NIS are known to release strange and experimental titles in the west, often involving a twist on a typical genre. Battle Princess of Arcadias is no exception to this as it fuses two game mechanics that, on paper, don’t seem like they would fit together at all. But some ideas are just crazy enough to work, as Battle Princess is a sidescrolling beat ‘em up and a tactical army management game. And it’s rather entertaining.
From the outset Battle Princess is out to surprise you. When the game begins it throws you into a typical sidescroller level full a few woodland enemies to smack around, but as soon as you warm up to the simple combat controls you get dragged before a dragon and told to lead your country’s army. The game constantly changes between multiple mission types to keep things fresh, but the biggest factor is always conducting a massive army.
Controlling the army is a daunting task at first, and trying to micromanage your hero’s health while also issuing commands to troops appears to be impossible. But after spending a short amount of time with the game, pressing the D-pad to change battle formation and troop types becomes second nature. The rock-paper-scissor mechanic used with the different troop variants helped make sure I was always paying attention to what was going on around me, as the only visual way of knowing if you’re winning a fight is by how well your troops are doing in the battle seen in the background.
It seems simple but having an army available at your beck and call makes the entire game feel more bombastic. Sieges on castles or desert camp raids all have more gusto and life to them thanks to the large scale war waging on in both the foreground and background.
When not battling other armies, you’re often having a showdown with a massive boss. These battles involve a similar strategy of knowing when to switch out unit types, but also knowing when to guard and when to attempt to overpower the enemy. Trying to monitor both the hero and small army in these fights is a lot more overbearing than in the normal skirmishes, and it becomes easier to simply stand back and dole out commands to troops. Sadly while this is the most effective way of dealing with these creatures, it also means you do a lot less playing of the game and more just pressing the same directional buttons on infinitum until the boss keels over and dies.
Luckily the game does feature a handful of typical sidescroller levels to make sure your characters are levelled properly and gives you the chance to find better equipment. But it does also beg the question why all this loot is needed when the most efficient way to win is to not get involved with some of the boss battles.
I came in to Battle Princess of Arcadias expecting a mindless beat ‘em up I could play with my brain turned off, but what I found was a surprisingly tough button masher with a strategy elements sprinkled throughout. Many will no doubt be put off by the childish fairy tale art design, but if you decide to dive into Battle Princess you’ll find to have quite the rewarding experience.
SAVE DATA WARNING: While reviewing this game there was a bug that wiped my save data after roughly 4 hours of play. Hopefully this bug has been fixed, but be aware that it might disappear.
Thanks to NIS for supplying a review copy