Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero for the PSP. Developed by Nippon Ichi, Published by NIS America
“I love the smell of high carbon 440 stainless steel in the morning, dood!”
In the early 90’s my recreational time far exceeded any vocational demands; like many young people, I had a wealth of free time on my hands. For a long duration this leisure ‘surplus’ was spent on a single Sega Genesis game- Ghouls and Ghosts. For the uninitiated, the game was mind-numbingly difficult. Without a save system, the title required to gamer to play through the game twice before witnessing its true ending. If the Marquis de Sade was a game developer, Ghouls and Ghosts would have been his magnum opus.
So why would a player submit themselves to this colossal level of punishment? Simply put, the game was a graphical marvel, featuring beautiful drawn zombies, magicians, and majestic bosses. The title skillfully blended nuisance with nuance- deaths seldom felt cheap, and could be avoided through a rigorous practice regimen.
“Yep, this game is gorgeous, dood!”
Recent PSP release, Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? seems to heavily influenced by Ghouls and Ghosts– from the game’s cuddly-cute horror themed adversaries, tremendous difficulty, and whimsical tone. Although the title features characters from the Disgaea universe, knowledge of the strategy role-playing game is not required for enjoyment in Prinny. Fans of the series will likely be charmed by this radical spin-off, as long as they have the reflexes required for success.
As the game opens, series regular Etna has discovered her ‘ultimate dessert’ has gone missing. She enlists the help of Prinnies- reincarnated souls who led a worthless life while on earth, they resemble penguins. Inexplicably, they punctuate every sentence with ‘dood’, sounding like surfers of the netherworld. Much like the Disgaea series, Can I Be the Hero’s narrative is wonderfully nonsensical. While the plot is not a requirement for enjoyment, following the game’s storyline adds greatly to the complete experience.
Like most classic-inspired platformers, Prinny has a few offensive and defensive measures. Armed with knifes, our hero can dispatch a nearby foe, or leap in the air and shoot downward. A press of the ‘X’ button sends our protagonist airborne, while a second tap initiates a double jump. Unlike many ‘hop and bops’, players have a limited amount of control over the in-air trajectory of the lead character. Players can jump straight up, or to the left and right angle, but subtle adjustments are not allowed. We do wish the game allowed the option to use the analog stick. As the game’s hero might ask, “What’s up with that, dood?”
“That intimidating looking skull is only a checkpoint, dood!”
Others might ask the same question about the game’s robust level of difficulty, as they repeatedly die at the hands of an enemy boss. In lieu of a continue system typical for most platformers, Prinny gives players 1,000 lives to burn through. For the truly dexterous, Prinny offers an option where the normal three hit limit is reduced to a single strike. As with most NIS titles, Can I Be the Hero offers a treasure trove of unlockables, from music pieces to a bestiary. Players can even record their levels runs and share them with other Prinny owners.
Graphically, Prinny looks absolutely gorgeous on the PSP’s screen. Hand-drawn characters and environments make this title one of the most attractive platformers seen on any portable screen. Vibrant colors and detailed textures seem to pop of the screen, and truly show the power of the PSP, especially in darkened settings. The title skillfully employs enough voice work and sound bites to give the title a sense of charm and character.
With the release of new PSP titles becoming increasing infrequent, compounded by a dismal amount of 2D platformers on the system, Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? represents hopeful entry in a neglected genre. Although the title’s boss battles can be maddeningly frustrating at times, the game does offer an strong sense of satisfaction for players willing to endure its moments of torment.