Battle Princess of Arcadias: Change Isn’t Always Good

By Thomas . July 13, 2014 . 5:00pm

Battle Princess of Arcadias is something new from NIS. Even though it was first announced around their 20th anniversary special last year, the game breaks away from the typical NIS fare, and provides something entirely different. Tactical battles and dark humor are done away with, along with the combination of artist Takehito Harada and composer Tenpei Sato.

 

Instead of being a a straightforward tactical RPG, Battle Princess of Arcadias is a tactical-RPG-side-scrolling beat-em-up hybrid. Fast paced action, hectic combos, and a colorful cast that populates the playing field. In many ways Battle Princess is a fresh start—something not too surprising considering it comes not directly from NIS themselves, but from developer Apollosoft. Unfortunately, fresh starts don’t always lead to good things. In fact, this strange attempt at being something different is Battle Princess of Arcadias’ undoing.

 

Let’s get the ugly out of the way first. Battle Princess tries to meld two very distinctly different genres together, but ultimately does both genres poorly on their own, and only creates frustration and tedium when they’re together. The game offers three styles of play, each being a variant of a beat-em-up but offer a differing amount of tactical-RPG elements. There is the Combat mode, Siege mode, and then Skirmishes mode.

 

Combat is just the regular ol’ beat-em-up kind of gameplay. There isn’t really any element of tactical play here to worry about. This already makes it the most fun of the three modes. The combo system offers a lot of different moves, and there is a variety in fighting styles to use switching from character to character, each with their own unique weapon like sword, lance, axe, magic and so on. The support attacks that kick in when you knock an enemy up in the air were always fun to see, and making a perfect team for the mission felt satisfying. I constantly found myself hoping for the next mission to just be combat, and would be bummed when it wasn’t.

 

That being said, let’s not praise the Combat mode too much ether. The movement is extremely limited. You’re only able to walk right or left. You can’t move up or down on the field, and are stuck streamlined on one path like this is Super Mario Bros. on the NES or something. This feels frustrating. Compared to how classic beat-em-ups like River City Ransom, Streets of Rage, and Double Dragon, or even indie games like Castel Crashers, move around and handle screen space, Battle Princess just doesn’t hold up. In those games, and most other beat-em-ups for that matter, you have a freedom of movement, and can move up and down, left and right, and really feel like you’re in control and can dodge the onslaught of enemies coming your way. Battle Princess just feels clunky, and wrong, giving you little space to deal with the sometimes large amount of enemies on the screen.

 

That’s not to say you can’t jump and fight opponents in the air, however. Battle Princess does offer airborne monsters and jumping—but even that’s done poorly. The aerial combat is just once again frustrating, and once again, lacks the sense of control—even more so, actually. You feel defenseless in the air, and a lot of enemies will take potshots off on you as you jump towards them, and knock you back on the ground, not even giving you a chance to attack them. The enemy AI can be like this at times on the ground, too. Cheap attacks get spammed all over, and you can’t even properly react; you just have to take it and get over it.

 

The next mode is Siege mode, and is halfway between the no-tactics Combat mode, and the tactics-heavy Skirmishes mode. Siege mode has you lead a brigade of NPC characters up against a giant boss that takes up most of the screen. You can give rudimentary orders to the brigade like defend, attack, and retreat. As you fight the boss and build up moral of your troops, you can unleash a special attack as well. Managing your troops and fighting the giant enemy isn’t too taxing, and can be fun. The micro-management element does take away from the hectic action though, and cheap hits can still be annoying. You can get wiped out in a blink of an eye if you’re not paying any attention.

 

Finally, there are Skirmishes. Skirmishes are, simply put, the absolute worst the game has to offer, and really drag the whole game down. Both the shortcomings of the tactical play, and the shortcomings of the beat-em-play combine to create a frustrating and incredibly time consuming process that just feels random.

 

In Skirmishes, you lead your brigade up against another enemy’s brigade. Brigades have an assigned weapon type to them. For example, Princess Plume’s brigade uses swords like her, where as the bow wielding squire and right hand-man to Plume; Raltz, leads a brigade of archers. You can swap out between three characters and three brigades during the course of the battle, as can your opponent. In theory you want to match up a brigade with a weapon that has a type advantage over your opponent’s weapon à la a rock-paper-scissors match. In tough times, if the brigade is being beaten, switch it out to another. Keep trying to have the type advantage. It sounds simple enough, but sadly, the weapon type advantages make no gosh darn sense.

