When most people think of NIS, they're reminded of their long-running Disgaea series or the Japanese-influenced RPGs and SRPGs that the company either develops or picks up from other companies. When NIS America announced Battle Princess of Arcadias, it was a welcome breath of fresh air as it combined classic beat-em'-up style gameplay with a positively cheerful look when contrasted against most of the other games the publisher has released as of late. And while it has its rough edges, it's a welcome addition to the higher echelon of releases from NIS America.
In Battle Princess of Arcadias (shortened to Arcadias for the remainder of this review) you play as Princess Plume in an attempt to keep her kingdom of Schwert safe from monsters. She had to take up the "battle" role due to an uptick in monsters invading the kingdom. At the start of the game, she loses most of her main force and her squire due to a giant dragon that entered the kingdom, giving an ironic in-game reason for Plume needing to build back up her power instead of being a badass from the start of the game.
Speaking of the combat, anyone who has played games such as Streets of Rage or Odin Sphere will feel right at home here, especially for players of the latter game. There's three different combat modes available: regular combat, skirmishes and sieges. The first feels the most familiar out of the three for the above players as you defeat enemies in different "zones", with each zone blocked off until you complete the one before it.
Besides the normal face button-based block, weak attack, high attack, etc. mechanics common to the genre you also have the ability to swap at-will between three characters picked at the start of the stage using the R1 button. There's a variety of weapon types attached to these characters, such as swords, spears and guns, which the game expects you to switch between often as experience is only divided out to characters who participate in battle. So for instance, players who stick with Plume exclusively will run into issues later on when aerial enemies require attacks from an archer-type character who would be extremely weak. There's also a nice all-out attack that's activated once you gain enough skill points in battle. One minor issue is that blocking can only be done on the ground, so there will be times when an enemy comes from out of the corner and knocks you down mid-air.
Skirmish battles play similarly to regular combat, except that in addition to Plume and corps you also have another group fighting in the background at the same time. Thus the game requires players to swap out units as necessary in the background unit while attacking units with Plume. It's a bit of a doozy initially, but once one gets the hang of it the mechanics lead to an interesting spin on the usual battles.
Siege battles are similar to the above battles except that there's only one set of units fighting the boss at the same time. The issue with this system is that the units are restricted to the highest level of their corresponding Princess Corp. member. So for instance, Plume may be Lv10, but the member controlling the archers may be Lv5 and thus the archers are limited to that level. Thus it requires spending time levelling up everyone, until they're powerful enough to withstand and defeat the boss.
Thankfully the levelling is helped out quite a bit by the surprisingly good soundtrack accompanying the game. The tracks have a light, airy tone to them with a J-pop like twist that parallels well against the game's colorful graphics.
For the most part the story is your usual bare-bones "get from one area to another" fair, but unlike some of NIS America's other releases, it isn't grating or overstays its welcome, with the option to skip dialogue entirely if the player wishes. The characters tend to fall into archetypes but they aren't overused at least. And for your Japanese voice-over fans, the game is a sub-only release.
NIS America wisely decided to release Battle Princess of Arcadias at a budget price in North America and Europe, and that decision fits well with the game overall. It's not the most state-of-the-art game in presentation and character development, and its battle mechanics could use some fine tuning, but as a budget release it can be overlooked. If you're looking for a gem in the rough, you might find this game to be what you're looking for.
|Dialogue doesn't get on your nerves or overstay its welcome.|
|Battle mechanics are competent.|
|Some of the battle mechanics require grinding to overcome.|
|No way to block attacks in mid-air.|
|Not much character development.|