Battle Princess of Arcadias (PS3) Non-Review
Posted by Marc Morrison on 07.03.2014
411mania’s Marc Morison gives his impressions and views of this side scrolling action/strategy game. See what he thinks inside!
Title: Battle Princess of Arcadias
Developer: NIS (Nippon Ichi Software) and ApolloSoft
While Battle Princess of Arcadias (going to abbreviate to BP now) is a complete and full game on PS3/PSN, and I didn't encounter any errors while playing it, I can't review it. There is a fight not even 4 hours into the game that is so frustrating as to make me want to chuck the controller at the screen. In order to save physically damaging my tv, controller, or PS3, I figure I'll just talk about the game some, and leave it up to the reader to purchase it or not.
Battle Princess is a 2D hybrid action/strategy game, that almost principally doesn't work due to this hybrid nature. On the surface level, the game really looks like an Odin Sphere clone, only not on a cyclical background. The characters, sprite-work, battle system mechanics, and alchemy system all seem inspired from Odin Sphere. That's not a bad thing at all, just the first observation you'll notice. For the first few missions (which are called combat), it will seem like Odin Sphere also, you'll beat up on enemies (via a combo system), occasionally swap in different characters so they gain experience, and fight largish monsters in an area. That's all fine and good, for the most part, except for when the strategy battle comes into play.
The strategic elements come into play during the siege/skirmish missions, each having similar elements, but different goals. The skirmish mode has your main character on the foreground with your army brigade in the background. Here is how combat works in the game; you use square/triangle for light/heavy attacks, X to jump, and O to either use an item in the inventory, or to issue orders to your brigade. The hitch is that the inventory menu and the brigade orders menu which is…not good. You have to hold the R1 button to switch between menu commands and to switch menu commands (via the circle and square buttons. You might spot the problem here, you have to stop attacking in order to issue an order/use an item, but this can lead you open to attack. There is a guard move with L1, but it's not perfect. Also, while holding down L1 (to guard), R1 (to open the menu), using the D-pad to move around, and either circle or square to cycle menu options, make this an extremely convoluted control scheme. It's exacerbated by how skirmishes/siege's are actually set out.
As said above, during a skirmish, your (controllable) character is on the foreground while your (AI controlled) brigade is on the background. During a siege, however, both you and the brigade are on the same plane (foreground). In skirmish, you can take up army groups (classes) into battle, which have different stats against other army groups. A sword army group might be great against an archer class, but be devastated by a spear class. Think of it like a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, only with 7 choices, instead of three. You also pick three characters to take into battle, and it's a good idea to take in the same character with the same army group, since they will gain momentum faster. During a siege though, you only need to take in three characters, and the army considerations aren't used at all.
In a skirmish, you have to constantly switch out the army groups to go up against the groups they will be effective against. There will also be an enemy party leader (in the foreground with you) controlling their troops, but you can eliminate them, which will somewhat disable the army until you kill all the enemies in the foreground, which causes another group to appear. Doing this (killing the leader and the group on screen) nets you morale to use as you fight. Morale is used to give orders to change formations (attack, defend or basic), to swap a brigade out for a different or to activate "Brigade Arcana" which is a super-move type weapon that can heavily damage the current enemy brigade.
A siege is set up a bit differently, but it does share some similar aspects. The entire brigade is on screen with you, usually fighting against a huge boss. Your HP (for the army) will be around 150 or a bit more, while a boss HP is usually around 3,000, if not higher. The boss also has a shield that makes it invulnerable, until you crack it. Once done, the general idea is to use the attack formation on it to raise the stun meter to full, then you can activate a "Showdown" skill, which is a super move against it, dealing heavy damage. See a theme, here? This is kind of the really basic idea with both sieges and skirmishes.
