Thanks to NIS America for the review code
Title: Prinny: Can I Really be the Hero?
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 10/13/2020
In this platforming spinoff from the Disgaea series, you take control of a Prinny with a special bandana preventing him from the usual exploding shenanigans, for he is tasked with finding out just who stole mistress Edna’s special deserts, or else everyone will be facing her fury! A comical story that fits pretty well, with not much else to say, outside of that it is welcoming to those who haven’t played a Disgaea game, meaning that you can easily start here.
Originally released on the PSP over a decade ago, Prinny was a platformer that was made with that screen in mind, and had pretty great pixel art to boot. That same good art is brought over to the Switch with mixed results, since the huge gripe I have stems from the blurry filter applied to the game. It’s very faint, but it’s immediately noticeable, and impacts every aspect of the game: the UI, the font, to the gorgeous sprites, and it really puts a damper on things.
In handheld mode, this filter is tolerable at best, which fits considering the handheld nature of the original game, so it won’t bother you too much unless you’re really picky like me: but blown up to a TV in docked mode, the filter becomes absolutely dreadful and a blatant eyesore, and the lack of any option to remove it is a huge, huge negative against this port as a whole. At the very least, the english voice acting is still here and just as funny as it was back then, and the music is the same wacky goodness expected from this franchise.
Prinny tasks the player with guiding the titular hero throughout a variety of stages, navigating around terrifying traps, tricky platforming challenges, and devastating enemies, with only your trusty sword and your throwing arm as your main options for retaliation.
Indeed, while you have your standard jump and attack, you also can throw bombs and barrels at enemies with the X button (and even enemies themselves, if you stun them!), and can even hold down the A button to charge up a dash to get extra momentum. But one of your handiest and most-useful techniques by far is the ground-stomp technique, accomplished by pressing down and jump in mid-air. This can be used to stomp on enemies to stun them, activate checkpoints or hidden secrets, or to simply stop your momentum in mid-air, since your double jumps are pretty locked in place, not unlike Super Ghouls N Ghosts.
Just like that difficult classic, Prinny pulls no punches, and while it does two difficulty levels, even the easiest one with multiple hit points will give you quite a bit of trouble, putting your 1000 lives to good use, since you have that locked jump, knockback, tricky enemy placements and boss fights, leading to an old-school challenge that manages to feel a bit more modern thanks to your big reserve of lives and the ground-stomp move being a lifesaver.
Though if you want to go for a harder, more abusive challenge, turning on one-hit deaths is an option and you can swap between the two difficulty modes at any time. So while you’ll definitely die a lot (especially on hard), you’ll also learn the stage and gradually get further and further, eventually making it to the end-stage boss, where your memorization and dodging skills will be put to the ultimate test.
Yes, you’ll have to pull out all the stops on a boss fight, since breaking their guard is a vital step to dealing enough damage to these mighty foes, and to take advantage of whatever the boss arena has to help you out, whether it’s a bomb or a good hiding spot for the boss’s attacks. If you make the mistake I did at first and forget about your stomp move, then these battles will take forever, since breaking their guard is pretty much the only way to cut their HP bar down at a reasonable pace. Still, once you finally beat one of these bad guys, it feels incredibly satisfying, and gives you motivation to select the next stage of your choice, so these fights don’t really feel too impossible once you practice.
But the stage order can also be a pretty big factor, since not only are batches of stages available for you to play in any order you choose, but the more hours pass by, the tougher the stages become as it turns to night, leading to increased enemies and defenses across the board. This means that the stages that seem easy at first will end up being harder the longer you hold them off, so with that in mind it may be a better idea to go for the harder stages first and then have the easier stages turn more difficult in order to make them hurt less than a harder stage made even more challenging.
Just clearing the stages may be fine and dandy for the sake of beating the game, but you’ll also be graded on your performance, depending on how fast you clear it and how few times you end up dying during the ordeal, which can add some replay value, but easily the biggest optional thing to be on the lookout for are the three hidden dolls throughout each stage. These are usually buried underground or in very obscure places and can be revealed with a ground stomp nearby, and upon defeating them like you would any other enemy, they’ll be added to your total and can be used to unlock rewards in the hub area. Considering how some of these dolls are placed in super dangerous areas, good luck killing them without being killed first!
All in all, Prinny is a decent platformer with some fun level designs, offering a challenging yet fun side story in the Disgaea franchise, but this Switch port is very barebones at best, adding an ugly filter for no reason at all, while not adding any extra content to the original game in any way.
It’s nice to have this portable adventure on a new handheld, but when this port could have been so much better and the pixels could have had the chance to fully show their shine, it really does disappoint heavily on that front, especially since this is meant to reach out to newcomers like myself, and while the game is still a fun challenging time, (if a bit over-done with some of the knockbacks the game throws your way) it definitely isn’t for the faint of hard and will take lots of patience to get through, yet it’s also incredibly satisfying to overcome, and worth looking at if you enjoy similar games like Ghouls N Ghosts.
So all in all, with just buying Prinny 1, you don’t get too much here, just a mediocre, tricky platformer reproduced in a very barebones fashion, and while it has all the content from the original game, that’s not really much of a plus if not a single attempt was made to un-blur the game assets. Come for the funny humor, great challenge and interesting stage designs, and stay if you can tolerate the barebones porting and lackluster visuals in docked mode.
I give Prinny: Can I Really be the Hero? a 6 out of 10.