Battle Princess of Arcadias Review: Last Exit to Capital Town

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Battle Princess of Arcadias (8)

Title: Battle Princess of Arcadias
Price: $29.99
System(s): PS3
Release Date: June 17, 2014
Publisher (Developer): Nippon Ichi (ApolloSoft)
ESRB Rating: “Teen” for Violence and Mild Language

Beloved subjects, the kingdom is in turmoil. We’re besieged by monsters. Hostile kingdoms surround us on all sides. Our ruler is an incompetent waterfowl. Action must be taken. The land cries out for a hero. A hero that shows a lot of leg, and has a personality like if cotton candy could somehow do cocaine. No, that isn’t nearly enough leg.

Battle Princess of Arcadias (5)

Battle Princess of Arcadias is a side scrolling brawler from ApolloSoft that’s heavy on strategy and RPG elements, as well as kawaii baroque styling. The first thing you’ll notice about the game is its art style. The second is how prominently grinding for XP factors into gameplay. The third is how you stop noticing discrete things as Battle Princess of Arcadias hurls itself at you in a furious bukakke of disparate gameplay elements unceremoniously cobbled together into a great, unwieldy Frankenstein’s Monster of awkward technicolor violence.

A Tale of Two Brain Cells

You are Plume, sister of the king and Battle Princess for the kingdom of Arcadias, a title that means you dedicate your not inconsiderable energies to vanquishing the realm’s enemies. But you won’t be acting alone. There is the aforementioned King Sigurth, who was turned into a goose by a cursed statue and is a bit put out by the whole thing, though he’s holding up nicely considering the circumstances. There’s Raltz, your new squire, who is replacing your previous squire Dahnel, who died in the opening scene in a feeble attempt to lend some gravity to the proceedings. There’s Yuni, the level-headed sorceress. Not to mention Rudolph, the captain of the Princess Brigade. (Which is a brigade assigned to the princess, not a brigade made of princesses.) Then there are the other Battle Princesses that include Marianne, Jurkka, Dieche, Violone, Odette, Kilios and a great deal more, many of whom are playable at various points.

The sheer volume of characters on display rivals Game of Thrones, though in terms of characterization Battle Princess of Arcadias is much more like Star Trek, where every alien species is defined by one predominant personality trait. Plume is an overeager ditz, Raltz lacks confidence, Yuni is practical, Rudolph is an aggressive warrior, Marianne is a lesbian, Dieche is a pervert, and so on. That is all you know, and all you need know. The characters’ personalities are so linear every interaction plays out like an equation: Plume+Yuni=Pulsing Vein Symbol, Plume+Raltz=Sweat Drop Symbol, Plume+Marianne=Heart Symbol. There is a great deal of banter between various characters, none of it particularly compelling. Kilios sums up the general attitude regarding our heroine when he tells Plume “You’re such a content idiot, it’s almost hard to be mad at you.”, a line she takes as a compliment.

I would say it’s also hard to care about any of the characters in Battle Princess of Arcadias, but the folks at ApolloSoft clearly aren’t aiming for anything so lofty as emotional investment. Mild Amusement is the coin of this particular realm, and Battle Princess of Arcadias is determined to extract it at any cost. Battle Princess of Arcadias is absolutely committed to its frivolousness, is fervently resolute in its shallowness, and playing through its story is like being pummeled with a feather the size of a station wagon. Everything here is as upbeat and disposable as the latest manufactured pop hit. The characters are bright, gaudy and empty. The music is airy, jaunty, and maddeningly catchy enough to worm inside your ear and lay its eggs in your brain. Battle Princess of Arcadias is determined to be a distraction and absolutely noting more. It succeeds handily in that respect, though there’s something wrong when the content of a video game is less profound than the receipt you got when you purchased it.

