Do you need anger management? No? You may reconsider after this game.
Jul 5, 2012
Demon Lord Etna of the Netherworld learns that someone has stolen her dessert. The blame naturally falls on her followers called Prinnies, which are bad human souls trapped in the bodies of talking penguins with pegs for legs. As punishment for her food being swiped, she orders 1000 Prinnies on a suicide mission to locate the Ultra Dessert, and they have only one day to complete the mission or face her wrath, which could possibly be worse than dying on their mission. -summary
Nippon Ichi Software (NIS) carved a name for themselves in the world of gaming with the cult classic SRPG series Disgaea back in 2003. They managed to put together one of the most enjoyable RPG franchises, that features a memorable cast of characters with their own little followings. In between the Disgaea games, they have been known to release some spin-off titles that pretty much followed the same formula. For the most part, NIS's focus has been on RPG's, so I'm sure it must have been a surprise when they took a jump into the world of 2D platform gaming in 2008 with Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero? for the PSP.
Although the game was received rather well; I can imagine many gamers, casual more than anyone else not really taking a liking to it. The reason being? Well, that would be the games unforgiving difficulty. Prinny is a hard game with a difficulty that I think can make the Contra series blush. If you have a very short fuse, then I recommend skipping this altogether unless you want your PSP to become wall pizza.
For those unfamiliar with Disgaea, it's a series that thrives on (although very entertaining) its stupid stories, with this one being another one. The Prinnies must venture through six locations in the Netherworld, as they gather the six ingredients to prepare the Ultra Dessert for their bratty ruler. Their mission sees them navigating through treacherous obstacles on their way to some tough boss battles. Later in the game, another plot takes form when a demon by the name of Sir Sweet makes his presence known. The Prinnies then have to invade his fortress setting up the final battle.
The Prinnies are armed with double machetes for close up slashing and when they leap into the air, the blades fire off an energy-like projectile attack that strikes at a 45 angle. They're also capable of performing light dashes, a double jump, and a butt bounce to stun enemies, and you better master these moves because you will need them all, which is easier said than done. Now get this, you cannot earn any extra lives during the course of the game no matter how many points you accumulate. The reason being is because the game begins you with 1000 lives, to reflect the 1000 Prinnies Etna sent on this ridiculous quest. Some people claim to have burned through every last one of them, and I find that to be quite believable, because it appears this game was assembled just to kill you repeatedly.
Prinny is indeed a throwback to the games of yester-millennium, as it relies on top notch platforming skill. The enemies are unforgiving and the later stages allow no room for error in jumps. I burned through between 6-10 lives before I could overcome a really tight jump only to come into another one. Thankfully, the stages contain various checkpoints so you can breath somewhat easier. I have to tell you, before I played this game, it had been years since my palms were so sweaty.
The six stages can be selected in any order and as you complete them the difficulty increases, you will notice this especially after finishing the second stage, and by the time you make it to the 4th stage and beyond, the game will become a beast. There's no real pattern to choosing these stages either, if you decide to work your way in reverse order by beginning on stage 6, then stages 1 and 2 become the most difficult. This is the case in any order you choose, in addition, the set up of the stages changes dramatically by injecting more and different enemies, different obstacles, and even different bosses on some occasions. After completing the six stages, a couple more appear leading to the final battle.
The enemies you encounter vary across the stages, but for the most part you battle rifle and cannon toting hogs, along with archers, violent evil spirits, and ninjas. The placement of these very aggressive enemies make them far more dangerous than what they already are. Some of them will even pursue you in an attempt to escape them, so dealing with them is a must on numerous occasions.
The boss battles... Well, there are probably about 2-3 I considered to be a cakewalk, and to date, I haven't been killed by these bosses yet because their patterns were so easy to figure out. However, there are some I burned through quite a bit of lives trying to figure out their scheme. The final boss killed me 25 times and I know of people to burn through their last remaining lives fighting him, which were somewhere in the hundreds.