"What's the problem?", you may ask. Well, a few. As stated above, the controls can get in the way. Even aside from the menu stuff, the character controls are very strict, and if you get knocked out of a combo, you don't recover that quickly. Another important factor is that while you can "retreat" in a siege, causing your army to disappear and heal itself to almost full health, you can't do this during a skirmish. This is a major issue when if you lose all of your brigades, it is game over. This happened to me numerous times, especially during the fight above, to make it seem unfair. There is a little wiggle room in a siege, because you can heal them if needed (if you have enough morale), but in a skirmish, if things are going bad for you, there is no way to fix it. Plus, the idea of dividing your attention between what is happening with your main character, and the armies fighting is kind of antithetical to what the game should be going for. If it wants you to focus on the foreground combat (like I think it does), it should have a rule set in place essentially going "Even if your army is gone, as long as you still health, the game doesn't end." It doesn't have this though, so even if you are laying waste with your controllable character, if your army is getting decimated, you'll still lose.
The other important questionable aspect to the gameplay is related to the inventory and grinding. You're told early on that you can enhance your weapons with the various alchemy ingredients that drop during the levels, but can only do so a limited number of times. BP is really unclear if this is actually a good idea or not, or at least how it seemed to me. You can take a sword with only 30 attack points, but upgrade it three times to have 50 attack points fairly easily. Or you can just buy a new sword with 50 attack points and upgrade that. The impulse is to take the attack 50 sword, but it might not have as many skills to unlock, or be as upgradeable. Money is a pretty finite resource in the game, so this issue can come up a lot.
You'll also be spending most of your time grinding out levels in the game. The start of the game has you kind of doing one combat level, one siege level (as a tutorial), one skirmish level (as a tutorial) and then being set off. By this point, you may be around level 4 or so (depending on how you swap characters in and out) but your army is only level one. The army unit requires both money to trade, and to have their commander unit be at a high level. So if you want to train your army unit to level 7, the commander unit has to be level 7 or above. This is an issue when the first real mission you come up against has level 5 army units, and you have level 1. If you try to do the mission like they present, you will get slaughtered. You're supposed to grind out levels/money for an hour until you're around this level, then you can go to it. Later on, when you start getting new characters, you'll be level 10 or so, and they will be around level 5 or 6. So you need to grind out more levels with them (and perhaps money), to get them decent enough to not die. You can also grind out materials for upgrading, and while boss-level materials always drop, the rarer ones are randomized.
The last thing I'll explicitly mention is that BP has some….odd translation hiccups going on in it. I'd actually probably say it has some sexist dialog/characters in it. Here's an example of what I mean:
"Marie: Ahh, you're as beautiful as ever. You live, as always, deep within my breast!
Plumie: "Huh? Are you saying I touched your boobs or something…?"
Plumie is the titular Battle Princess, and Marie is an ambassador of the kingdom who you find out in a later dialog sequence, is a pretty fervent lesbian. All of her dialog options are tinged with sentiment, especially when it comes to hating almost all men. Another character named "Dieche" who is the chief of Internal Affairs for the kingdom makes explicit mention of wanting to give lingerie to women, or to fishing for girl's underwear. This is problematic to some degree, but considering some of NIS's past games (Prinny 2: Dawn of Operation Panties, Dood!) and an upcoming game where a spell's name is "Peta Fire", but pronounced "Pedophile", and it goes from being problematic to just creepy.
On the flip side, the game looks pretty decent (has a steady framerate), and while the voice work is in Japanese, the music is pretty solid.
In summation, I'm not really sure what audience Battle Princess of Arcadia's is for. I'd say strategy fans, but they will be stymied by how little direct control you have over your units. I'd say action fans, but the way the strategy elements barges into most missions means you can lose, despite thinking you're winning. I don't think it's necessarily a "bad" game, but one that is almost at war with itself, and what it wants to be. If you're a hardcore NIS/Japanese game fan, it'll probably appeal to you somehow, but if not, read this, and other reviews if/when they hit, or look up some video footage of the game, to see if you should try it or not.