FASHIONABLY LATE REVIEW
Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero?

By Jamie Love - March 14th, 2009

Prinny

On the surface, Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero? is filled with contradictions.

According to my copy of the Hinterland Who’s Who, a Prinny is an adorable penguin-like creature – who also happens to sport bat wings and two wooden legs. They are generally upbeat critters who run around using the word “dood” quite a bit. It all sounds terribly adorable, the kind of game a child would ask you for from the first moment their eyes met the cover. But on the other hand, a Prinny is also liable to explode if thrown, and is in fact a prison where the souls of humans who have lived wasted / criminal lives are sewn into an afterlife of servitude.

Prinny

This theme of contradiction appears to run throughout the game. Six themed stages offer vibrant backgrounds for the side-scrolling action, which at times details an impressive 3D viewpoint whenever Prinny performs a jump-attack. Our hero is also given the fundamentals of a melee attack, dash move, and power stomp to aid in clearing these stages. But at the same time, each stage is littered with fairly routine enemy sprites and short levels that offer only a few casual secrets along the way.

It’s all tied together by a narrative in which our would-be hero must seek out the ingredients needed to create the ultimate dessert, in order to pacify his demanding mistress. So it all sounds harmless enough – until you come to realize that Prinny also presents the hardest game-play experience you might ever encounter on the PSP.

Prinny

Now, a lot of people will tell you that game X or Y is hard. Often this has more to do with a necessary set of skills, as in Ikaruga. But on rare occasions, as in Contra Shattered Solider or Alien Hominid for instance, there is no denying that there are a few games that have been forged in the fires of hell, meant to break the will of the hardest of the old school. And when I say Prinny is a hard game, I’m leaning more toward the latter example. But to give you a real sense of just how hard Prinny is, it’s important to note that the game starts the player off with 1,000 lives. Now think about that for a minute. I mean the original Contra, even with the legendary code, still only felt it necessary to give the player 30 lives.

So now that we’re clear, allow me to restate that Prinny is ridiculously hard. Old school, “man this is hard” hard – or throwing the PSP clear across the room hard for the more physical gamer.

Prinny

I came to this conclusion after the first three boss encounters, which tended to give no vantage point during the confrontation, leaving Prinny in an open and small space where all the player can do is try to desperately evade and counter-attack, hoping for an opportunity to stomp these opponents and thereby inflict greater damage. Generally you’ll lose a dozen lives deducing the strategy, and then a dozen more executing what you’ve learned from the first round of losses.

And just to add to the sadism, I haven’t even mentioned the stage factor. They are short, but you start to become glad that they are because every single enemy is placed in the ideal position to kill you. And fearing that this might get old, the game also utilizes a faux time system that counts down hours as you complete each stage – in addition to an actual time limit within stages. This has the added advantage of allowing stages that crushed you during daylight hours to become an utter nightmare of difficulty under the cover of darkness.

But this is when all those apparent contradictions reveal a razor sharp focus from NIS. Where another studio might have offered a watered-down platformer of zero substance, NIS has remained true to the spirit of Disgaea, offering a game that is as unique as anything else in their catalogue. Even though Prinny will enrage as many gamers as it will delight, there’s a reassurance that some studios actually respect gamers, offering a challenging product to a core audience while so many others search for ways to pander to the mainstream.

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