Friday, June 20, 2014

Game Diary - Battle Princess of Arcadias.

There's a big difference between a princess and a battle princess. 

2D sprite-based action-RPGs are my kryptonite, and exposure to one renders my usual defenses moot.  Within (literally) ten minutes of booting up Battle Princess of Arcadias, I got a message from a friend asking for impressions - "positive, so far, but I literally only just finished the first battle," I told them.

I goofed around for another half-hour or so, grinding some levels on the first fight and trying my hand at the first boss, which leverages the game's Batallion mechanic, in which you both fight in traditional ARPG style and give orders to your crew of adorable AI warriors via a frustrating little menu in the top-right.

As you scroll through the orders you want to give, the game keeps on playing, and kicking your ass.  After a try or two, I beat the boss and called it a night.

Upon booting up the game the next day, I discovered no save game data existed.  I'd searched for a save option, but couldn't find one and reckoned it must be auto-saving (no such luck!).  Turns out it's buried in the menu you can only bring up from the map screen, and the game doesn't tell you that.  Handy!

But, armed with a bit more experience in the game's systems, I forged on, re-grinding my levels much more efficiently thanks to the familiarity, beat that boss like it was on easy mode and moved on to the game's first batallion-versus-batallion fight.

I'm not sure I get the batallion-versus-batallion fights.

Some batallion types (axe) are strong against other batallion types (sword), so I selected only batallions that had up arrows against the type I was fighting.  They still managed to kick my ass, somehow, and I don't know why.  If I use defense formation, they kick the shit out of me.  If I use attack formation, they kick the shit out of me.  I just squeaked out a victory, and I have no idea how I did it.

So after a bit more time, my initial impression of BPoA has gone from "positive" to "mixed," but "mixed" isn't "negative."

The game is very pop-JRPG-Nippon-Ichi style.  Princess Plume is a cheerful nutcase in the classic sense, always enjoying everyone's company, always greeting everyone with a cheer, always loving the idea of going and fighting another colossal monster.  That's her business, of course - she's a battle princess - and while she and her respectable weapons have defeated thousands of foes, she just now, today, learned that the things she kills actually die.

Until her squire told her, she thought the fact that she keeps fighting the same enemy types over and over again meant they were coming back to life, and coming back for more fisticuffs.  Learning she'd been killing things over and over did get her a bit depressed - but only for a moment.  After all, she has a kingdom to defend!

The presentation and animation are a very far cry from Vanillaware's gold standard, but every character and enemy in the game are undeniably cute.  Even with the briefest of encounters with the game, it's clear it offers a colossal degree of customization, with at least ten playable characters to lead your troops in to battle (each with different weapon types, combos and skills) and your standard wealth of gear to deck out your heroes with.  You level up your batallions, and those batallions gain different benefits in battle when certain leaders are commanding them.

There is a lot, it seems, to see and do, here, and while I keep telling myself I need to investigate Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes further, I'm more interested in finding out if Battle Princess is a game one should care about - 'cause honestly, at this point, I can't tell.

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