It seems like everything is being ported to the Switch. Now that this strange 2012 3DS action RPG beat 'em up is available for the console, take off a few layers of clothes and let's see how it holds up.
When Code of Princess debuted on 3DS a few years back, it met a lukewarm reception. Gamers generally loved the tight beat 'up gameplay and some enjoyed the hero's lack of clothes but many were put off by the repetition of it all. For better or worse, this new EX version is a very familiar experience for those who played the original. For starters, its gameplay is heavily inspired by Treasure's 1996 classic Guardian Heroes in that you hop between 2D planes in order to fight enemies. Thankfully, the actual combat is quite enjoyable. You basically attack an enemy to lock on to it then perform a series of combos and special moves until it perishes then lock on to the next monster. You can also block, evade, and unleash a stocked burst move to temporarily increase your attack power and use skills without expending MP. It's simple stuff yet the controls are responsive and intuitive which makes combat impressively satisfying.
Even though its gameplay is solid, Code of Princess EX doesn't look or sound very impressive. First of all, the character portraits have a distinct style and the remastered 3D models are decent but during cutscenes, they seem like they were ripped from the 3DS game which is odd to say the least. The environments look like they belong in a PS1 game which isn't necessarily a bad thing but they definitely don't stand out as memorable. Code of Princess EX's audio is fairly generic as well. In addition to the forgettable music and stereotypical effects, you can hear characters constantly vocalise which I personally found to be so grating that I mostly played with the sound muted. I wish the developers went much further to enhance these aspects for a modern console.
One thing that Code of Princess EX does exceptionally well is offer a vast assortment of playable characters and tons of content. You can use both heroes and enemies in some of the modes which is fantastic because each character plays quite differently. The core gameplay remains similar but experimenting with characters' move sets is varied enough to make choosing your favourite character fun.
Anyway, the main campaign mode is lengthy for a beat 'em up as it took me about five hours to complete. Additionally, you can play each story mode stage in Free Play mode which allows you to use enemy characters and there's a huge list of bonus quests that involves carrying out specific missions. In whichever mode you decide to play, the stages themselves feel more like arena combat missions than a traditional beat 'em up as you're usually confined to a small area as opposed to being able to run through long levels. What's awesome is that you can play cooperatively with local or online friends and even compete online if you want to show off your fighting skills.
There is some mission variety and a few bosses can be tough but the stages and quests are generally quite tedious after playing for a while. I find that this is because the core gameplay is incredibly repetitive once you get the basics down and the stages themselves can be exceptionally dull. You'll come across the same environments and enemy patterns throughout so whenever I encountered a tough or unpredictable foe, I was very happy to experience something different. However, that didn't happen often enough. Finally, character progression doesn't really seem to affect much. No matter how many times I levelled up or equipped new gear, I felt like little changed. This is especially true considering equipment isn't reflected on character models which is a significant missed opportunity.
Code of Princess EX is a decent beat 'em up but it's nowhere near as good as Guardian Heroes which is clearly the game that it was inspired by. That being said, if you like half-nude ladies that some dude drew on his computer then I guess you should check it out.
- + Solid beat 'em up gameplay
- + Loads content to work through and a fantastic variety of playable characters
- + Fully featured multiplayer component
- - Stages and quests are mostly tedious and uninteresting
- - Annoying audio and subpar visuals
- - Unsatisfying character progression