Thanks to Nicalis for the review code
Title: Code of Princess EX
System: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 07/31/2018
In this side scrolling action game, you take control of a princess named Solange who wields a legendary sword and is hunted down by a corrupt Queen who wants to unleash monsters and demons upon the land, leading to Solange and her friends to hunt down a mystical stone that’s the source of all magic and the Queen’s power.
Being an enhanced port of the 3DS game, the presentation has received several upgrades and changes from the original version published by Atlus several years prior. The best enhancement by far comes from the addition of 60FPS gameplay, making the experience much smoother than it did on the 3DS and removing the occasional slowdown I noticed in that version of the game. The resolution of the character portraits, animated cutscenes and dialogue boxes seem to have been improved as well, although the same can’t be said about the character models or backgrounds, which don’t look that great at all, and seem to have been directly imported from the original game with little attempt to increase their quality. The game still looks decent in motion and it even looks a lot better on handheld mode, but the backgrounds still leave a lot to be desired, clashing with the cell-shaded models in some stages. At the very least, the UI has been redesigned for a single screen experience, with much better looking HP and MP bars along with character portraits now places beside said bars.
Another major change from the 3DS version comes from the complete removal of all English voice acting that Atlus provided. This is somewhat understandable, since Atlus likely owns the rights to that voice cast to begin with, but what we’re left with instead is some pretty average Japanese voice acting. Some of it sounds OK such as the NPCs and some of the main characters, but a lot of it just comes of as irritating due to how often characters will repeat their lines in combat.
The main goal of Code of Princess EX is to go from stage to stage, defeating waves of enemies and clearing the objective tasked, whether it’s protecting NPCs from getting killed by the enemies, simply clearing out several waves, or fighting a boss. These levels are really short, most of them taking up to three to four minutes in length to clear, which helps keeps the pacing of the adventure going strong, all as several new characters join your party during the course of the story.
Once you’re in a level, learning the combat system is fairly simple, with B and A being your weak and strong attacks respectively, while the L and R buttons allow you to defend from enemy attacks and jump between the three planes when pressing up or down while blocking. The Y button causes your character to do a lock-on attack, which will cause the enemy struck with this move to display their health bar so you will know how much health they have remaining, and finally, the X button activates your burst mode, which rapidly drains your MP meter in exchange for being able to deal extra damage to enemies and take advantage of special abilities some pieces of equipment give you, from being able to regenerate your health or becoming immune to knockback.
Yes, Code of Princess uses an RPG like equipment system, where equipment is dropped either when you clear certain quests, or when you buy equipment items from a shopkeeper who opens his shop after clearing 12 or so levels, thanks to him having some unpaid debt to collection with one of the party members. Combat may seem like button mashing at first, but bringing up a menu will show you that there are special moves that every character can perform using the same simplistic button commands, from the traditional down-forward attack movement, to one where you just press down twice and then attack. Outside of leveling up your stats with EXP gained after clearing a stage, your equipment can provide several boosts to your stats as well. You may end up finding an accessory that blocks you from status conditions such as being poisoned or burned, or find a sword or shield that’ll increase your vitality (extending your HP meter) or your piety. (extending your MP meter for longer burst periods) Other stats such as attack strength, defense, resistance and mind help out as well, and leveling up characters as soon as you get them is recommended if you want to switch to them in the main story, since they tend to start out at level 1 and can easily be defeated in no time at all.
Strangely enough, I found that using low-leveled characters was really the only way to encounter any sort of high difficulty in the main story outside of a few bosses here and there. I actually purchased and played Code of Princess on the 3DS a year after it launched, and I remember having significantly more trouble just six stages into the adventure, getting stuck in no time, yet here in EX I was blazing through these levels with little issues whatsoever, and with unused party members gaining EXP when you clear as stage as well, I didn’t find the need to grind here as strong as I remembered back in the 3DS original, and that may be thanks to some smart balancing changes. If you are seeking a challenge though, the bonus quests will certainly provide one. These are simple missions that have nothing to do with the plot that usually task you with doing similar goals that you would do in a normal story mission, only under much stricter time limits.
The biggest addition to this game content wise however comes in the form of a local co-op mode, without the need to go online or use multiple 3DS systems for multiplayer. Now you can easily add another person into your game and go in for some local co-op fun, and the entire main story along with the bonus quests are available for you to take on in this mode. This is easily the feature that got me to enjoy this much more than the 3DS version, as I felt that playing this together with my friend provided a significantly more engaging experience than playing solo. The good news is even if you make progress with your friend in the main story, you can pick up where you left off in the solo mode, and vice versa. (Although your best times are exclusive to the mode you cleared the stage in) This offers a very enjoyable pickup and play experience, and more than makes up for the deserted four player online mode, which despite weeks of attempts, I was unable to find any matches in to test for the review, and only around twelve people seemed to be on the leaderboards. The local co-op combined with how every major NPC and enemy is playable in free play mode and the bonus quests (although they don’t gain the shared EXP from story mode, sadly) leads to a lot of content, along with a few in-game achievements to discover.
In conclusion, Code of Princess EX is how you fix a mediocre game into what it should have been to begin with. Despite the disappointing lack of the English dub already made back in 2012 along with some ugly assets, additions such as the increased framerate, better difficulty balancing for the story mode, the new EXP distribution system, better UI for a single screen experience, and superb local co-op, lead to this version of the game to be a beat em up worth checking out if you have a partner to play this with. While the story mode isn’t too terribly long, it’ll still provide plenty of enjoyment, while the bonus quests and in-game achievements extend the replay value even more. As someone who just couldn’t get into the 3DS original and lost interest real quickly, I was very pleased with how good this version felt to play. Like with most brawlers, this game can get rather repetitive, which is why the short levels and the good pacing help a lot to improve the monotony. Definitely check this out if you love two-player co-op brawlers, even if you hated or found the 3DS original to be pretty frustrating, since with two players and the rebalanced story, this game’s main story is a ton of fun!
I give Code of Princess EX an 8 out of 10.