In our review of NIS America's latest release, 'Prinny: Can I really be the hero?' we will answer the blue penguin-like creatures’ question. The one that is so important it was stamped on the cover of the box... "Can I Really Be The Hero?" It’s an explosive question that takes a lot of in depth concentration, well not really, dood. Nippon Ichi is ready to jump genres with their most recognizable character to date.

Nippon Ichi always has pleasant surprises for their fans when it comes to inner-blending of characters and themes between their games, however in 'Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero?' Nippon Ichi takes their beloved Prinny character and stars them in their own game. But wait, that isn’t it, this isn’t a role-playing game, heck, it is not even a strategy game. 'Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero?' is a full out classic platformer like the coin-ops of the past. If you’re one for surprises, then you're digging the change.

The gameplay in Prinny is straight forward, it’s a side scrolling action platforming game that feels a lot like the classic arcade platformers from the past, most notably would be
Ghost n’ Goblins. Similar to Ghost n’ Goblins, Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? is a tough game to master, or even get half way through. The action is nail biting, unforgiving and challenging. Nippon Ichi doesn’t hide from the facts, this is tough game and you’ll need a lot more than three lives to make it through this jumper. The push this fact hard as soon as you start the game and see that they have given you 1’000 units to make it through the game, and that is it. You have to use all 1’000 and reach the end. This makes for a delightfully frustrating experience that needs to be approached with some caution and care.

1’000 lives is like pumping 83 quarters in an arcade machine with three lives at a pop. Actually if you had a time machine and put the Prinny game in a table top arcade machine you might have an instant classic. The real question would have been, is American audiences ready for the bizarre and oddball world of Disgaea. Really the Prinny creatures are an abused lot taking verbal and physical abuse from almost all that surround them. If you are a Nippon regular then you already know about their real purpose and how much joy the can bring to any situation. However if you’re new, think, Prinnies are that little cute demon girl's whipping penguins that she boss around and gets them to do ridiculous chores. For example all you need to do is examine in the absurd plot of search out ingredients to create the Ultra Dessert which no living being has been able to conjure up.

The main thing Prinny has going it is the brand, if you will. The Disgaea series has blown up into much more than a video-game and the Prinny character leads the pack. Gamers like me will want to get this game even if they despise side-scrolling action platforming games. I’m not necessarily lumped into this grouping, however if it wasn’t for the Prinny, and it was some dude in a set of shining armour, I would have passed. Without a doubt Prinnies are cute and even though the storyline is a little dull, it is great to see the Disgaea universe in another light. All the creatures from the Nippon games have a showing along with some new ones in Prinny which feels familiar and fun.

Now more about the gameplay, you will get to control one Prinny at a time while you have 1’000 other prinnies waiting to be horrified by the difficult task ahead of them. Each Prinny can be hit four times before you explode. On paper it seems like the odds will work in your favour, however this isn’t the case. First off the enemies do damage on contact and the same goes for any unfriendly object in the game. Besides dealing with thousands of enemies who are frequently noted to use cheep tactics you will have to content with the games harsh level design that makes ever jump seem like a puzzle. Navigating around the world while dealing with cheaply placed enemies is how Prinny keeps the difficulty up. The one saving grace is the large amount of checkpoints that are littered around the level. These check points have to be bumped and help keep you moving forward without replaying large sections of the game... thank you.

’s not it, I have one more gripe to talk about and that is the boss characters. All boss characters need to be stunned first before you can do any real damage to them which turns every fight into an acrobatics routine The boss’s life gauge is displayed when you encounter them giving you a heads up on how much damage you will have to unload before they go down, but putting them down is the hard part. In typical fashion the first three bosses will fall rather easy compared to how difficult the boss will get as you take track down Etna’s special ingredients. Like most of the games challenges the harder sections of the game are definitely the bosses... let's not even get me started on the finial boss.

Adding more problems to the frustration that is know as “Prinny” is the restrictive controls. The controls in the side-scrolling jumper have a harsh old school feel that don’t allow the player much finesse. Along with this factor is the limit amount of moves to take out your enemies. Really, all you have is a ground bound and a jump slash that will take you through the levels. I don’t understand why Nippon didn’t include any of the Prinny moves from the Disgaea game. Putting these two factors together and you have more unneeded frustration added to the game. Ah! Can’t a Prinny get a break?

One area where the whole Prinny project shines in the graphical presentation. Sure, the game uses 2D Sprites, but that is what Nippon is famous for. Even their Playstation 3 - 'Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice' couldn’t escape the retro goodness. In the context of a 2D world with the occasional 3D zoom, Prinny keeps it solid look with great art direction, sharp sprites and simple effects. The backgrounds are always filled with a good variety of colour and each level has a unique feel. The sound is also no slouch providing a fun electronic overtone from Disgaea regular
Tenpei Sato. Sato has a talent and it seems that Nippon Ichi and Tenpei work great together. It’s kind of like Tim Burton and Danny Elfman; you can’t imagine one without the other. If you’re luckily enough to pick up the special edition then you’ll find a music CD with the tracks from the game.

Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? isn’t for everyone, heck it’s not even for most platforming fans. This is hardcore gamer’s game that takes an immense amount of patience and skill to get through. For most gamers you will likely have a hard go at Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? however if you’re the type of gamer who loves a challenge then you need to test your skills on Nippon Ichi’s first entry into the side-scrolling business. I feel like Nippon Ichi missed out on something here by giving the Prinnies their very own game. Honestly haven’t these poor slaves of the Netherworld taken enough punishment?! Hardcore gamers only apply.

Gameplay:6, Graphics:7, Sound:7, Innovation:6, Mojo:6.5 Final: 6.5 / 10

Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 03.06.09
  • A New way to explore the world that is Disgaea
  • Tenpei Sato strikes up another solid soundtrack
  • Sharp graphics with that Nippon old school flair
  • Prinnies are cute
  • Lots of replay value including multiple endings
  • Storyline is absurdly dull
  • Controls are irritating at times
  • Limited amount of moves
  • The pain isn’t really worth the gain

Similar Games: Disgaea Infinite (7.5) | Disgea 2: Dark Hero Days (8.5) | Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice (8.5)

Can I Really Be the Hero?

NIS America
Nippon Ichi
Action Platform
US Released
February '09