s fairly easy to choose battalions that are very strong to the opposing type, but sometimes, you will have to use one battalion to fight against two consecutive battalions.

Once you have selected which brigades will be in the skirmish, you are then able to select three characters from your party to lead the battle. When the character you are playing matches the type of brigade, your brigade will be slightly enhanced. Once you have finished selecting your characters, the battle begins.

The skirmish stage itself looks like regular-looking stage, similar to the Combat stages, except that on the dimensional plane in the distance, you can see the two current brigades fighting, while your character is in the foreground. There’s a gauge at the bottom of the screen that shows the current brigade for both teams, and there’s a gauge that shows how many brigade members are left in each team. As the fight progresses, both sides’ gauges will drop, according to how strong each brigade is. There’s also an icon next to the gauge that shows which brigade is currently fighting, and is signified by an icon of the weapon that the brigade uses. There are also a series of smaller icons that show which brigade is next in line.

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In the Skirmish mode, there is an additional menu at the top-right of the screen that controls the brigade. You can change to the different menu items for your brigade by holding the R1 button and pressing Triangle to access the brigade menu. From there, you can use the Square and Circle buttons to cycle through the choices. The choices that you have for your brigade include: Attack Formation, Defensive Formation, and Basic Formation. If your brigade is matched up to a weaker brigade, you can use the Attack Formation to have your brigade focus on attacking, during which you will see the opposing brigade’s gauge drop faster. If you happen to be losing too many members during the fight, you can switch to Defensive Formation to help your brigade stay alive.

There’s also a Basic Formation, that is more of a balanced fighting style for your brigade and is also the default. In addition to the fighting formations, you also have the ability to swap brigades, in which all of the current brigades will go on standby and the next brigade in line will take the field. You’ll want to use the swap brigade option as you defeat the opposing team’s brigades, or if you start to become far outnumbered. If your current brigade’s numbers get to zero, that one will be defeated and you will no longer be able to use them for the remainder of the battle.

Finally, there is one last option in the brigade menu, which is the Brigade Arcana. As your brigade is fighting in the background, you control your character in the foreground. Waves of enemies will appear from both the left and right-hand side of the screen and you must use your characters to defeat them. There is a Vigor Gauge, just under your Brigade Gauge, for a special attack that fills up as you defeat enemies.

There are usually one or two enemies within a wave of enemies in a Skirmish battle that will have an arrow with the word Leader above them. If you take down a leader, you will fill about 20% of your Vigor Gauge at once. Once the Vigor Gauge is full, you can choose the Brigade Arcana option to unleash a devastating special attack on the opposing side. Once you choose this option, a cut-scene will show your character performing a special attack on several of the enemy brigade. Once this is over, and depending on how strong your brigade is, it can significantly lower the number or even destroy the opposing brigade. You complete the Skirmish stage by taking out all of the enemy’s brigades. Once completed, you will go through the same screens as the Combat mode, in which you get a score and claim the spoils of the battle.

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The last type of battle stage is the Siege stage. For this type of stage, you choose three party members, just like in the Combat and Skirmish stages to go up against a boss. Along with your character, he or she is also accompanied by his or her brigade. There’s a command menu, similar to Skirmish mode, that can direct your brigade to attack, defend, take a balanced approach, as well as retreat and a Showdown option (which is similar to the Brigade Arcana). Each boss has a shield gauge, so until that gauge reaches zero, all of the attacks that you and your brigade perform aren’t actually hurting the boss. So, earlier in the game, you’ll want to go into the defensive mode until the boss’ shield gauge is depleted; from there, you can then switch to Attack Formation to start doing damage to the boss. If you do enough damage, there’s a small yellow Stun gauge near the boss’ health and shield gauges that once full will cause the boss to become paralyzed for a period of time. Once the boss is stunned, you can pull off your Showdown attack to do a super attack, similar to the Brigade Arcana attack. Once the boss’ hit point meter reaches zero, you will win the match and be scored on your performance, as well as gain loot from the battle.

In addition to the battle sections, Battle Princess of Arcadias also has a level progression system and a crafting system. Throughout the battles, you will gain each level, which increases your stats. Also, your level affects how high you can level up that character’s brigade. Certain brigades will have two leaders and, in that case, the brigade can be leveled to the higher level of the two leaders.