Prinny is a highly challenging game, but I have to wonder just how difficult it would be if the odds weren't stacked so highly against you. The game play indeed has its problems because it was put together for the sole reason of making you die a lot. Trying to make some of the simplest jumps will some times end in disaster, and in later stages if you make said jump, then there will be a tough one with an enemy waiting to hit you only once, and send you falling to your death. The Prinnies are driven too far back when they take hits and you will always fall off these platforms; think the original Castlevania and Ghost n' Goblins series.
It's also way too easy to take the simplest of damage during the slightest contact. One boss battle against a giant robot late in the game comes to mind. You can only dish out severe damage after hitting its weak point a certain amount of times, and while doing this you have to avoid making contact with any part of its body. Not a simple task with such a floaty jump at your disposal, even moreso with the Prinnie's pathetic ability to hurl objects. On top of this, you have three minutes to defeat the bosses. There are way too many opportunities to die very cheap deaths over and over in this game, and to make matters worse, no matter how low you drop the bosses health gauge, if you're killed, you have to battle them again with a full gauge. Frustration will begin to set in, and it will take the most disciplined gamer to power through this.
This area is indeed a mixed bag, and I believe it was done this way intentionally. Jumping and double jumping is difficult to master and it feels floaty at times. For example, the single jump straight into the air will take Prinny straight up with no way of slightly moving in any direction. In order to move, you have to double jump, and this can create problems when trying to get to some areas or avoid attacks. The butt stomp has moments where it can be a pain too, with an over exaggeration when performing it for multiple hits. Plenty of times I was sure the command was put in only to see myself take a hit. This could probably have something to do with mediocre hit detection. Pulling off attacks is the simplest thing to do. Overall, this area will probably annoy more folks than it entertains.
NIS weren't very lazy with this game, as they chose not to reuse sprites from the main series. Character designs have some detail, with nice animation for the Prinnies facial gestures. The bosses have some good designs, however, many of the minor villains have pretty stale animations. The backgrounds are by far the best with moving lava falls, and one stage has three small supernova looking suns in an evening setting that looks really cool.
The game maintains the humor of Disgaea which can be felt through the dialog. The game has some entertaining voice acting, with the Prinnies ending every sentence with "dood". It may grow annoying to some, but I grinned most of the time. I believe Michelle Ruff voices Etna this time around, and if so, she has her teenage bratty persona down well. The sound effects never really stood out to me, so there really isn't anything worth noting. Now the music is indeed catchy and fits well with the personality of the game. There are several catchy tunes that stuck with me. The songs appear to be blended with some orchestral themes, and even some j-pop thrown there.
After each stage is completed you will return to the stage selection area, and here only, there will be a chance to collect torn letter pieces with there being ten total. You will have to get these letters through some very complicated platform jumping. The good thing is you can't die here and these segments aren't timed. Collecting these letters as well as dolls through out the stages will unlock new things; such as more stages that aren't necessary to complete the main game, as well as extra boss battles that aren't necessary for completing the game either. One extra boss battle pits the Prinnies in a revolt against Etna and this is a very tough fight. Plus, I'm sure some folks will be interested in seeing the differences in the stages as they try every order possible. Unfortunately, casual gamers or the very short-tempered more than likely won't even care about these things if they do beat the game. Even I was hesitant on going through all of that again because the game can be too frustrating.
Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero? can be a test on your tolerance, and I actually had to take breaks from this because of the excessive dying. The game focuses too much on trial and error instead of your gaming expertise, plus that jump is a little too problematic. To include, I feel the Prinnies attacks are too limited and their arsenal could have used more, in which this area was actually worked on in the sequel.
One thing I have to give this game credit for though, is that it could have been tougher than this had NIS decided to add in complicated puzzles. Thankfully, there aren't any puzzles at all and the focus is on gaming. If NIS created this game to see if there was life for them in the 2D genre, or to give hardcore gamers who claim games are too easy these days a rough challenge; then they nailed it with this on both ends. Despite its issues and the trouble it gave me I kind of like this game. It was definitely a break from the simpler titles. The game is very short, and it's probably longer than an hour, but all the dying will make it longer than that. If you enjoy 2D games that are tough as nails like Castlevania III, the original Ninja Gaiden series, or Contra: Shattered Soldier, then I highly recommend this.
Pros: -Challenging, unlockable stages and boss battles, replay
Cons: -Can be way too difficult, control issues
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