Do you like penguins? Hilarious cartoony characters? Games that don’t take themselves too seriously? Smashing your face into a wall 1,000 times before failing spectacularly? Well then, NIS has two titles for you, and they’re both about the lovingly-volatile-when-handled-roughly prinnies.
Prinny: Can I Really be the Hero? and Prinny 2: Dawn of Operation Panties are very similar, so these two titles come as a package deal for this review. Prinny 1 and 2 sees you as a Prinny, the exploding penguin mascot type characters of the Disgaea series. They are the souls of human sinners stuffed in penguin suits and forced to work off their sins in the Netherworld.
Both games are part of the “IF” route from the first Disgaea, where Etna has more or less taken over as ruler of the Netherworld. In both games, Etna has something stolen from her, and the Prinnies (all 1,000 available ones) are tasked with retrieving said item. In the first game this is “the ultimate dessert”, and in the second, it’s her panties.
Taking a step away from the traditional Disgaea formula of turn-based grid tactic style combat, Prinny 1 and 2 are more 2D action RPG style games in the same vein as Super Ghouls and Ghosts. And yes, it is just as hard. Now, those fans of the series may recall that the prinnies are prone to explosion. Well, that hasn’t changed, but Etna has bequeathed them a scarf that will let them take up to three hits before exploding, depending on selected difficulty. You have 1,000 prinnies with which to complete Etna’s task, which may seem like a lot at first, but really isn’t. So how can the Prinnies complete Etna’s tasks? Well, both games are divided up into stages and hours. As you complete a stage, the hours you have left to complete Etna’s task decreases, and the stages get harder. Once you complete a stage, you must move on to another to collect items that will help you in completing the game.
So how does a Prinny go about completing these stages? Well, stages consist of a platforming slog that may at times seem like a masochists Eden, followed by a boss that can be anywhere from “annoying” to “*unintelligible screaming*” in terms of difficulty. Prinnies aren’t exactly the most robust of demons, so their available skillset is fairly minuscule: they can walk, spin to dodge, dash, jump, double-jump, and throw machete blades while in the air. Jumping and double jumping are set upon starting a jump by the way, no changing direction even remotely while airborne, unless you use your second jump to do so.
The Prinnies also have a ground pound, which will allow them to stun enemies, making them easier targets. As you attack enemies, you fill up a combo gauge. Upon filling, in Prinny 1 you get a bonus item, and in Prinny 2, you enter a sort of over limit mode, where you deal enhanced damage, and have access to a few new special moves. Combat will probably only really be a focus in the boss battles at the end of each stage though, as you need to ground pound bosses a set number of times to deplete their “shield”, before you can really lay into them. Most bosses in Prinny 1 are quite reasonable. I don’t want to talk about Prinny 2. grumble grumble tank arse lady. What is probably more in the forefront, and frustrating, is the platforming required to reach the bosses. It’s tough. In Prinny 1 it’s mostly difficult but fair. Prinny 2 though? Good god man, some of the stages are so egregiously difficult your first twenty attempts you may as well just take your whole first run of Prinny 2 as “practice”.
Expect to die. A lot. There’s a reason they give you 1,000 Prinnies, and it isn’t hand holding. I consider myself rather partial to these style games, so when I say it’s tough, I really do mean. As of writing this, Prinny 1 took me 188 Prinnies, which I feel was quite good. Prinny 2, admittedly I haven’t finished, but I was already down 300 Prinnies halfway through the game. So yeah, take that into consideration when considering the purchase. As far as plot and storyline go, both games are pretty funny, and the characters you meet are all pretty interesting in their own ways.
Gameplay is solid, if not frustrating at times, and while there were a few moments I thought I got carpal tunnel from sucking the machete blades at the last boss in Prinny 1, I was…pleased with the execution, if not some of the stage requirements. Fun fact, there are rideable machines that you can drive that took me until a quarter of the way through Prinny 2 to learn how to exit. You can “jump up” out of them. As is Disgaea tradition, there are plenty of hidden items, endings, and little secrets to collect, whether it be hidden bosses, game modes, or just medals for completing certain objectives.
Now, Prinny 1 and 2 originally came out for PSP in 2008, and while the music holds up, it still really screams “2008 handheld”. Is that bad? No. Does it work with gameplay and style? Yes. Would it have been nice to see a bit more of an upgrade? Definitely. The humour is well appreciated, and I really like the way that stages and bosses will differ depending on what “hour” you complete them on. There’s tons of joke references, and while some points make you want to throw something out a window, the sense of accomplishment when you complete it is definitely worth it.