Not quite Xena, warrior princess.
When I first saw screenshots of Battle Princess of Arcadia, I thought it was the next game from the developers over at Vanillaware.
Those who are aware of the pedigree of Vanillaware would note that it’s high praise indeed, and those who don’t might know their previous works like Odin Sphere, Muramasa and, most recently, Dragon’s Crown.
Demo Availability: N/A
Voice Acting Selection: JPN only with ENG subtitles.
Length: 10-15 hours
When I realized that it was developed by Nippon Ichi, I went in with a cautious optimism, and while it’s not quite up to standards of the works of Vanillaware, it’s still a fun ARPG with some twists of its own.
The very first thing to note is that this is a very colorful game both visually and in its personality.
As mentioned before, it’s reminiscent of the previous works of Vanillaware to some degree, albeit with a more emphasis on kid-friendly character designs.
The cast of characters are a rambunctious bunch, with personality flaws that they wear on their sleeves. While they closely follow many tropes that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever played a Nippon Ichi title, it was entertaining to see them interact with each other all the same.
Unlike titles like Odin Sphere and Muramasa, this is not a pure ARPG. It has more tactical elements, with the use of an army that must be commanded by switching around their AI behavior like defensive, aggressive and basic.
While the army isn’t used in the more standard combat maps, which is more or less what one would expect from a standard ARPG of cutting down waves of enemies while moving forward, it’s still a huge part of the campaign and requires special attention to be successful.
Given there is a rather large roster of playable characters to choose from, three of which who can be selected at the beginning of the mission and swapped at will, there’s a decent variety in combat styles.
The combat itself isn’t anything particularly inspiring, and lacks grace at times with long recovery frames after moves and animation that isn’t going to win any awards. Still, it does its job well enough, as the each character is armed with an arsenal of moves to overcome almost any situation.
While the combat and boss modes both function well, the skirmish modes are an absolute pain to complete for all the wrong reasons.
A skirmish pits the Princess Brigade’s members up against another army in a tug of war where the AI of each side fight it out in the background while in the foreground the player attempts to destroy the leader group in order the raise the morale of the brigade, which allows for special actions.
The problem is, the brigade’s strength in both stats and equipment is based on their levels, and its takes quite the sum of gold in order to level them up.
Also, they can only be leveled up to the maximum of their group leader, which is a playable character.
Given there is no innate shared experience between the characters, they must be leveled one at a time in order to raise the potential max level of the brigades they’re associated with. With the sheer number of playable characters and different types of brigades which must be leveled up, it’s expected of the player to farm experience for many different characters and gold to train up the brigade.
What follows is an exercise in patience; doing the most efficient level over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and… well, you get the idea.
I’m no stranger to grinding- hell, I’m someone who’s beaten all the Disgaea games to date so I would say I have a high tolerance for it, but even I must admit I felt fatigued and ultimately bored at the level of grinding required in Battle Princess of Arcadia.
If not for the massive design flaws of how the leveling is done as well as how skirmish missions play out, I would’ve enjoyed my time with this title much more.
There is a solid little ARPG here with a charming cast of characters, but the real question is, can you handle all the grinding?
Fun Tidbit – The story seems overly simple and dull at first but it’s actually a bit darker and intriguing than I thought at first.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.