This is not the same juggernaut we're used to.
Having never played Guardian Heroes, I only had second-hand experiences to go on for what to expect from Code of Princess, a 3DS game many are calling its spiritual successor. It's a side-scrolling action RPG that can be played solo or with up to three friends. The title features a fairytale-like story about how the peace between man and monster is breaking down. Thankfully, there is one who can restore the peace, and that is the scantily clad Princess of DeLuxia, Solange.
Code of Princess is more of a brawler in the style of Final Fight than your typical action RPG. There is no skill tree or even new abilities to gain; what you start with is what you get. There are four main story characters and four additional sub-characters that can help in combat. These include the warrior princess Solange, Ali-Baba the thief, Lady Zozo the necromancer, and a few more. Characters still level up, so players can choose to enhance HP, MP, magic power, attack power, defense, and speed as they go along. There are also items that can be found to help boost stats.
In these side-scrolling battles, players can move between three horizonal planes and can only do combat when on the same plane as an enemy. Characters have a weak and strong attack which can be combined with directional movements, much like in a fighting game, to perform special attacks. It's a fairly straightforward system, and the way things play out are majorly influenced by which character is being controlled and how their stats have been altered. Some characters have a longer range, but move slower. Others might have quick attacks, but require the player to get in close. Regardless of playstyle, the main goal is simply to defeat all enemies that are thrown at you.
She radiates with bounciness.
The story mode follows a structured mission layout with plot sequences and a seemingly hefty percentage of animated cutscenes. Don't worry about being too overwhelmed with dialogue or cutscenes, though, as the game's story mode isn't super long. Code of Princess isn't for someone who wants a long, deep RPG. First and foremost, this game is for RPGamers who like their action RPGs to be more like brawlers, as the game's quests are presented in bite-sized chunks and are meant to be replayed. This mode can be played solo or co-op, either locally or over the internet.
There is more depth to the multiplayer mode than just standard co-op, though. Players can also do battle in bonus missions or even duke it out in a competitive mode. There are fifty-two playable characters in versus play, even bosses that can be unlocked. Players join a lobby and wait for the battle to begin. Once started, the best player will win much like in a fighting game. The RPGamer staff was able to play a few co-op missions, but the real fun for us came in battling each other.
The first couple of matches the staff played were fairly balanced, but soon the gloves came off as senior reviews editor Adriaan den Ouden selected to play as a giant dragon. Though Sam Marchello and I gave it a valiant effort, we could not best the beast. The next match saw us all playing as boss characters, putting everyone at a high power level and on a more equal playing field. This match saw Sam arise as the victor. For the final bout, each of us selected a generic NPC with no special attacks to play as. It was a slow battle as Sam's housewife twirled around the stage slapping us with her dress, Adriaan's old man shot out a weak attack that looked like force lightning from Star Wars, and I toddled around the stage as a young orphan girl who could only throw a temper tantrum as an attack. After a grueling battle, Adriaan once again emerged as the victor. I, however, could only hang my head in shame.
While there might not be a ton of depth to the game in terms of RPG customization, there are at least a lot of options as far as gameplay modes and character selection. There is also an internet ranked mode where players battle to collect the most Princess Points on the game's leaderboard. This mode is a four-on-four battle mode where every character is locked at level ten for balance purposes. I clearly did not have what it took to beat my coworkers, but hopefully I can do better against the rest of the world when the game releases.
Code of Princess will be available on Oct. 9, 2012 and will retail for $39.99. Launch copies will come with a mini-artbook that also has a soundtrack sampler packed in with it. For a brief look at the game's characters, check out the character profile trailer here.