Battle Princess of Arcadias is one of those super niche titles that I’m surprised even got a Western release. Although the story is inspired by Western fairy tales and medieval tropes, it is very much a Japanese game. Though it has a lot of things we’ve seen before, it melds them in a way which is rather unique.
This game puts you in control of Plume, the super strong Battle Princess of the Schwert Kingdom, and her allies as they try to save the world from monsters, rival kingdoms and all manner of evil. The story and characters are about as cute and bubbly as you can get. It does have some serious subject matter here and there but overall it remains rather light in tone.
The characters in the game are really stereotypical. Plume is an optimistic airhead, her squire is a boy who doubts himself and one of her allies is a lesbian who is constantly trying to feel her up. Despite this, the characters and their interactions with each other brought a smile to my face more often than not. I mean, the king is a goose. How can you not like that?
The story is not the main reason why people will want to play this title, however. Combat is at the heart of Battle Princess and it can be broken up into three distinct parts.
The most basic form of combat can be found in field missions. You and your party have to go to specific areas on the world map and kill every monster in sight. Here, the game is basically a no frills 2D hack-n-slasher. Because of the minimal animations, attacks look sort of cheap and killing enemies doesn’t bring much satisfaction. The enemies can get pretty overwhelming toward the end of a stage so you’ll have to dodge, block and use your healing potions tactfully.
You’ll have a roster of many characters to bring into battle. Each character uses a different type of weapon and therefore feels distinctive from one another. All of the characters have a wide array of combos. The button sequences for the combos are the same for every character, which is nice since you don’t have to remember a ton of different button combinations. As characters defeat enemies a bar will fill up. Once it’s filled, a super move can be used which usually kills pretty much every enemy on screen.
Skirmishes allow you to fight alongside your troops against other armies. Here, you’ll have to control your troops’ actions while engaging in combat of your own. Each of your characters command a different unit and these units perform better if their commander is present. You can command troops to take defensive or attack formations. If things get dicey, you can have them withdraw and be replaced by other troops. Doing all of these actions drains morale so you’ll need to be smart about issuing orders. With enough morale, you can have your army unleash a devastating attack which can kill many of the on-screen foes.
Boss battles are like skirmishes but against a single foe. Like skirmishes, these battles must be approached with caution. A boss always has armor that must be depleted before you can truly do damage to it. After it’s stunned, you can perform a character specific special move to deal the most amount of damage. If your troop strength falls, you can have them retreat so that you can fight the boss one on one while they regroup.
What surprised me most about the battles in this game are how defense-centric they are. You’ll become very good friends with the block button since enemies give no quarter. I died several times during the first boss battle until I realized that I needed to be less aggressive and more strategic. While I didn’t get much gratification from killing the random monsters on the field, beating armies and bosses felt rewarding because I had to work hard to achieve those victories.
The game has some strong RPG elements, which both help and hurt it. As you would expect from an RPG, you can level up, gain new abilities, find loot, and buy equipment and weapons. Weapons can actually be upgraded by using materials found out in the field. You can also combine different weapons to make even more powerful variants and you can also draw out specific skills from them as well. This is all done in the weaponsmith shop and the process is fairly easy.
One the negative side, the game is extremely level grind heavy and you have to level grind as early as the first hour. The constant need to grind killed a lot of the momentum for me in the early stages of the game and made it a chore to continue. You also have to grind for money in order to level up your troops — otherwise they will get slaughtered quickly. They also can’t level up past where their respective commander is which was a bit annoying too considering that characters can only be leveled up if you use them in the field. Characters who you don’t use in battle will not level up at all.
As far as presentation goes, I wasn’t very impressed. I love what you would consider the “anime look” but this game had a very simplistic version of that. The world didn’t really feel like it had much depth to it as far as visuals go and things seemed bland and boring. The soundtrack on the other hand was great and I really enjoyed the J-pop tunes and “RPG Happy Music” that you would hear while exploring the main town or visiting the castle. The only downer on the audio front is that there are no English dubs.
I give the developers respect for successfully combining different genres into one coherent game. It can feel a bit disjointed at times but, more often than not, it all works well. The more time you spend with it and get used to the game’s mechanical and story quirks, the more you end up liking it. Battle Princess of Arcadias can be a pretty cool game if you accept it for what it is: a cute little niche Japanese game.