The first news of a Prinny dedicated title had me excited, and the fact that it was going to be on PSP, and a platformer meant I could take the console out of retirement. That was back in late 2008, and now the game has been released and for a first effort I have to say that NIS has laid the groundwork for an excellent platforming experience. A few tweaks to the design of the game would have made this a much less frustrating title to play, and even review. The flaws of the game are so apparent that they are impossible to ignore, but I still love the game. A lot of this has to do with my love of the character and the Disgaea universe. So if you're not one of the Disgaea faithful, then you're just going to view this game as a sadistically hard platformer with little fun.
Prinny is quite simply an old-school styled platformer, with a slight twist. You've got 1000 lives to get through this game, and seriously, there will be times when it feels like that is not enough. To be to the point, this game is hard, and it's done so intentionally. There are a number of spots throughout the levels where enemies are placed to make sure you die, that's the modus operandi of this title. And it's not like you're powerless to stop it. The prinnies have their trademark blades hidden away and ready for action. There is the standard slice attack, and then a ranged attack when jumping. There is also a spin move that grants temporary invincibility when activated.
When you do figure out how to get through these stages with these tools the game is extremely satisfying, but most of the time is spent on the verge of throwing your PSP at the floor in a fit of rage. The rage is further intensified by some curious design decisions. The mechanics of the jump are locked in place. You press the jump button and you jump to a preset height. You press left or right with the jump button and you will travel a predetermined distance. If you need to stop mid-jump there is a butt-stomp attack that deal no damage to enemies but will stun them. Another strange decision; the stages are one continuous level with a boss fight at the end of each, there are checkpoints to respawn at when you die. But if you don't finish a level in the amount of time you wish to play, then you're going to be putting the console on standby and draining battery power, making this title less than optimum for on the go play.
Of course if you're good at platforming hell titles then you'll be happy to know that the game rates you based on how quickly you complete the level and how many hidden enemies you find. There is even a hidden option to record replays of the levels to share with other people via wi-fi connection. It's a superfluous extra but the fact that it is in there is greatly appreciated. Another nice little addition is how levels change depending on what order you play the game in, so you can skip the first stage to come back to it later, but it will definitely have the difficulty ratcheted up to make up for it.
Graphically this is one of the best efforts yet by NIS America and even for a PSP title it looks great. The sprite work is fantastic, and the animations are superb, even some of the recycled movements have been touched up to make the game look better. There is a slight amount of slowdown when too many things are on screen at once, but even then it takes a lot of stuff on screen to make that happen. The audio is composed by series mainstay Tenpei Sato, and the tracks, quite simply work, as they always have. The voice acting is kind of hit or miss, I could swear that some of the staff was included on some of the prinny voices, which is fine, but the delivery is kind of weak. Same could be said for the story, basically Etna wants an Ultra Dessert, and what Etna wants, Etna gets at the countless sacrifices of her pawns, the prinnies. Granted the prinnies are the reincarnated souls of thieves and murders stuffed in to little penguin bodies that explode when thrown, so maybe it's just what they deserve. Back on topic, the goal is to collect ingredients for the Ultra Dessert, and all the shenanigans that come with it, from a crazy flavor sage, to dessert pirates, it is a wacky adventure to be sure.
Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? is a title that has a lot of potential. And I really wanted to like it. You see that NIS America has a great idea with the game, but has some issues with balancing out the difficulty. With one thousand lives there is plenty of chances for trial and error, but this is almost more offensive and obscene in terms of difficulty than Mega Man 9. At first the game starts off fun and cutesy, and then by the third stage you're hurling obscenities and your PSP at the wall. Prinnies seem used to the physical abuse, so I guess verbal abuse was a natural progression for them.