It's always a shame to see style weigh heavily over substance, to the extent that you're pushing yourself through a game's mediocre action simply to see more of its personality.

Code of Princess looks and sounds great, and its hack 'n' slash approach has the potential to round off a great 3DS experience.

But the battling feels far too rigid and hollow to keep us entertained for very long.

Clearly no dress code

The kingdom of Deluxia has been overrun by monsters, and princess Solange has managed to escape with the sacred blade. Now everyone is after her, but she's a little too ditsy and oblivious to realise the full nature of her situation.

Fortunately she has some friends to help her out. Oh, also she's pretty handy with that massive great sword, and can slice her way through pretty much anything or anyone that is thrown at her.

Code of Princess is a real looker, with gorgeous 2D anime that complements the stereoscopic 3D backdrops and characters. The full voice acting also goes a long way to giving the whole experience a real stylish feel.

This style is somewhat undermined at times by a poor framerate, and elsewhere by questionable garments. The main character, for example, pretty much has her breasts on show for the entire game, and on the character select screen is happy to have them jiggle up and down in a ridiculously over-emphasized manner.

This doesn't hugely take away from the main gameplay, but the way that the story treats Solange as a gormless naive female and regularly refers to her appearance clashes with the game's stylistic bearings.

It's a fine codeline

And now for the gameplay itself. The action takes place on three 3D planes which you can jump between, and revolves around hammering buttons to take down hordes of enemy troops and monsters.

It's all about using strings of combo moves to deal super damage, and looking slick as hell all the while. Blocking attacks with the shoulder buttons and using "Burst" attacks will keep you alive.

The problem is that the action never really feels fluid enough, since your character handles like a barge on a slow-moving canal. Even if you can get to grips with the combos, you'll rarely managed to clock one up that surpasses a dozen moves or more.

The action is pretty shallow too - you can get through most battles by simply blocking, then doing the same move over and over.

Multiplayer doesn't help to quell this issue. It would have been nice if you could have multiple team-mates in each battle. It happens sometimes (usually when you've just met them), but elsewhere they'll be a full team around for the cutscene, then just you on your own dealing with the hordes.

Finally, dealing with your equipment loadout is a huge pain. There's no way to compare weapons and armour easily, and the stuff you collect isn't listed in an easy-to-find manner. Instead you're forced to scroll through pages of question marks to find what you need.

Code of Princess has the makings of a great franchise, and this could simply be a false start. Right now, though, this is one for hardcore Japanese hack 'n' slash fanatics only.