Let’s be honest, a quick glance at Battle Princess of Arcadias would perhaps have you thinking that it looks like a simple action-RPG with an anime aesthetic; we’ve seen dozens of titles like this before. Further analysis, however, uncovers plenty of deep systems to accompany its fun beat-’em-up mechanics. It is a shame, then, that Battle Princess of Arcadias has many hiccups which detract from the overall enjoyment of its combat.
You follow the life of the Battle Princess of Arcadias, Plumie, as she and her allies fight against the ever-growing outbreak of monsters who wreak havoc on her kingdom. While there are some comedic moments within the game, the characters adhere to the personality tropes we have seen time and time again. For example, Plumie is a naïve princess with an obnoxious, upbeat personality, and Raltz is the princess’ unskilled but well-natured attendant.
What people should be obnoxiously upbeat about, though, is the combat in Battle Princess of Arcadias. This action-RPG features a fighting-game-styled command list with plenty of combos to try, with new combos unlocked with almost every experience level gained. Combat feels fast, responsive, and exceptionally fun to play for those (like myself) who typically avoid JRPGs, reminiscent of Super Smash Bros’ Subspace Emissary mission. It simply feels fantastic when you get a combo down, launch the enemy into the air with an upward attack and then a friendly character adds a follow-up afterwards. The enemies can also be pretty challenging, even when revisiting missions at higher levels. By far, the combat is the best aspect of the game.
Complementing the combat is a loot and enhance system. Much like Western role-playing game series, such as The Elder Scrolls and Diablo, fallen enemies often drop weapons, accessories, and materials with which to upgrade your equipment. Upgrading uses some of the currency earned from completing mission, and can increase character stats, such as strength or luck, or add elemental effects to a weapon. Though basic, the system is a great addition to this RPG, offering plenty of replayability for those who want to get the best equipment and new abilities from levelling up.
However, these side-scrolling beat-’em-up sections are not the only missions you get assigned. For two out of the three varieties of mission types, Battle Princess of Arcadias also features a frustrating army strategy system. Basically, in these parts of the game, you are multi-tasking. You fight on one side of the field and then the army on a far off plain is being commanded by you via a lousy menu system. With these eight different classes, there is a rock, paper, scissors scenario. Every class is weaker, stronger, or matches another class. If a sword based army is facing against spears, they will deplete in numbers. Out of the eight classes, you get to choose three to face off against the enemy’s classes and you have to allocate the correct counter towards the opponent. While this at first sounds like a great Pokemon-esque mechanic, Apollo Soft added a morale system which restricts a simultaneous switch of class during battle. When you switch classes, the morale meter goes down 20% and if it reaches below 20%, you will not be able to keep switching. This ends up with the player waiting for the morale meter to grow back up to 20% so you can counter the opponent’s class and while doing so, that particular part of your army can be decimated, leading to much frustration. If this happened in Pokemon, you would not be able to switch out who you have on the field and this would fundamentally break the game entirely. This is what has occurred in Battle Princess of Arcadias and to be successful, you have to be lucky or train up your armies to a very high level to withstand a barrage of counter attacks.
These missions are incredibly frustrating and the menu system doesn’t help either. During the heat of battle, you have to press R1 and triangle together to switch from the item menu to the command menu. Then, you have to select a specific command (attack, defend, basic, or activate a super attack) while pressing either R1 and circle, or L1 and circle. This is all happening while you’re trying to fight enemies coming at you. Add all this to the element of luck as the AI controls the army and other than choosing which stance for them to go in, you have no input in what happens in the battle. This mission type is completely flawed because of the morale system, the terrible menus, and the fact that the armies are mostly AI driven. Overall, this mission type alone causes the player to be severely distracted from what could have been an excellent side-scrolling action-RPG. Honestly, Battle Princess of Arcadias would be better fitted for the Wii U as you could command your armies with the Wii U Gamepad instead of this jarring L1 and R1 control input.
Also, rather than fighting a boss yourself with the awesome combat system the developers put in place, you also have to rely on the troop system to accompany the attack. While this is better implemented, the menu system itself still feels wobbly with its L1 and R1 control input as you are fighting a difficult boss.
This game has a pleasant anime style (derived from the chibi form) and the developers have added a few eccentricities to the style, such as the use of a stage curtain during load screens, and an added animation on top of the characters during cutscenes to display emotions. The landscapes fail to use the aesthetic to the best of its ability, instead reusing the same old grassland, lava, and ice levels you see in almost every game out there. The character designs, on the other hand, are varied in styles and colors, and fit each character’s personality very well.
Furthermore, the soundtrack of Battle Princess of Arcadias is a similarly mixed bag. The occasional battle music during boss fights, called Thorn, sounds epic with a Japanese vocal track in the background (brought me back to the rocking Reach Out To The Truth battle theme from Persona 4 Golden) but at most points, the soundtrack consists of highly pitched synthesized sounds which aggravate after a few repeats especially at the Kingdom of Schwert, the Battle Princess’s hometown and main hub.
If you do turn off the music, you will notice that there are no ambient effects for the environment. There is no sound of rushing water for a fountain, no wind sounds, nothing other than the steps of your main character. The game is completely reliant on the music to create atmosphere for its world. Also, those who want English voice acting will be disappointed, as the game features only Japanese voices with English subtitles. The main character, Plumie, sounds annoying with an ear-splittingly high-pitched voice but the rest of the cast sound fine for the parts they are playing, as a BioShock-, The Last of Us-, or Final Fantasy- level of quality is hardly expected within a non-serious chibi animated title such as this. Keep in mind that I am not a connoisseur of Japanese-voiced multimedia, so you may have a different opinion on the quality of the voice acting. Honestly, I find it a shame that English voice acting was omitted from the final product.
Overall, Battle Princess of Arcadias falls short of the mark. The combat is superb with a varied command list and combo system. Also, the loot and upgrades available are excellent extras, but the clunky army command missions, the abysmal sound design (or lack thereof), and the lackluster character personalities drastically detract from the overall execution of the game.
Review copy provided by NIS America.