A gorgeous FMV intro sequence kicks off Code of Princess. It's as beautiful as it is derivative: a traditional animé clip, frantic battle scenes and princesses staring wistfully into the middle distance in equal measures. It's vivid, punchy and accompanied by a shrill J-pop tune that sounds, to our ears, like Girls Aloud - albeit Girls Aloud recorded on a massive centrifuge machine. What's not to like about that?
Well, how about the fact that it helps bump up the size of this download-only title to a whopping 9,100+ blocks? Forget deleting the Eurosport channel - we practically had to
hollow out the office 3DS with a whittling knife to make room for this porker.
While Nintendo's commitment to giving us the choice to purchase the 3DS's entire retail catalogue digitally is to be celebrated, an instance such as this does raise the question of whether some games just aren't cut out for life on the eShop. Perhaps until the day comes that 90,000,000GB SD cards are the norm, it might be an idea if publishers also offered a 'shaved' version that cut out all the non-essential fat?
Well, there's a rather cruel irony. While Code of Princess: The Executable Program File is about as download-unfriendly as 3DS games are likely to get, Code of Princess: The Side-Scrolling Beat-'Em-Up has been perfectly tailored for portable play. Its closest relations are games such as Streets of Rage or Double Dragon, but the long, sprawling stages of those titles have been chopped up into bite-sized chunks here. Every time you switch your 3DS on you can take in a bit of story and then cut down a few waves of enemies in a self-contained little segment, and all in the time it takes for your local chippy to warm up a week-old battered sausage.
After you successfully clear a stage, your fighter is awarded experience points that can be spent on boosting various attributes - speed, power and defence; all that jazz.
Additionally, extra equipment can be purchased from stores to further fortify your ragtag quartet of warriors. In theory, this sets the scene for the perfect long-tail handheld game - even a brief five-minute session can result in you harvesting a permanent upgrade for your favourite fighter - but some curious design choices undo all the good work Agatsuma has done in ensuring Code of Princess' structure suits 3DS.
One issue we have is that it never feels like you're getting more powerful. Enemies level
up at the same pace you do (and occasionally even faster than that, leading to difficulty spikes) so all that changes in real terms is the value of the numbers spilling out of your opponents' skulls as you crack them open.