Did you grow up on Mega Man and Bionic Commando? Do you think that most contemporary games are too easy? Then Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? is the game for you. You control a battalion of prinnies (the adorable penguin bombs from the Disgaea SRPGs on a PlayStation product near you) – 1,000 of them to be exact. You and your army of prinnies have 10 hours to gather the ingredients for Etna’s (your boss) ultimate dessert. Sure the story is flimsy, but it’s a serviceable excuse to run, jump, kill enemies, blow past checkpoints, and die repeatedly against end-of-level bosses.
Prinny features a lot of levels (36 to be exact), but you won’t be able to play all of them in a single play. At first this sounds like a downer, but what you’ve got is a 2D platformer with genuine replayability. It is possible to play Prinny six times without ever repeating a level. Prinny is by no stretch of the imagination an easy game, but it isn’t unfair either. It shares a unique quality with Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox. When I died I felt two things: 1) that it was my fault and 2) that I had learned something that I could use throughout the rest of the game. Prinny stands as a stark contrast to Mega Man 9 – another fiendishly difficult game. The difference between the two is that Mega Man 9 is consciously out to get you and it feels cheap more often than it feels difficult. Prinny, on the other hand, never feels cheap. It’s just hard, and that makes victory over the game’s giant bosses all the more satisfying.
So what keeps Prinny from feeling cheap? Well-placed checkpoints for one. These checkpoints serve to break up the levels logically and keep you from replaying large sections of a level you’ve already defeated. Second, you have 1,000 lives. It doesn’t sting quite so badly to miss a jump when you know you’ve got 800 d00ds in reserve. Prinny also manages to maintain a good difficulty curve – it just happens that the difficulty continues to go up further than you might expect. Like games of old, though, Prinny teaches you everything you need to know in order to complete the challenges presented to you.
Nippon Ichi also hit the ball out of the park graphically. This is bar none their finest PSP title, and if anything really shows that off it is the art. 3D backgrounds, intricate sprite-based enemies, and details unique to specific enemies, bosses, and your character all make Prinny a joy to look at while lamenting that missed jump or botched boss pattern. Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero is an amazing action platformer that hearkens back to days spent sitting on the living room with an NES pad in your hand, Bionic Commando on the television screen, and your friend alternately laughing at your failures and cheering you successes.
Any gamer with a PSP and a love of platformers should give Prinny a whirl. It’s full of great (and out there) characters, witty writing, and plenty of satisfying platforming. The great level design and non-linearity make it a must-buy game that you’ll play many times.
Pros: Challenging, appropriate difficulty ramp-up, fun characters, great checkpoint placement
Cons: Probably too difficult for those who didn’t cut their teeth on 8-bit platformers
Plays Like: Ninja Gaiden, Super Mario Bros.