Code of Princess didn’t make huge waves when it released back in 2012 for the Nintendo 3DS — part of the reason Studio Saizensen was motivated to develop Code of Princess EX. I was quite interested in reviewing this game as, some time ago, I was big into collecting physical games on my 3DS (as well as my PS Vita). Code of Princess has retained a higher value compared to a lot of other third-party 3DS games. I’m also a huge fan of quirky titles like this one with outlandish characters and interesting combat mechanics.
Unfortunately, Code of Princess EX misses the mark in making it a title that I can definitively say you need to own on the Nintendo Switch. It’s not all grim though; there is some fun to be had in Code of Princess EX, and at an asking price of $39.99 there’s plenty of content that’ll keep you beating down foes for hours and hours on end.
The story mode in Code of Princess EX is the first thing I’ll touch upon, as you play the scantily-dressed Princess Solange. While she remained my top-tier character throughout most of my time with the story mode, she’s an incredibly weak protagonist. Her role in the storyline is pretty inconsequential, only being relevant because she wields the blade known as “DeluxCalibur,” a sword that was crafted by the gods… yadda yadda yadda. Solange’s kingdom is overthrown, and she’s forced to gather a slew of different party members who will help her reclaim her land and beat up a lot of monsters along the way.
Code of Princess EX‘s story works best when it doesn’t take itself seriously. The supporting cast continually breaks the fourth wall, referring to XP and their classes as legitimate things in the world of Code of Princess EX. It can be quite funny at times but is often muddled by the shift in focus to the boring main plot. When things get serious, they get incredibly dull and fall on a lot of old tropes that games like this need to get rid of. There seems to be little thought in how our characters get from point A to point B, and the party members who join you often do so without a second thought. We get little to no character development amongst them, and the stakes are never taken seriously enough for them to mean anything.
There are tons of different characters you can play as in the game, each of which has their own unique skills and combos. Some characters feel a little bit inconsequential, but it’s cool to see some of the more ridiculous NPCs you encounter thrown into the mix. Fighting in Code of Princess EX is similar to a very basic fighting game; there are a couple of different, simple combos you can pull off, as well as a basic heavy and light attack chains.
For some reason, Code of Princess EX has you lock onto enemies with a separate attack button, and it’s a bit weird because you do more damage to whichever single enemy you have targeted; it’s something I did eventually get used to though. There’s also a skill you can use called “Burst,” where your character goes into this sort of overpowered state, and you can deal a ton more damage to enemies — especially whichever one you have targeted at the time.
In each mission, there’ll be three different lanes you can have your character in, and you’ll have to jump back and forth between them to target and dodge different enemies. It’s an interesting approach to beat em’ up-style combat that I found worked relatively well at times, although it does feel a little too clunky in 2018; things don’t always feel as responsive as they should be.
This can grow more frustrating due to Code of Princess EX’s pretty intense difficulty spike in the latter half of the game. There’s a fine line between something feeling artificially difficult, and naturally difficult; Code of Princess EX often feels too artificial, to the point where beating a tough mission didn’t offer me a feeling that I overcame any sort of actual challenge. There are times when a boss’ health will get low and they’ll begin spamming the same skills over and over again, to the point where it became unbearably annoying.
Even with these frustrations, it didn’t take me very long to finish the main quest, and there’s plenty more to do after the credits roll with the addition of multiple bonus quests. It’s just unfortunate that the objectives of these quests can often feel uninteresting by having you typically either survive or take out a set amount of enemies.
There are also some very light RPG elements thrown into the game. The weird thing is that I never felt this massive sense of growth with my characters as they leveled up. I had Solange’s attack power incredibly high during the later stages of the game, but it still felt like I wasn’t dealing massive damage to a lot of the tougher enemies. There were a couple of points where I tried to grind but I was never really sure if it helped me out too much. I mostly just found that timing my attacks better and focusing on defense helped me out a lot in tight situations. If you want to avoid as much grinding as possible, you should stick with one character throughout the entirety of the main quest.
Code of Princess EX also includes a healthy amount of online and offline cooperative and versus game modes. I didn’t get any time to try out versus in online play because the game isn’t out yet publicly, but the local cooperative play is good fun if you want to hop into a couple of quests (or even the full story mode) with a friend using the separate Joy-Con controllers. It’s always a plus seeing developers incorporate Joy-Con play with Switch games, and Code of Princess EX does it well without the experience ever feeling hampered.
You can also check out the item shop before every mission to see if there are new things that’ll help you along the way; this is the only thing you can use currency on, so don’t be afraid to spend it. There are tons of different items for you to equip, and a lot of them allow you to customize your play style in slightly different ways. As I mentioned before, the RPG elements that these items add didn’t feel like much, but they’re definitely there and can be useful in specific fights.
On that note, I think the shop theme is the most groovy music track in Code of Princess EX. I found myself checking out the shop every now and again to hear the theme, just because I could. Unfortunately, there isn’t any other track I found to be memorable in any sort of way. Overall the game has a pretty weak original soundtrack, but I can’t talk too much about it because there’s not much to say; it’s just generic at best.
Code of Princess EX might itch your craving for a Japanese-style beat em’ up: if you missed the game when it released on Nintendo 3DS, it’s not super expensive and might be worth a try. I don’t think everyone is going to enjoy this game though; I certainly had a lot of on and off moments with it. In the end, Code of Princess needs to do a lot more if it hopes to have any staying power in the future. I will say, though, that I’m somewhat excited to see some of the characters reappear in Blade Strangers when it releases next month.