Review code graciously provided by Nipon Ichi Software America (NISA). This will have no bearing on my review, opinion or recommendation.
I remember completely missing out on the PSP as a child. I wouldn’t say it was a sad time, but it was a time I mostly regret. As a result of my stoic Nintendo fandom, I didn’t get an opportunity to play a whole bunch of awesome games. On the plus side, I also dodged a bunch of bullets. Until now of course. I, unfortunately, had the chance to catch up with my PSP-owning parallel self recently and played through the aggressively underwhelming: ‘Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero?’ and ‘Prinny 2: Dawn Of Operation Panties, Dood!’.
For those not aware of what a Prinny is, let me enlighten you. When humans do bad things, their souls get shipped to the Netherworld – or Hell. They are reincarnated into sentient, bat-winged, penguin plushies. These unfortunate souls are cursed with an eternity of torture, the uncanny ability to explode when they fall over, and the inability to finish a sentence without shouting “Dood!”. You play as one of these satanic-penguin-teddies, which sounds horrifying, but since the game plays it out for a laugh, it’s all good.
You see, between both games, one of the only things they truly excel at is forcing out a single chuckle every now and then. The writing and universe are ludicrous at best, and if you have played any of the Disgaea games (of which Prinny is a spin-off of), you should know what to expect – nonsensical plot points, detestably likeable characters and hods of mayhem. That being said, Prinny 1 and 2 often miss the mark and can feel incredibly cringe-worthy – often eye-rollingly so. This is especially true for Prinny 2. Considering its title, I assume you can glean as to why its subject matter is less enticing.
As far as gameplay is concerned, both games play largely similar both in and out of stages. These are 2D platformers through and through, just not very good ones. This is almost entirely down to the jumping mechanics themselves, which are uncomfortable at best. When a Prinny jumps, they are locked to a set trajectory. There is no way to alter this. If you touch the button you are off to the races. This makes any precision platforming, dodging or aerial attacking a chore. It isn’t precise enough and fails to muster any of the tightness of classic titles who used similar methods; such as Castlevania.
Jumping is only half of the story, however, as you can also whip out your swords and go to town on whatever demonic entity stands in your way. You have two primary ways of attack – wapping enemies on the ground, and bapping them in the sky. Most enemies die in a few rapid swings from either method. Aerial combat is rather janky thanks to the jumping mechanics and the game’s insistence on changing the camera to a 2.5D angle. This hampers your ability to calculate distance. It’s not terrible overall, it’s just not good.
What could have – and almost did – save both Prinny 1 and 2 is its butt-smacking ground-pound move. This baby not only cancels your jump after a frustrating, albeit slight, delay but also lets you stun enemies. Stunning baddies allows you to do massive damage and wreck basically anything with your blades quickly. Things get spicy when you chain ass-blasts and nail a string of enemies, before turning around and slicing them up. This also feeds into the games combo system, which lets you build up a meter and receive rewards once you cap it.
My issue with this mostly lies with Prinny 1, although it does exist in Prinny 2 to some degree. You will only be able to pull these satisfying chains off when the game allows you. There is very little, if any, wiggle room here. In Prinny 1 this is the only way you can build your meter, so for most of the game, the system just feels pointless. In Prinny 2, every attack and kill will fill your bar. You even get a powered-up state once you reach the end. This unlocks a bunch of new combat moves, making the combat much more satisfying. That being said, Prinny 2 is just as clunky as its prequel. Extra mechanics don’t fix the underlying, cumbersome controls.
Each level ends with a boss fight, and these are the highlights of the game’s core loops. Bosses are practically immune to damage. You are instead forced to ram your booty into their bonce a couple of times, before unleashing your fury-fuelled penguin rage on whatever boss happens to be between you and victory. Memorising patterns and timing your slams feels great. In Prinny 1 at least. With Prinny 2 bringing more combat mechanics, and the bosses not really changing, that tactical, puzzle-esque feeling is completely lost and replaced with something noticeably lesser. Something that focuses on the game’s weakest aspects. Which is a real shame.
Unique to the Prinny series is its gigantic life counter. You start the game with a whopping 1000 lives, which implies the game is going to be a rough ride. Heck, if you run out of them you just flat out lose and have to start the game from scratch. I suspect it would take a serious amount of trying to burn through all those lives, as I managed to grind through the game and had hundreds left over. Sure the games level design, platforming and combat is a tad janky, but 1000 lives is incredibly generous.
When you are not hopping and bopping, you are in the game’s main hub. Here you can converse with your fellow Prinny’s, advance the plot and select various missions to undertake. The game presents you with a variety of missions and based on the order in which you do them, the challenges within them change quite drastically. You could be forced to do an incredibly difficult string of levels if you choose incorrectly, and that is all part of the fun. It opens up a fair amount of replay value, although I will admit, I did not partake in much replaying as I couldn’t put myself through anymore by the time I had hit the credits.
This being a remaster of a PSP game, you’d think you’d get to see some slick HD sprite-work and revamped colours. You’d be wrong. Prinny 1 and 2 look unpleasant on Switch. Less so in handheld. Colours can be look washed out, the sprite-work has barely been touched (if at all) and the background of both games are incredibly dated and stick out like a sore thumb. Laziness aside, the art direction in Prinny 1 and 2 is admittedly great. Pulling from its mother series, Disgaea, you have some seriously quirky character designs that were begging to be treated right. They just weren’t.
Musically both games manage to capture the quirky nature of the Disgaea universe, with all kinds of upbeat vocal quips and jazzy instrumentation. The game also has some pretty good voice acting too. As is to be expected, it is over-the-top, but in the best way possible. As hit-or-miss as the story and dialogue are, at least the actors are knocking their part out of the park.
Prinny 1 and 2 are underwhelming games, to say the least. They have their merits here and there, but overall they fail to provide an experience worth your time. Out of the bunch, I’d say Prinny 1 is the better overall package. This is mostly thanks to the boss fights being superior and the theming not being awful. That being said, the best course of action would be to avoid them both and find something better.
Toast Seal Of Disapproval (x2)
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