Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Apollo Software
Battle Princess of Arcadias wants you to know that it's not your typical JRPG. The female characters? Not only is the titular princess the game's protagonist, but virtually all of the females in the game are dressed in surprisingly functional clothing. The action? None of this turn- and grid-based nonsense; everything here is real-time (sort of) and side-scrolling, with an easy-to-navigate overworld map. Think RPG stories can be kind of absurd? Battle Princess of Arcadias does too, and it's not afraid to make fun of that fact. And, of course, there's the game's colour palette. Admittedly, lots of JRPGs are willing to be more than just a bunch of shades of grey, green and brown, but not many embrace it with quite as much gusto as this one.
To some extent, Battle Princess of Arcadias really does live up to this promise of being different. It's fun to play a game that doesn't leave me feeling like I belong on a sex offender registry just for playing it; more games would do well to dress their female characters in clothing that doesn't defy physics and morality. (I mean, they still show plenty of skin, but compared to Monster Monpiece, the game feels positively prudish.) What's more, the game actually gives its female characters some degree of agency; the main character, Plume, is the one who's itching for a fight and responsible for taking care of her world's monster problems, and she's often the one dragging whiny and useless males into battle.
Additionally, the game's vivid colours are undoubtedly a point in its favour. From the moment the title screen blooms onto the screen, Battle Princess of Arcadias constantly feels happy and upbeat. (In this respect, it helps, too, that the king is a goose.) It's all too easy for games with endless grinding to feel like a slog, so it's fun to have a game that actively tries to counteract any malaise that could set in.
Unfortunately, this is where things go off the rails a little. See, even though Battle Princess of Arcadias really wants you to feel as though it's all fun, all the time, the reality is a little more complicated. Yes, some aspects of the battle system are easy enough to pick up — in one-on-one battles, you just hack and slash and block and jump your way through enemies — but levels where combat is as simple and straightforward as that aren't nearly as numerous as you might expect. It doesn't take long for the game to go from simply being a matter of hacking & slashing your way through legions of (very cute) opponents to calling on you to hack & slash & block & issue commands to your attending armies & attack & switch commands & block & switch commands again. While this obviously becomes easier the more you play, there's no denying the learning curve here is more like a 90 degree angle.
Or, to be more accurate, it's like a cliff at the end of a very short slope. The first level here is easy enough; knocking out a 300-hit combo is nothing, and it's easy to lay waste to every enemy you encounter without ever taking a hit. Then — spoiler — the game throws a boss fight at you for the second level, and it doesn't let up from there. It quickly becomes apparent that Battle Princess of Arcadias is at least as much about managing your troop resources as it is about the aforementioned hacking and slashing. And it never takes it easy on you, either; I died in that first boss fight about a dozen times, and nearly that many times in the third level, too, which calls on you to rapidly switch units in and out of a skirmish in the background while also throwing hordes of enemies at you from either side.
Realistically, I think your enjoyment of Battle Princess of Arcadias is dependent on your expectations going into it. Allow yourself to be taken in by the bright colours and easy controls and silly story, and the steep difficulty might turn you off it entirely. Recognize, however, that those are simply fun additions to what amounts to a challenging RPG, however, and the dissonance might not be so bad.