PRINNY: Can I Really Be The Hero?
Also Known As: プリニー ～オレが主人公でイイんスか?～ Purinī: Ore ga Shujinkō de Iinsuka?
Genre: Platform, Hack and Slash
Platform(s): PlayStation Portable
Allegiance: Nippon Ichi Software
Intelligence Agency Report by: Dr. Magnanimus
Someone scarfed down Master Etna’s favorite pudding, and there’s going to be hell to pay! Now it’s up to the Prinny Squad to find the ingredients to make the Ultra Dessert for their capricious, slave-driving overlord. If they fail their search in ten hours time, all one thousand of them will be summarily executed by Etna herself. Thus the Prinny Squad venture forth, facing certain peril, torment, and death in their quest to placate their master with the sweet to end all sweets.
Weapons Expert Report by: Dr. Magnanimus
Nippon Ichi has made a real name for itself with a library of highly entertaining games, and this one is no exception. Coming off the popularity of the tactical RPG Disgaea series, this spinoff focuses primarily on the lowliest of lowly minions: the prinny. Wicked human souls that are sent to the Netherworld are imprisoned inside these penguin-suited creatures and forced into indentured servitude until such time that they have paid for their sins and can be reincarnated. Furthermore, they can spontaneously combust when harmed. Having this low station in the land of demons makes the exploitation and abuse of these minions the stuff of legend.
Prinny’s gameplay can be best summed up as a combination of increasingly unforgiving difficulty and limited combat controls. You start the game with 1000 lives that cannot be replenished, representing each member of the Prinny Squad that you control. An appointed “hero” is chosen to wear a magical red scarf that grants partial protection from attacks. In normal difficulty, the prinny can take 3 hits of damage before it explodes and dies, while hard mode turns the slightest scratch into instant death. Upon death, another prinny takes up the scarf and picks up where their fallen comrade left off, usually at a level checkpoint. The player has a variety of attacks and maneuvers to help survive the trek. Armed with knives, the prinnies can hack and slash at enemies at close range, or lob them from a distance while in mid-air, making a 45 degree air-to-ground attack. Each button press counts as a single attack, meaning that rapid-mashing of buttons is going to be a common hazard for players. With the difficulty level being what it is, there is a lot of button-mashing to be had, and this may or may not make for a good experience for less hardcore players. The third and most crucial form of attack is the hip pound, which is used to stun armored or boss demons for a brief time to make them vulnerable to knife attacks.
Prinnies also get around by jumping and double-jumping. However, double-jumps cannot be controlled; once you choose a direction and determine the strength of the jump, the jump cannot be stopped until you land, whether it be on the ground, on a demon, or in a pit of lava. Jumping across platforms is easily the most frustrating aspect of this game, whether intended or not. A spin maneuver can be used to make the prinny invulnerable for a few seconds and send it off in a sprint when the button is let go. While dashing, the prinny can also slide under enemies in a temporarily invulnerable state. These skills are helpful in certain situations when hacking and jumping are not enough. In general, it can be said that this game is meant for players more experienced with the kind of intensity of early-day console platform games, in which difficult jumps and screen-cluttering batches of enemies are common obstacles. The 1000-life count is a compromise between the novice and hardcore ranges of gaming experience, but little can be done to mediate the gameplay frustrations that are inherent in this type of game.
The graphics and art of Prinny are of about the same quality one would expect from previous Disgaea titles. The game is a side-scroller with a two-dimensional view, yet the background is remarkably three-dimensional and detailed. In this game, you have ten hours to complete your objective, with each hour representing a whole level. Because of this, most of the individual stages differ in appearance and layout depending on the time of day. The monsters and characters you fight along the way live up to the farcical tone and mood of the Disgaea series; some make returning appearances (zombies, mages, archers) and others come together from other Nippon Ichi titles like Makai Kingdom. Most of the characters take their names from food (Kim and Chi the magic knight twins, Bokchoy the zombie) or have food-based designs, and they generally have comedic banter with the prinnies between fights. Lots of parodies from other games are also included, such as a prinny riding a tank or ship for part of the level like in Metal Slug.
Tenpei Sato once again lends his talent from previous Disgaea soundtracks to keep the same whimsical mood going in this spinoff game. His eclectic music styles continue to impress and entertain even here. A lot of the level themes are somewhat thematic: the island casino in the sky accompanied by a fun tropical rumba beat, a cold tower haunted by ghouls and ghosts backed by hard metal guitar riffs, and even a funky retro-70s disco medley compensating for an otherwise bland “grasslands” countryside level. The music is easily one of the most entertaining aspects of this game.
The storyline, on the other hand, is probably the weakest part of the game. Beyond the general summary given at the beginning of this article, there is little to no elaboration necessary: you control Master Etna’s Prinny Squad as they collect ingredients to make her a dessert and appease her anger. At this point, it is assumed that most players are familiar enough with the Disgaea universe to know the basics of who is who. Etna, unlike most other demons in the series, is self-obsessed, sarcastic, and particularly abusive to her prinny servants. Prinnies themselves are surprisingly upbeat and easy-going, in spite of their ill treatment. Beyond these recurring characters, however, there is little depth to be had. The new characters introduced in this game are flat and serve as comedic foils, mostly at the expense of the prinnies themselves. In short, Prinny’s story is focused on Etna and the Prinny Squad and nothing more. Fans of either character will be content with that. However, this may be a hard game to get hooked on if you have not also played the previous Disgaea games.
The essence of Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero? is fanservice, through and through. The story is bare-bones and weak, but it still retains much of the comedic charm one can expect from the Disgaea series. It is also the kind of game that will make you want to throw your PSP across the room in frustration, if you’re not mentally prepared to endure hours of carelessly-placed attacks, missed jumps, and other common platformer frustrations. This game is not forgiving to casual gamers, and depending on the kind of player that picks it up, the challenge can either be rewarding or very intimidating. If you liked Disgaea’s characters and humor, you may want to give this game a try, but do not expect to get much of a story out of it. Players who crave a hardcore platform experience may also enjoy this game. As for the rest of us…well, you can’t go wrong with plumbers jumping on turtles and wading through pipes.