Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? Review

By D. F. Smith - Posted Feb 19, 2009

In this X-Play Review, we take a look at 'Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero' for the PSP. Dude, it's an adorable penguin with a sword. Let's do this!

The Pros
  • Super-cute graphics
  • Simple, responsive control
  • Day-night system provides some replay value
The Cons
  • Still fairly short
  • Level layouts aren't especially ambitious
  • Default difficulty is downright cruel

The mascot platformer is a game that’s fallen a long way out of favor these days. If there ever were a mascot that deserved his own platformer, though, it’s Prinny, or rather the Prinnies (plural) - the cute penguin cannon fodder from Nippon Ichi Software’s Disgaea adventures.

Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? is not any kind of ambitious leap forward in game design. Design-wise it would have been behind the curve 10 years ago. It’s a game that thinks it can get by on its good looks and natural charm, and in this case that happens to be a winning gamble. It’s pretty simple, and pretty short, but it’s just so gosh-darned likable.

Fans of the Disgaea games will obviously get the most out of this one – some of the humor is just a little bit “inside” – but for the most part, it speaks a universal language. Just don’t be afraid to play on the easiest difficulty level, because the harder ones will cut even hardcore gamers down to size.

Life is Short, Play Hard

Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero? ReviewFor folks who haven’t played Disgaea, a field guide to the common Prinny. These games take place in a Looney Tunes take on the afterlife, and Prinnies represent the souls of the most petty mortal sinners – people who weren’t good enough to get into heaven, but not nearly evil enough to draw much water in hell. They look like big, fat purple penguins with spindly little legs, and it’s their lot to do the bidding of anyone tough enough to push them around, which is to say nearly everyone around them.

In the Disgaea strategy-RPGs, Prinnies are useful as disposable shock troops, because Prinnies have one unusual attribute. When you toss them or drop them or even jostle them too much, they explode. In this game, that’s a pretty big drawback, but luckily there are plenty of Prinnies to go around.

The Prinnies’ quest begins when their mistress Etna (the raving she-demon from Disgaea games past) demands that her servants go fetch her dessert. Of course, this means they have to collect ingredients from all over the netherworld, which means fighting their way through six side-scrolling levels worth of non-stop Prinny death.

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999 Lives, No Code Necessary

Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero? ReviewPrinny does not offer the player unlimited lives or unlimited continues. It only feels like that for a while. Rather, you have exactly one thousand Prinnies to sacrifice on the way to completing the quest. Every time a Prinny blows up, the next Prinny drops in at the last restart point in the stage, and he soldiers on until he blows up in turn.

The “beginner” level of difficulty lets each Prinny take three hits before detonation, which gives them a bit of durability. On the normal difficulty, though, where one hit is enough to touch them off, you’ll be going through Prinnies like a fiend.

While they’re alive, the Prinny heroes have a decent repertoire of abilities. They can jump, double jump, slam down out of the air on their big purple behinds, and slash away at the bad guys with a pair of short swords. On the ground, they don’t have a ranged attack. While they’re airborne, they can slash at a distance, but only at a downward angle, which means you have to eyeball the range to the target and attack at the right point in the jump.

Come Out Swinging

Prinny’s controls are straightforward, and so are its level designs. There are a few hidden shortcuts and items to find, but otherwise the enemies, obstacles, and hazards to jump and slash through won’t surprise many players. They’re very attractively presented, though – the Disgaea series has always had strong art direction, and that carries along through this game too. If Tim Burton directed a Japanese children’s cartoon show about trying to survive a long sentence in hell, it would probably wind up looking something like this.

There’s also a little replay value created by the game’s weird day-night cycle, which helps counterbalance the predictable stage layouts. The Prinnies have 10 hours to finish their job, from evening to morning. You can play through the stages in any order, though, and depending on that order – which determines when each level takes place, from twilight to midnight to sunrise – the layout and difficulty level of each stage may change.

Death After Death

Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero? ReviewWhen this game says a level is going to be hard, it isn’t kidding around. Stages tagged with three or four stars for difficulty are guaranteed to have some nasty threats in store. On the one-hit-kill overall setting, it probably won’t be long before frustration sets in for most people.

Lucky for us mere mortals, it’s easy enough to appreciate the game on the normal difficulty. The story’s the same either way, and so are all the cute visual gags and voice quips. Prinny’s still a good time for players who don’t feel the need to prove their manhood, and if you do have something to prove…well, step right up and try your hand.

Article Written By: D. F. Smith