At long last, Disgaea fans can rejoice, because our beloved Prinnies finally have been made the stars of their own video game. Yes, Nippon Ichi’s Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? hit North American store shelves in February 2009, and the developers proudly boast that this is one of the most challenging platform titles of all time. In fact, they’re so convinced it will so put gamers to the test that they’re giving us 1000 lives and all but daring us to play through it. So if you’re a devoted fan of the cult-classic RPG in which these guys first appeared, or you’re a hardcore platform game fan looking for an old-school style challenge, odds are that this is one game you’ll definitely want to check out!
Story (4 out of 5)
For those who are unfamiliar, the Prinnies are exploding penguin-like creatures who dwell in the underworld of the Disgaea universe. In their previous lives, they were sinners, and now to atone for their crimes, they must work as servants to a cruel demon lord. Oh, by the way, did I mention that this is a comedy? Yep, so despite the heavy undertones surrounding their origins, the Prinnies are actually known mostly for their one-liners and slap-stick antics. Prinny focuses specifically on a brigade of 1000 exploding penguin demons who are under the service of Etna, one of the featured characters from Disgaea. Etna is a cruel and selfish mistress, and when she notices her stash of sweets missing, she orders her Prinny Squad to find the ingredients for the Ultimate Dessert, make it, and deliver it to her. Apparently, this is a task of monumental difficult, as the various ingredients are guarded by ferocious monsters and demons, but the Prinny Squad bravely soldiers on. There isn’t a ton of dialogue here, but what is present is pretty funny. Disgaea fans won’t be disappointed.
Gameplay (4 out of 5)
Prinny is your typical side-scrolling platformer on steroids. It’s not just hard, it’s brutal. Think Mega Man 9 in terms of difficulty. You move from left to right on the screen, executing challenging jumps, defeating or avoiding various enemies as necessary, and ultimately squaring off against a boss at the end of the level. You get to choose which level you want to tackle when, but be careful, because all of the stages change over time. The Prinnies themselves have a standard attack, which is executed using the square button, as well as a jumping slash executed by attacking while in the air and a ground-pound move. The X button is used for jumping, and the d-pad (not the nub) controls movement. On the whole, the controls work pretty well, but unfortunately there are times where you’ll find that the game isn’t responding to your inputted commands, especially when it comes to ground pounds. Still, the core gameplay is solid and enjoyable enough that it kept me hooked, trying again and again to get past a tough bit, cursing when the controls didn’t work properly but feeling compelled to keep at it.
Graphics and Sound (4 out of 5)
Nippon Ichi games aren’t typically known for good graphics, but I came away quite impressed by how good Prinny looked. I dare say it might be the best looking game the developer has put out to date, but then again, I haven’t played Disgaea 3, so take that with a grain of salt. The sprites are quite similar to Disgaea but everything looks clearer, sharper and more colorful. The music is good, as is the voice acting. The Prinny voices are suitably comical, and its absolutely laugh-out-loud funny when they deliver a line like "I got this, dood!" or "Abort! Abort! Too dangerous, dood!" Good stuff, especially if you’re already a fan of the Prinny characters.
Overall Rating (4 out of 5)
Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? isn’t the sort of game that will appeal to everyone. It is incredibly difficult, and those who aren’t familiar with the Disgaea franchise probably won’t "get" the story. On the other hand, if you already know and love these characters, or you’re the sort who really loves a challenging platform game, then this is definitely a game you’ll want to check out. It’s frustrating, but it’s fun and funny and it’ll definitely keep you coming back for more. Personally, I love it. It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite platformers of all time, and while there are times I feel like it’s punching me in the gut with its difficulty, it hasn’t kept me coming back for more.