Battle Princess of Arcadias (2)

Combat, Siege, Skirmish, Repeat

Battle Princess of Arcadias has three distinct modes of combat which the player selects à la carte from Arcadias’ world map: Combat, Siege, and Skirmish. Combat is the most basic mission, featuring side scrolling brawling that has you slaying various monsters as Plume and her companions, each of whom has a different combat style, many of which suck. You select three characters at the beginning of each combat mission and can switch between them as you play, which is good, because you’ll have to. Battle Princess of Arcadia has good graphics for what it is, but whenever the designers are given a choice they choose aesthetics over gameplay, creating characters with awkward, ineffectual attacks who often can’t leap high enough to hit particular enemies. Plume and Rudolph work okay, everyone else is an ill-designed mess. That wouldn’t be such a big deal if you could elect not to use the other characters, but the level of each of the main characters limits the levels soldiers in your Princess Battalion can rise to, levels you need to raise if you’re going to have a chance in Siege and Skirmish modes.

Battle Princess of Arcadias (2)

Siege and Skirmish both have you fighting alongside the Princess Brigade, dictating commands to an army of 150 soldiers as you battle a monster in Siege or another army in Skirmish. There are Fencers, Archers, Sorcerers, Marauders, Lancers, and more in the Princess Brigade. Each type has to be leveled up with G you’ve earned via your various escapades, but they can only be leveled up as high as the corresponding character in your main roster. For example, Raltz is an archer. If Raltz’s level is 5 none of the archers can level up beyond 5, and won’t stand a chance against monsters or other armies, so you have to play as Raltz to earn XP so you can level up the archers in your Princess Brigade. Though playing as Raltz sucks, because Raltz is a weak useless turd compared to the the likes of Plume and Rudolph. No effort was made to balance the various fighters in Battle Princess of Arcadias, which is odd for a game so deliberately engineered to make you use every single one of them equally, since you’ll need every advantage you can get. Level grinding is an absolute must if you’re to stand any chance against the monsters in Siege missions and the armies in Skirmish missions.

Battle Princess of Arcadias (1)
Siege missions have you fighting a large boss with your Princess Battalion. There are 3 types of modes for your Princess Battalion: Normal Formation, Attack Formation, and Defensive Formation. Normal Formation and Attack Formation are both basically the same kamikaze mode, which will have dozens of your 150-strong battalion being slain by a single blow. Only Defensive Formation has enough of them guarding when the boss attacks for them to stand a chance, but it’s also ineffectual at dealing damage. Commands can only be issued if the morale bar on your unit’s health gauge is high enough, which is filled by inflicting attacks on the boss. Each boss has a health bar, a shield bar, and a stun bar. Damage can’t be done to health until the boss’ shield is lowered to zero, at which point it immediately starts refilling and damage has to be piled on to try to stun them. Siege is all about chipping away at the shield bar until it reaches zero, then immediately pivoting to attack to try to stun them before it re-fills. You fail if your character dies or your army is wiped out.

Is Battle Princess of Arcadias complicated? Very. Is it difficult? Quite. Is it rewarding? Not really. All levels are infinitely replayable, and you’ll have to fight the same battles over and over again in order to extract enough XP to have a chance during the next mission, which you will then in turn have to play over and over again. You wouldn’t expect something with a title as trifling as Battle Princess of Arcadias to be so flagrantly Sisyphean in character, but the folks at ApolloSoft are all about confounding your expectations, at least until the game actually begins.

Battle Princess of Arcadias (1)

No Queens Need Apply

Battle Princess of Arcadia is a game that offers choices that aren’t really choices, laying a rich smörgåsbord of decisions before you, then forcing you to do absolutely everything in order to progress, even the terrible stuff. Perhaps that appeals to people who like figuring out a game’s idiosyncratic rules and following them, but I felt like Battle Princess of Arcadias was never inviting me to discover it but always forcing me to accommodate it, often unintentionally, due to poor design. It’s tempting to attribute ostensible flaws in a Japanese game to cultural differences, and sometimes that’s a valid argument, but in this particular case Apollosoft has made no effort to conceal their lack of effort.

In truth, it seemed ApolloSoft didn’t want Battle Princess of Arcadias to do anything but look pretty and adhere precisely to the parameters they’ve set out for it. It’s the same attitude they have regarding their game’s female characters. Shut up, work hard within the boundaries we’ve set for you, and you may just get the opportunity to do the same thing over and over again.

…At least I got to be a pretty princess.

Site [Battle Princess of Arcadias]

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  • Omar Elaasar

    “furious bukakke of disparate gameplay elements”–that sentence literally had me doing a spit take all over my computer screen.