I had no idea what I was getting into. Code of Princess EX is one of the strangest games on my Nintendo Switch home screen ribbon, and though it lacks a lot of the refineries or polish I'd expect from any "definitive edition," it is a game that I've found myself craving when I get home from work. This is not a game you'd want to show to your friends as a Nintendo Switch technical showcase, but damn it if it isn't fun to play.
Here's the shtick for those of you who never played the 3DS original: You initially assume the role of Solange Blanchefleur de Lux, Princess of DeLuxia. Your left sock, dear reader, contains more fabric than her entire costume (and probably offers more protection), but the weapon she possesses is worth more than an entire armory. The DeLuxcalibur and the princess herself are the only two apparent survivors after monsters sack the DeLuxian castle, and they soon set off with new friends to find out why the monsters have gone crazy, and why an opposing army is searching for her sword.
It's a simple setup, and one that does not ask for much of an emotional or intellectual investment from the player. From the very beginning you're given the option to speed through every cutscene, which is considerate. I did find the dialog (which is voiced exclusively in Japanese, unlike the 3DS version) pretty funny, and the narrative scenes generally very charming. This game knows exactly what it is, and never takes itself very seriously. New comrades and new adversaries come and go with paper-thin motives and over-the-top personalities. I found myself smiling an amused, "wtf" kind of smile to myself frequently as I played, and that's a good thing.
Gameplay is where Code of Princess EX really shines. This is a three-rail beat 'em up that absolutely anyone can pick up and enjoy quickly. Simple, quick combos are banged out with the B button, while heavy attacks and finishers are assigned to the A button. You have a few simple combos and finishers to memorize with each character, and a few simple magic or special attacks you can perform with very simple inputs. Typically there are four of these special attacks, which can be executed by pushing down twice before hitting an attack button, or by swinging a quarter-circle forward or backward before hitting an attack button.
The Y button performs a unique attack which will lock on to the enemy it hits. While locked on to an enemy, you'll dish out extra damage and can view how much health it has left. Finally, the X button will perform a "burst," which grants you an extra, limited-time blast of power and restores your MP. You have a set number of bursts you can perform per quest, and its effects can be augmented by equipping certain items.
And this is the flow of combat. Combining simple combos and finishers, mixing things up with special and magical attacks, intelligently managing who you're locked on to for extra damage potential, defending and side-stepping while jumping between lanes to manage the mobs... there's a lot to juggle, and it's really fun, y'all. Code of Princess EX takes a simple combat system and pushes it to surprising depths.
This is especially true once you consider all of the playable characters. You'll have a small cast of core characters you can use in the main game, but in bonus and "free" modes, any character or enemy you've encountered can be used as a fighter, and we mean any character or enemy. From the local bartender, to the lowly troll, to the beefiest boss-knight; all of the characters you encounter can eventually be leveled up and used to fight like the rest of the cast. They're not all fun to play, mind you; some of the monsters are clunky and feel utterly useless. Still, we're treated to an enormous playable cast who put on an impressive show of variety. This also lends itself to some hilarious quest runs with friends.
I'm told that the performance bump from the 3DS version is immense, and I believe that. I never experienced any frame-rate dips or stuttering, even when multiple characters filled the screen with magic attacks or heavy combos. The visuals, however, leave much to be desired. You can tell immediately that this is a dressed-up 3DS game.
Characters are hilariously aliased, especially in TV mode, while background and stage assets would have raised eyebrows on last-gen hardware. Playing in handheld mode is definitely the way to go. Honestly, the visuals only bothered me upon initially booting up the game; before I realized how much fun I could have; before I realized how much content there is to dig into here.
I'm not going to sugar-coat things and try to sell this as a game that everyone can enjoy, but Code of Princess EX does what it does very well. If the $40 price-tag is causing you to pump the brakes, and the gameplay footage you've seen doesn't appeal to you, then pump those brakes, dude! Wait for a sale if you want to, but do keep this on your radar. Whether playing solo, online, or locally with friends, you're guaranteed a bizarre and deceptively deep RPG beat 'em up that's more fun than it has any right to be.
ComicBook's Score: 3.5 / 5