As you go through battles, you will pick up gold, materials, potions and weapons. Certain weapons will have a small hammer icon next to them on the weapon information screen; this indicates whether or not a weapon can be upgraded. The weapon shop in town allows you to enhance a weapon (using materials to increase the stats of that weapon), unlock hidden skills on the weapon, or transform it into a more powerful weapon. All three of these options require gold and materials that you pick up after battles. Different regions in the world of Vertex will have different materials, so you’ll need to remember what stage had a certain material if you want to do certain upgrades.

One aspect that I felt was a huge oversight in the design of the game, was there is no indication where a particular material can be found, so given that there are one or two dozen different types of materials, remembering where you picked them up can be almost impossible. Several times I really wished that there would be some indication which stage a material could be found, perhaps when you select a stage, it could list the items already found there; or perhaps on a material you found, it would give some indication what stage it was found. Another issue I had was that there is no sorting ability in any of the menus. When you are trying to enhance a weapon, you have to cycle through all of your materials to find out what type of stat is going to be enhanced and it can be a big pain to try to find certain materials. I really wish there was a way to sort the materials by name, by enhancement type, or by other attributes to make it easier to choose which type of enhancement I wanted to do.

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Other than these small design issues, such as menu sorting and material drop locations, this game was extremely fun to play. The story was very engaging, and had a few plot twists. The combat was super fun and rewarding. The game can get very challenging, but you always have the option of grinding out your characters to overcome a tough stage. After beating the game, you are prompted to create a game clear save file that will allow you to go back and replay any level that you have played previously, including side quests you’ve found throughout your playthrough. In addition to having an unlocked map, there’s a special stage that has several sub-stages. Once you beat all of these stages, you can do a New Game Plus from scratch, but with more difficult enemies and a few special items. There is no cumulative gameplay time data in the menus, or on your save file, but if I were to estimate, I would say that this game took me about 50 hours or so to beat completely.

Visuals:
The visuals of this game are a type of two-dimensional cel-shading, but with a watercolor look to it. Also, during the battle stages, there are multiple planes that make use of parallax scrolling. Each sprite is hand-drawn and the animations are intentionally made to look a bit like animated papercraft. I really love how the battle system looks and plays. When you hit enemies, they react, and if your weapon is enchanted with fire, ice, or electricity, they will be affected by it. After you do enough damage to an enemy, it will become a shadow and there will be an explosion of light. Sometimes, your attack will split the enemy in half and it just feels so good to annihilate scores of enemies on the screen. The art in the game has a very unique look; the colors are bright and very bold, and all of the characters have a great anime-like look to them, but still look like a watercolor painting. All in all, this is just a beautiful, whimsical looking game.

Audio:
Perhaps to keep the costs low, the voice tracks in this game are only in Japanese, there is no English voice option. This really did not matter much to me, because I’m used to playing games with subtitles and also the voices were pleasant to listen to and seemed to fit each character.

The best part of the audio is the soundtrack, which is one of my favorite parts of this game. I really do wish that there was a way to purchase the soundtrack. From the title screen, to the various parts of the non-battle portions of the game, the music was just beautiful and really gave me a wonderful whimsical feeling. The battle music, on the other hand, was this awesome dance music, sometimes more techno-style, but it really got me in the mood to slice up tons of enemies on the screen.

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Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single-player only.

Conclusion:
Battle Princess of Arcadias kind of caught me by surprise because it came out of nowhere, and it was so good. I think it’s going to be one of those overlooked and underrated titles (which is really unfortunate). This is a fantastic game, and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes brawlers and RPGs. It’s not too complicated, but it does have some depth to it. It’s also not too difficult but is challenging enough and very rewarding to play.

For completionists, you can focus on maxing out weapons, getting the Master S level on all stages, or playing through the game multiple times on a harder difficulty. The initial price is a tad high, but I feel that it’s definitely worth it. It’s got a few flaws, but the sheer joy it gave me, along with the story, art, music, and action far outweighed any issues I had with it. I really hope that there is some kind of sequel or the developers do another story similar to this one, because I really enjoyed this game.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were provided by the publisher.

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Written by Jason Honaker

Jason Honaker

A software developer for over 15 years, originally from St. Louis, MO and currently living in Seattle, WA. Started gaming in 1979 on the Atari 800 8-bit PC. I play all sorts of games, but am partial to RPGs and 3rd person brawlers and shooters.

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  • heero2001

    I am playing this game now and it’s great. I did have some of the niggling problems that you mentioned but overall I am really enjoying it.