 

In tactical games, it’s important to make your system logical. For example, Fire Emblem uses the rock-paper-scissors mechanic with its weapon system too. Swords beat axes, axes beat lances, and lances beat swords. It’s simple, and more importantly, it’s logical. Obviously an axe would crush a lance in half, and a sword can be thrust forward where an axe needs to be swung in an arc and is slower. Lances have a longer reach and can stretch farther thus beating swords in thrust but due to their size and nature are more vulnerable and easier to knock out of your hand than a sword is. This all works, and the player can immediately identify with this, and understand it. So then, what beats Gunner in Battle Princess?

 

Why it’s Marauder (axe) and Lancer, of course! Somehow, an axe is what beats a gun. There is no logic here, this is just a completely random stat that the player cannot relate to, or recall right away. Worse of all, there are seven weapon types to keep track of during these hectic beat-em-up battles. You have seven random elements that you can’t really relate to, and you have to know what’s strong against what, what’s really strong against what, what’s weak against what, and what’s really weak against what.  That’s a lot of information for the player to deal with, and none of it has any real logic behind how it works. I found myself having to pause, and often look to see what to use next, which interrupts the game flow, and it kills all the action.

 

That’s not all that’s wrong, though. Skirmishes further create tedium by making the need to grind unavoidable. It’s simple enough for the playable characters to gain levels in Battle Princess, but their brigades need to be leveled through spending large sums of money. What’s more a brigade’s level can’t exceed the captain’s. So if you really need to use a lance brigade in the next skirmish, but didn’t level up your lancer… well, tough look. You’ll have to go back and play a bunch of stages with him to make him stronger, then spend tons of money to increase his brigade’s strength. It’s all-very time consuming, and made worse by the stages being rather small, and quick to beat. You’ll replay the same stages over and over and over again to get all the money, and levels you need to use for the next skirmish, and by then you’re too bored of the game to keep going.

 

Gameplay aside, even visually, Battle Princess of Arcadias isn’t great. The animation in the game is pretty bad, and makes the whole affair feel cheap. The art itself is nice, but then everyone starts walking around like a puppet on strings, or a paper-craft figure. Nothing feels natural or right in how the world moves. I almost want to say it was intentional like in Paper Mario, but nothing really points to that being the case ether, and the feeling of a lack of budget really seeps in with the movement. The backgrounds, the character designs, the sound effects that pop out of the characters as they emote… it all looks great. But then when they start to move, it just falls apart.

 

So, what about the game is actually good? Well, the soundtrack is absolutely phenomenal. It is without a doubt the best thing to come out of this game. It’s very different from the typical NIS fare, so it feels fresh. The soundtrack manages to set the mode perfectly, and steals the show. I know I ended up listening to it on YouTube every now-and-again. There’s also a likable female protagonist who can kick lots of butt, and she has a great supporting cast. There are tons of fun scenes that are very humorous and cute, and unlike The Witch and the Hundred Knight, inoffensive. The characters all have good chemistry, and Plume and Raltz are just really adorable together. The weapon level up system is well made, and keeps things fresh. Last but not least, the Japanese acting is really well done, with almost all the game fully voiced.

 

Battle Princess of Arcadias is a really difficult game for me to write about. I tore into it, but it’s not that it’s really awful—it’s just so conflicted in how it was designed. There most certainly is the potential for one to enjoy it, but it feels as though the game is deliberately trying to neutralize any chances of you actually doing so, every chance it gets. Whenever I was having fun, something had to happen to suck it out of me; I had to slug through painful boring missions over and over again to get to something fresh, or had to sit through two other modes that weren’t that good.

 

NISA made the smart move to release Battle Princess as a digital-only budget title for $30. At the full retail price Japan paid, it’s a rip-off. Despite it not being a very good game, at the very least, we got it at a more reasonable price.

 

Food for Thought:

 

1. Battle Princess of Arcadias’ download size is 1054MB, so it won’t take up a lot of space.

 

2. The game does have a very short digital manual included in it.

 

3. I mentioned earlier that the sound effects are nice looking, and they really are. The little effects on characters during scenes of dialogue go beyond just the basic flowers and sunshine or angry vein emoji you typically see. There are plenty of Ha Ha Has that come out of the characters’ mouths, and DunDunDuns, and a lot others. The presentation really is so close to looking perfect, if it just weren’t for the limited animation.


