So often in this day and age of gaming it is rare to see something new and unique. Most games out there are just variations on a well known genre. Battle Princess of Arcadias is a rare exception to the rule, and while at its core it is a combination RPG/third person brawler, its unique mechanics and RTS strategy really help it stand apart from the competition. While it has a few hiccups in terms of gameplay, it is still an awesome experience (especially if you are an anime fan).
So as I am sure you are expecting from an anime-styled title like this, the story is a little bit out there. You primarily play as Princess Plume, the battle princess of the Schwert Kingdom who at the bequest of her brother the king (who incidentally is a goose… like an actual goose wearing a robe and crown) must defend the kingdom from all sorts of attacks from monsters and opposing forces.
Plume teams up with friends and employees to save the kingdom after the untimely death of her steward. Despite such a horrific act, the dialogue and story itself are all pretty light-hearted, although filled with quite a heaping serve of sexual innuendo. While the story serves its job of tying the missions together quite nicely, it is filled with a lot of unnecessary fluff and can really drag on at points which significantly lengthens a game that didn’t need it.
Battle Princes of Arcadias is a unique and exciting mix of genres. It is part side-scrolling beat em up, part RPG and part tactical RTS. Yep, you read that correctly. Now I can see why you would be confused, so let me explain each section in detail.
The game is entirely played in old-school arcade style side-scrolling beat-em up. You will enter a battle with three different characters. Each character has their own weapons and special skills and abilities that they can utilise in-battle. You are able to switch freely between your characters at will, and if you happen to have all three killed on you during the course of a stage, you will be forced to start over.
Here is where the RPG elements kick in. Not only do you have a veritable army of characters to choose from (in addition to the ACTUAL army that I will mention in just a moment), but each character levels up independently of everyone else. XP is earned by striking the killing blow against an enemy, and of course this bestows the usual bonuses we expect from RPGs – more HP, attack power, new skills and abilities. In addition, you can buy, upgrade and enhance weapons to further increase the skills of your fighters.
Ok, so far we have a mixture between side-scrolling action title and an old school RPG. Nothing new here right? WRONG! Some stages of the game will also have you commanding a squadron of soldiers, whilst you do battle with giant monsters or enemy forces of your own. Your squadron can be controlled via a few simple button presses, which means you wont ever be distracted by all of the action going on in the background, and can still focus on the enemies right in front of your face. The squadron gains bonuses if they are wielding the same weapon as your current playable character, and can replenish their soldier count by retreating from battle for a short while.
The RTS elements really shake up the formula and offer a new and frankly unique experience. Paying attention to two different things at once can be a bit tricky at first, but neither of the two gameplay styles are particularly deep or challenging, so you should be able to bounce between the two without any issues.
Battle Princess of Arcadias does have one gameplay issue where it really struggles; it is very grindy. The difficulty level takes sudden and unexpected jumps where you will find yourself facing off against enemies that are 10+ levels higher than you, necessitating a return to previous stages to grind your way through and level up some more. The game tries to make it a rewarding experience by grading you on your achievements at the end of each stage but it still feels tiresome and frustrating to have to spend hours facing the same horde of enemies before you can move on.
Visuals & Audio
Battle Princess of Arcadias is built almost entirely on 2d sprites, so it isn’t the most graphically intensive game out there, but it is still quite beautiful. Clearly inspired by a lot of Japanese anime, the game’s world and characters are all vibrant and colourful. Scarlet red hair, bright green foliage and just a veritable rainbow of colour make this a really compelling game to look at.
The sprites themselves are all drawn in an extremely high quality that makes them look sharp and their motions fluid even when performing the most intense attack combinations. The best way to describe them is being similar to “paper puppets.” The things you made as a kid where the arms and legs were thumb-tacked to the body. The overall look when you combine all of the visuals together is that of a simple but elegant animated diorama.
The audio itself is just as impressive. Often game designers will use a mixture of fully voiced cinematics and text only in-game dialogue. That isn’t the case here, and the entire game is fully voiced. Although for me, I didn’t get much out of the voice acting because it was entirely in Japanese (with no option for an English dub) I still admire the work that has gone into this world.
The soundtrack is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to genre and style. Harps and string music is used for the peaceful areas like the town square and the castle, but once you get into the game’s stages you are met with some pretty sweet rock and roll tunes, as well as a healthy assortment of heavy bass. Despite seeming so vastly different to the animation style, the audio seems to fit in perfectly and it really helps the action feel all that more exciting.
Battle Princess of Arcadias is an odd mix of genre’s that seems to just work. From its fluid yet relatively simple game mechanics to the beautiful art style and music choices, this is a solid package that just captures the spirit of gaming. The fact that you have to grind your way through levels several times can feel like a bit of a chore, but the characters are endearing enough that you likely wont mind all that much.
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