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Code of Princess, Agatsuma Games, 2012, Grade: B-
I've been looking for an inexpensive 3DS game for a while, and I finally broke down and got Code of Princess for 500 yen ($5 USD). I'd seen it in Book Off for months, but I'd been holding off buying it partly because the box art didn't show much in the way of the game play. CoP is, in the words of one reviewer, "a sidescrolling brawler". It's very similar in concept to the old Simpson's video game, where you walk left or right along a street, fighting a fixed number of enemy within a time limit.
(Player selection screen. In story mode, you can only select one of the 4 main characters. Obviously, to get all 4 up to the higher levels, you have to replay the story quests at least one time each for each character.)
You play Princess Solange. Her father's kingdom is attacked by monsters, and the army blames the royal family for the mess. Solange is instructed to get the Sacred Blade DeLuxcalibur out of the armory and find out why the monsters are attacking. DeLuxcalibur is a huge blade, longer than Solange is tall, and very heavy, so Solange spends most of her time dragging it along on the ground when she walks. It has a slow attack, but does a lot of damage if it hits the enemy. It is funny, when Solange is surrounded front and back, that the blade hits anyone behind her, while throwing the enemy in front of her up in the air. In the first few stages, you only have 4 actions - upward cut, lunge, attack the legs, and "burst" (burst uses up all your MP, but adds extra magic damage to the other attacks).
(Princess Solange, from the opening cut scene.)
As you progress through the story, you unlock each chapter one at a time. Any chapter can be replayed if you want to get more experience. At the end of the chapter, you get experience, money, items, and points that can be assigned to specific character stats (strength, HP, MP, defense, etc.) I've only started the game, and I think I have less than 4-5 hours on it. One of the NPCs that joins your party will sell you random weapons, armor and accessories, which are largely useless. I have encountered the three other playable NPCs - the thief, Ali Baba; necromancer Lady Zozo; and "bard" Allegro (Allegro plays an electric guitar, and apparently doesn't need an amp). There are other characters you meet later on, but according to the wiki page, you can't play them in story mode. You can switch to a couple other free play modes, where you can use the other characters, apparently up to 50 total.
(One of the battle screens. Pressing the D-pad in various combinations, then following that with that A-B-X-Y buttons will give you different attacks. Just like Street Fighter.)
The story mode fighting system is very simple, and it's mostly just button mashing. The artwork looks really good, but there's not much strategy - upper cut to keep the enemy air borne, and if someone gets too close, back away and lunge, or attack for the legs a bit, then go back to upper cutting. Guard if the enemy are too high-level and swarm you. I really wanted a traditional RPG, so I'm a bit disappointed at getting a sidescroller. So far, though, it's not difficult to keep beating each chapter, so I may play CoP occasionally, rather than playing Spider Solitaire on the PC. Recommended only if you can find it cheap, used.