Review: Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero?

PrinnyPSP.jpg Much like Moogles and Chocobos are the Final Fantasy franchise’s mascots, the exploding, penguin-like Prinnies are the mascot for NIS America’s cult-favorite Disgaea franchise. Prinnies are the slaves of the Netherworld, tortured souls seeking redemption for their sins, often becoming the main source of comic relief throughout the Disgaea titles with all their “dood” speak. But what if, for a change, the Prinnies were the stars of their own game? Could they rise up as heroes of the Netherworld?

NIS America’s new PSP game Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? attempts to answer that very question. Master Etna has lost all her sweets, and in a bout of rage has enlisted her Prinny minions to seek out the ingredients to help her make the Ultra Dessert within 10 hours, or else…

Prinny PSP is a hardcore 2D action-platformer – think Ghosts ‘N Goblins with an anime twist – filled with enough masochistically difficult hopping, bopping and hip pounding to please even the most elite gamer, and ample amounts of chuckle-inducing humor to help calm the nerves in between stages.

The Prinnies really are quite capable creatures, despite their adorable appearance and limited intelligence. They have two blades to hack enemies to bits with; they can leap into the air and rain down death with a ranged air slash attack or crash down with a mighty hip pound to stun unsuspecting enemies; they can spin dash to zip past danger in a hurry; they can double jump to reach higher ledges and 3-point hop to change directions in mid-air; and mastering all of these moves is essential to surviving the game’s 10 treacherous (though colorfully rendered) levels and even more treacherous bosses.

I’m not joking, folks. This is one brutal game. So brutal, in fact, that you are allotted 1,000 lives (or Prinnies) to complete the game with – as one Prinny dies, another straps on the heroic red scarf in its place. While you’ll really have to be lousy to come anywhere close to using all 1,000 lives (unless you play on the Hell’s Finest setting with one-hit deaths; Prinny can absorb three hits on the standard difficulty), you’ll certainly need to use up at least a good few hundred, which still equates to an awful lot of dying in a 10-level game.

Enemies are abundant and devilishly aggressive, constantly attacking from all sides and hindering your progress. The bosses are even trickier, requiring you to first hip pound through their defenses to stun them before you can actually land damaging blows. What’s more, each boss has a three-minute time limit, so you can’t just sit there twiddling your thumbs. You have to analyze their attack patterns quickly and take advantage of every chance to break through their defenses. The regular levels are timed as well, but the timer restarts when you die so it never really becomes a factor.

Amazingly, though, amidst all the dying and retrying the game rarely feels cheap. The levels are exceptionally well designed, and except for the occasional jumping gaff the controls are responsive and easy to learn. The difficulty is balanced perfectly too. You aren’t bludgeoned to death from the start. As you progress, the difficulty gradually ramps up with each new stage and boss.

This game also earns high marks for its presentation and replayability. While certainly not among the PSP’s audiovisual elite, Prinny holds its own with smoothly-animated sprites, vibrant and diverse level backdrops, an enchanting soundtrack (which is included on CD as a pack-in bonus!), and hilarious voice acting.

You’ll have plenty of time to savor all of this charm, too, thanks to the game’s high replay value. Your first time through should take somewhere around six hours depending on skill level (my personal time was just over seven hours), which is plenty long for this type of game. But what’s particularly cool is how each level has multiple layouts depending on the order in which you play them, so on return visits your experience is going to be different every time. On top of that, item hunters will be delighted by the abundance of secret goodies. By finding hidden items you’ll be able to unlock neat bonuses such as a music player, a replay manager for saving and sharing video replays, the ability to replay completed stages, and more.

For the first three quarters of the game, I couldn’t get enough Prinny. I was dying a lot, but enjoying every second of it. But I must say, towards the end two things left somewhat of a sour taste in my mouth. The first thing that rubbed me the wrong was the game’s use of the archaic length-padding technique of making you replay a bunch of the same bosses you already defeated earlier in the game. I hate this. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves!

My second annoyance was with the game’s final boss. Compared to all the other bosses throughout the game, I found the end baddie endlessly cheap and frustrating, and completely devoid of fun. By the time I finished him off I was too exhausted to work up any feeling of satisfaction for my accomplishment.

While these issues certainly annoyed me, the good news is they only made up a very small portion of what is otherwise a brilliantly, brutally fun 2D platformer. I can’t stress enough how awesome a game Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? truly is. It’ll leave you battered, bruised, bloodied…and begging for more, dood!

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Pros:
+ Brutal but well balanced difficulty level
+ Superbly designed levels and bosses (most of them at least)
+ Intuitive controls
+ Endearing presentation and humor
+ Comes with loads of extras, both in-game and out

Cons:
– Extreme difficulty and inherent trial and error may be a turnoff
– Final boss run is more tedious than fun

Game Info:
Platform: PSP
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Release Date: 2/17/09
Genre: Platform
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!