Battle Princess of Arcadias is an action role-playing game that places you in the role of Princess Plume, a hardened battle princess that has sworn to protect her kingdom and loyal subjects from danger. To our heroine’s dismay, however – a ‘great’ evil takes the kingdom by surprise, decimating everything and everyone in its path. Plume vows vengeance against the great evil, but she must rebuild the kingdom’s brigade (i.e. army) first before she can defeat it.
Arcadias is not your standard JRPG; it skips the formalities of a lengthy introduction by pushing the story along. Once the player is introduced to their party members – Raltz (Plume’s newly appointed squire) and Yuni (the kingdom’s royal artisan and Plume’s good friend) – the game sends you to the World Map to confront the ‘great’ evil that is terrorizing the land. The World Map is divided into five kingdoms that unlock during the course of the game – Central Kingdom (Plume’s home), Northeastern Kingdom, Southeastern Kingdom, Southwestern Kingdom, and Northwestern Kingdom.
As locations unlock, the word ‘New!’ will appear over the corresponding kingdom(s). These areas can be accessed by highlighting the desired kingdom with the analog stick and pressing the X button. A mini map will appear, showing both new and previously visited levels as animated flags. Levels that have not been visited are marked by a word bubble that contains an exclamation point.
Before entering a zone, you must select three party members from a total of 10 (when available). During the party selection process, you can press the Triangle button to access the ‘Check Status’ screen. From there, you can equip your characters with weapons, trinkets and potions. You can also view your characters’ stats and skills from this menu.
The gameplay uses a combination of different concepts from some of the best role-playing games ever released (i.e Valkyrie Profile (Square) and Dragon Force (Working Designs)) . Some combat sequences are simple hack ‘n slash excursions filled with adrenaline pumping action, as you hack, slash and bash your way through a variety of creatures such as giant flying birds and skull-wearing pandas, to name just a few. A combat meter keeps track of your attacks, and rewards bonuses for the ‘best’ combo during each level. The amount of damage inflicted on your enemies and the time it took to clear the level is also calculated into your final ranking, which is based on an alphabetic scale.
Once an area has been completed, you will encounter its ‘boss’. During a boss battle (also known as a ‘Siege’), you and your brigade (i.e. soldiers) will fight together. During the Siege, you will see the conditions for victory and/or defeat. During most sieges, the conditions will only require you to defeat the boss. And, of course – if all your party members (i.e. Brigade) die, then the game will end.
Your Brigade’s HP is displayed as a red bar overlaid by yellow numbers, which are located at the bottom left of the screen. There is a ‘Morale Gauge’ that is located below your Brigade’s HP. This bar replenishes on its own; but once it reaches maximum capacity, you will recover one unit in your Brigade. Since boss attacks are intensely difficult, your Brigade will die quickly if you don’t react quick enough.
A Commands Menu is used to give ‘orders’ to your Brigade, and it’s located in the upper right corner of the screen. This menu can be accessed by holding R1 and pressing Triangle button. You can switch between the available menus by holding R1 and then pressing either Square or Circle button. Holding R1 and pressing Triangle button will enable/disable the command menu. Orders can be sent to your Brigade by pressing the Circle button, but only when the specific order is highlighted in ‘white’. The Morale Gauge must also be at 50% (or better) for certain commands to function.
Some bosses are protected by a shield. This shield can be damaged by your Brigade, but you must risk your army’s safety by using the ‘Attack’ Command. When this command is executed, your Brigade will block less and can die much easier. Dealing large amounts of damage to the boss will increase its ‘Stun Gauge'; this is represented by a yellow bar at the bottom of the screen. When this gauge reaches its peak, the boss will become stunned.
While stunned, the player can attack the boss by selecting ‘Showdown’ from the Command menu. This ability can be executed when your Brigade’s Morale Gauge reaches 100%. When the Showdown ability is used, the chosen ‘leader’ of the brigade will unleash a barrage of devastating attacks that will either penetrate the boss’ shield or destroy it. This leaves the boss vulnerable until its shield replenishes itself.
The majority of the game is spent leveling your party, increasing the strength of your Brigade, and finding the weakness of each boss. Arcadias appears to be a complex role-playing game on the surface, but in reality, it’s a simple game that doesn’t rely too much on character statistics like some JRPGs. A crafting system does exist to improve your party’s armor and weapons, but like the game itself — it’s a simple system that doesn’t offer any flexibility. In fact, it combines your party’s armor/weapons with material that is found along the way (i.e. lumber, rocks, etc.), but there is no way to ‘stack’ the same material to increase a specific stat (i.e. increased attack power, etc).
The controls respond well, especially during the 2D action sequences. An option to save the game is available via the World Map screen by pressing the Triangle button, eliminating the need for ‘checkpoint’ saves. The only drawback to the save feature is that it cannot be accessed once you enter a new level.
Battle Princess of Arcadias is poised to become one of those sought after games in years to come. It has all the right gameplay mechanics to deem it a ‘classic’, and the characters themselves invoke nostalgic memories back when Working Designs was a household name. This is one game that every gamer should play, bar none.
Platform: Playstation 3
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software, Inc. / APOLLOSOFT Inc.
Publisher: NIS America
ESRB: T (Teen)
|Breathtaking 2D graphics and animation.|
|A rockin' soundtrack compliments the heart-pounding action.|
|Challenging, fun and addictive.|
|Battle Princess of Arcadias has all the makings of a classic.|