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  • Princess_Eevee9

    Then is it worth it at 30$? Still would like to try the game though.

    • Dark Lord Ash

      Honestly no, game is alright, but not worth the full price of admission.

      • Princess_Eevee9

        Ah thank you all. I’m gone this and that other game they mentioned a try then.

    • Shady Shariest

      If you have the money to spare, the full price is ok. Depends largely on how entertained you are left.
      It’s 30$ which is pretty cheap for a new game :3

    • DesmaX

      No. I’d recommend waiting till it drops to $20

  • subsamuel01

    I like that their taking effort into localizing these Japanese titles for the Vita, but I hate having digital only options. Vita memory cards are already expensive, and most of the games are digital only.

    • Darkwing7

      meh, the $100 i spent for a 64gb card was worth it i have a lot of download only games and im at around high 40s in GBs. besides o-o more games = more fun

    • Cheesy12

      This game is not on the vita.

  • DesmaX

    Finished this a week ago…

    … Probably the most baffling design decisions I’ve ever seen in a game. I mean, the combat and soundtrack is good, and plot is charming, but everything is just…

    I mean, you need to beat the post-game “dungeon” in order to unlock New Game +, holy shit

    • Aesma

      So do Demon Gaze. But, since it is fun, you don’t see me complaining (About Demon Gaze).

      And it actually gives story why you go back in time.

      Feels like I need to clarify before someone misunderstand, in Demon Gaze, you need to beat the post-game dungeon and fight two additional bosses before you can do New Game+. To avoid spoiler, I’ll just say that the Gazer must chase after one of the additional boss who are ‘immortal’.

      • DesmaX

        Well, you would see me saying my opinion on Battle Princess
        on a review of Battle Princess. I though the game was fun, but some of the decision are just plain stupid.

        And honestly, “having a story” doesn’t help it at all. That’s like a game throwing you at a Tutorial level, and having the protagonist say that Tutorials are boring. That doesn’t make it better

        • Aesma

          I was actually referring to Demon Gaze with the comment about story.

          I am actually neutral to Battle Princess, since well… the price itself is already cheaper than other games.

          • DesmaX

            I dunno man, I do appreciate the $30 tag (This at full release in japan is almost a scam, I gotta say), but I find it hard to recommend at that price

          • Aesma

            Hmm… I suppose that is true. Well… at least it is… ‘unique’? Maybe it’ll appeal people who complained about the same gameplay being repeated over and over again.

          • DesmaX

            Eh, at that price you can buy Child of Light and Valiant Hearts.

            Might just do that if you’re looking for ‘unique’ games

          • Aesma

            Haven’t bought them. …want to, but since next month there will be a lot of games I need to buy, I might not be able to…

          • DesmaX

            I still need to buy Valiant… But I decided to buy this game instead. heh.

            Child of Light is pretty good, tho

  • http://twitter.com/puchixseda puchinri

    That’s as disappointing as it is refreshing. I mean, given the cute art alone and thankfully great soundtrack, I will pick it up, but I wanted to support it since it’s been a while since NIS had a female MC.

    Also, interesting note about being inoffensive, what was wrong with TW&T100K? x’D

    • DesmaX

      It’s humor can be pretty offensive at times.

      But it’s a far better game, tho

      • http://twitter.com/puchixseda puchinri

        Really? Can I have an example of how bad? Or at least where in the game, so I can see for myself?

        Ya know. . . I feel NISA’s translations have been degrading, and I wonder if the original dialogue was that offensive, or if it was translated as such.

        It’s weird and a shame about the quality of the games and their strong vs weakpoints. ;u;

        • DesmaX

          To be fair, even in japan people were saying that it was “harsh”. I heard they made it more intense (Just a post on a forum somewhere, can’t confirm), but it was already fucked up in japan.

          I mean, the game has more than one rape joke.

          • http://twitter.com/puchixseda puchinri

            Whoa. Really?

            And gross, double whoa. I wonder why they thought that’d be okay.

        • Fen Y

          Well, for starters, there’s several rape “jokes”, to the point that the japanese fandom(!) thought it was too much. Those were actually SOFTENED in the translation, and are still very, very awful. In the original, they were worse.

          At one point, the witch flat out threatens to transform someone into something else and have her raped over and over.

          Basically, the humor is trying very, very hard to be edgy, shocking and ~mature~ – and consequently fails on every front.

