If you’re a fan of the critically acclaimed strategy/RPG franchise, Disgaea, your reaction to something like this could’ve been, “…well, that’s one way to go.” In a surprising twist, Nippon Ichi has decided to extract one of the most recognizable – and curiously lovable – characters from their well-received series and give him a game all his own. It’s the Prinny, that silly suicide bombing penguin that says “dood” and taps around on his little peg-legs, awaiting his chance to blow foes to kingdom come. But he’s leaving the slower-paced, more cerebral world of Disgaea behind and replacing those complex game boards with a dynamic and brutally difficult side-scrolling 2D adventure. So not only is this a total reversal – isn’t side-scrolling action and strategy/RPG on opposite ends of the spectrum – but we haven’t seen this old-school format in quite some time. But the PSP is the perfect venue for Prinny, as simpler gameplay styles do very well on the handheld, and owners have already experienced a Disgaea title, so they’re familiar with their lil’ purple buddy.
In Can I Really Be The Hero? (a superb title for this one, in our humble opinion), you will be on a quest to obtain the Ultra Dessert for Etna. …yeah, you read that correctly. If you’re familiar with Disgaea, you know very well who Etna is, and it seems she has misplaced her precious food, so she sends her horde of Prinny servants out into the world to procure the most delicious treat of all. So off the Prinny goes, gathering up valuable ingredients in the Netherworld as he progresses by utilizing this special red scarf, designed specifically to keep the Prinny from blowing into smithereens. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. Your quest is an honorable and important one, and it helps that the controls will be as straightforward as possible: you jump and double-jump with the X button, slash away with those multiple knives with the Square button, dash with Circle, and pick up items with Triangle. Really, it doesn’t get much simpler than that, but remember, Nippon Ichi has already said that despite the ease of control, this will be one of the most difficult games you’ll ever play. Hence, Prinny won’t be for the impatient or faint of heart.
One challenging aspect of the game will center on your ability to string together the special aerial attack known as the Hip Pound; you just press down on the d-pad and X when in the air, and Prinny will nail the enemy from above. A successful strike will stun the foe, giving you the chance to string together more Hip Pounds and nab more points and special items. Clearly, this is going to be key to your successful mastery of the tough levels on display in this game, so we imagine both timing and reflexes will be essential. If you check out the screenshots via the pic link above, you’ll notice that the colorful world in Prinny should be both entertaining and genuinely humorous, but that charm is going to form an interesting blend when mixed with the huge challenge of accomplishing your ultimate goal. Some of you may have already heard, but you get exactly 1,000 lives – not one more or less – to complete your journey, which should immediately tell you how hard this game will be. Think you have what it takes, or did the ever-increasing ease of current video games spoil you?
The central hub of this gaming experience will fittingly be called Prinny HQ, and it’s here where you’ll be able to unlock more gameplay features. You need to collect hidden orbs and “awaken” them in order to nab these new skills; one example of a new inclusion is a little tank the Prinny can drive around and dole out some major damage. So you’re not just going for points in each level; you’ll also be looking for those orbs and Lucky Dolls, which allow you access to a variety of special items. We have no idea how many different abilities or items you can find in this game, but we imagine – based on Nippon Ichi’s history – there could be a great many scattered throughout. We also figure they’ll be worth your effort to retrieve, because we seriously doubt you’ll be able to conquer every level in the game with only Hip Pound and the knives at your disposal. If you come across a particularly frustrating part, we figure you can burn through a lot of those 1,000 available lives, which is why Lucky Dolls and hidden orbs will likely prove crucial. We don’t expect anything but a linear adventure, but we assume everything will be cleverly hidden, and you’ll have to be equally clever to discover them.
And lastly, according to IGN, there will be a Data Swap option for the game, which means you can trade game replays with friends. If you’re a master and you wanna prove it, show off your skills! Or, if you died 600 times on one section and it’s absolutely comical, you can swallow your pride and show that off to get a few laughs. In the end, Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero? could be a fantastic addition to the PSP’s library, and at the very least, it’ll be something unique. If you miss the good ol’ days of the 2D side-scroller and you don’t mind the intense difficulty level (also like the good ol’ days), than this one could be for you. February is a big month for games, so let’s hope Prinny is entertaining enough to warrant a purchase.
12/15/2008 Ben Dutka