          • Shippoyasha

            To be fair, it’s simply irreverent comedy. It wasn’t even a talking point in some reviews at all. And I didn’t have an issue with it. It’s clearly not a story to take very seriously in the first place. The story is very parody oriented. It definitely isn’t for everyone, but I wouldn’t say it’s outright repellent..

          • http://twitter.com/puchixseda puchinri

            Oh, goodness. That is bad.

            What the. . . okay. Wow.

            That sounds pretty horrible! Thanks for the heads up. I don’t think I could play that comfortably.

          • Touma

            was there funny music or a joking air about the threat? if it was played serious i can see where people are coming from but everytime something like this comes up its regardless of intent or context in game. just a type of knee jerk moral outrage of “you can never joke about that” kind of thing.

      • Dark Lord Ash

        Yeah, what is really good with that pervert shtick with ninja dude? I’ve seen many an ecchi fella and was cool with, but even I cringed at good portion of what was coming out of his mouth.

        • DesmaX

          That “feminist” chick dressed in blue?

          They managed to make it far worse in this game. Holy shit, it was painful

          • Dark Lord Ash

            Feminist chick in blue? Only person I know like that was Marianne and she’s the one with the black and red motif, unless you’re talking about someone else entirely.

          • DesmaX

            Oh, you’re talking about this game. My bad.

          • Dark Lord Ash

            My fault entirely, just noticed you were talking about Witch and the hundred knight, which reminds that I have to continue that game. I’m hesitant to continue due to some bug I kept hearing about. Wanted to know, how bad does the “crude” level get with this game? Took a hiatus after chapter 1 after getting my face stomped in during chapter 2.

          • DesmaX

            It doesn’t get worse to be honest (Except if you’ll get the “true” ending, which is just fantastic). I even though it got toned down after that rat scene (Even though she’s still pretty edgy… But she doesn’t do anything like that again).

          • Dark Lord Ash

            Alright, I need to get back and finish that game then. But like I said, real worried about that supposed bug that crashes your game. NISA needs to stop dropping the ball when it comes to beta testing.

          • DesmaX

            Oh yeah, that did happen with me… But they were kinda rare (Had some crashes happening in chapter 4, and after that it only happened once in chapter 13), and it actually kicks you to the XMB (Instead of the console crashing and having to force it to reboot)… I had worse expeciences, I guess (But that doesn’t excuse them).

            And to be fair, some edgy stuff is still going to happen, so you’re not escaping that. Just the beginning that I found pretty bad in that regard (But don’t take my word only, always check with other people about that kinda stuff)

          • Dark Lord Ash

            I got through the demon path in soul nomad, I don’t mind edginess when placed accordingly, though I’d be lying if the mouse bit didn’t cause me to raise an eye brow. Still, I think I can manage.

          • DesmaX

            If you did Soul Nomad, you should be fine then

      • Shippoyasha

        Maybe I just like offensive comedy. I didn’t really think much of the plot either way. I can understand if it seems a tad tryhard, but ACTUALLY offensive? I think that’s a bit of a stretch. Though I would say that the game isn’t for people who dislike risque comedy.

        • DesmaX

          I didn’t mind it too (But the ‘tryhard’ scenes did make me cringe sometimes).

          But you know how some people’s are

          • Shippoyasha

            Fair enough. I think the plot wasn’t the centerpiece either way, so it didn’t make or break it for me. If a sequel comes, they can work on the comedic timing.

  • ZT93

    This is a real shame. I took a peek at the game and thought it would be charming, but reading about the gameplay mechanics…ouch. Like Witch/ 100 Knight, I may take a look at it sometime. For now I will just have to settle with what I have.

    • Shippoyasha

      If you are interested in how it looks, don’t be deterred. It’s not a flawless beat em up, but it’s pretty solid and fun despite its flaws.

  • TiamatNM

    I thought the Skirmish battles were the best parts. It’s like beat em up dragon force or something. It does require some grinding to keep your units close in level to the enemies but the player has some pretty big advantages that give you an edge even if your units are underleveled. The game could certainly be better in a lot of ways but I enjoyed it.

  • Fen Y

    This review seems rather poor itself. A lot of the core points are flat out false.

    Take, for example, the “logic” of axe, lance, spear. What the author believes to be logical is completely ludicrous if you know anything about military history. Axes never beat spears, and it’s not “Obvious that an axe would crush a lance in half”. A sword could do the same – the weapon is designed to be good as hacking AND thrusting.
    In reality, lance beats sword and axe – which is entirely intuitive and logical. What beats lance is gun. That you could somehow cut a spear with an axe doesn’t matter. Games don’t do this, because that would make spears overpowered (which they were in real life).

    What you THINK is logical is just another arbitrary, stupid design decision that makes no sense and has no logic. Changing it is fine, no sane person would complain about such a change, because the entire concept is gamified balance without grounding in reality.

    Really, the only two actual criticisms in this article that actually make sense are mandatory grinding and cheap hits. The review should have focused on this, because they are the actual flaws that actually harm the game. A lot.

    Instead, the author focuses on things he is completely ignorant about, which makes the review appear as shoddy as he thinks the game is.

    • Zero_Destiny

      Sure if you wanna take your shots at the Weapon Triangle in Fire Emblem, go ahead. Plenty have and will continue to. I know full well many are not fully happy with how it works out as compared to in the real world.

      But it sorta misses the point still. The point is, there is a proper balance to the weapon triangle, or at the very least, it makes sense in-game!!! There are three items in the triangle, each one has a weakness, and a strength.

      Where as there are seven items here, each one has a weakness, a super weakness, a strength, a super strength, and an equal. That is a lot to keep track of, no? Now, in a typical tactical game, that may fly, you have your time to take it in, and reread as much as you want, but when you have 35 conditions to the weapon system, and it’s using fast paced based combat, and the health falls very quickly for your comrades when you lose the type advantage, I’m sure you can see my point? Right? It’s utterly convoluted and falls flat.

      This is only made worse by the fact that these do not add up and you can’t make, at the very least, a mnemonic to remember it. Sure the lance’s reach may far beat out an axe in real life. But in Fire Emblem I can at least consider the units being slow with how they thrust their lance, and see how an axe can crush it. Here? I have no clue how an axe beats a gun? Does it cut the bullet in half? Well no, because guns can be quite cheap. There’s nothing to work with here, I’m sorry, it’s a mess no matter how I look at it, personally.

      This is a core problem, there are too many stats, and you cannot relate to them. The combat is fast paced, and losing the type advantage is harsh. This is just poorly done and takes away from the action. If you want to mix a level of tactics into your faster paced game then at least make it so the player can either think-on-the-fly and relate, or have less to juggle in their heads.

      • DesmaX

        Especially with that awful interface.

        Who though putting the command screen at the same place as the item screen?

  • WyattEpp

    The fundamental criticism of the movement rings false because nothing prevents a single-plane beat-em-up from being good (or even phenomenal). This sounds more like stage design issues than systemic issues.

  • brian

    The element thing is like attributes from Pokemon: too damn many.

  • Göran Isacson

    Seems to be matching what I’ve read so far. A game that has it’s charms, but also the marks of a title with ambitions that far outstripped it’s budgets and/or developers knowhow, messy GUI and mechanics that are not as polished as they need to be to ensure that the frustrating moments don’t equal/outweigh the fun ones. Still, I AM a fan of the look and the story seems to be alright. A title to keep an eye on, I suppose.

  • Ziggy Wish

    Why do everybody compare the game to double dragon there is no similarities what so ever but the 2D side scrolling, it compares way better to Odin Spear. I would prefer a review that better highlights what the two games done differently so people can get a better grasp of what the game really about.
    http://youtu.be/F98E8MegMfc

  • Kornelious

    I dunno, I liked it (Though honestly haven’t gotten to far into it)

    Only being able to walk left and right I actually prefer because it’s easier to string combos together and that annoying feeling of trying to attack on enemy, buy your not because you are two squares below them is gone.

    As i said I haven’t gotten to far into it but it’s a cute little game…..It’s nowhere near perfect but I still really like it :)

  • k.b.a.

    so… it’s a messier Odin Sphere?

    damn i do love that game, but the mechanics really could be streamlined better.

  • AndyLC

    I’m surprised you didn’t compare it to a Vanillaware game like Odin Sphere or Muramasa

  • Douglas Eduardo Parra

    Please, someone tell me, how “grinding” is bad? It’s the only part on a game when I feel I’m really playing the game, not just reading dialogues and pressing a button. With all RPG’s I’ve played up ’till now, grinding is something obvious AND fun, that’s the time where you discover more of the game.

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