Name: Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero?
Platform: PlayStation Portable
There’s a quote commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin that says "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." It’s not really the definition and Benjamin Franklin never said it, but there are times when playing Prinny: Can I Really Be a Hero? that the quote gains some support. There are moments where a ledge seems just out of reach, and only after twenty deaths does it begin to set in that it might be the wrong path. Suddenly, like a schizophrenic actually finding a wire tap on his phone, the little penguin will land the jump perfectly, reaffirming the paranoid thoughts. In reality, the jump was meant to be made, the Prinny was supposed to make it, and the game just wanted you to do it exactly right. That's basically how Prinny works.
A little background: in the Disgaea universe, Prinnies are penguin-like creatures with the souls of sinners and an obsession with the word “dood.” They’re ridiculous, and explode when bumped, prodded, or thrown. In the three Disgaea titles released, the Prinnies have never been more than comic relief, running in, delivering some silly dialogue, and being blown up. That’s all. They can be added to the player’s party, but are usually just there for amusement, because exploding penguins are hilarious. Prinny: Can I Really be a Hero? asks just that question, thrusting the adorable creatures into the spotlight. The term “hero” is used incredibly loosely here, since there is really nothing heroic about their journey. Etna, the demon Overlord of the Netherworld, has had her dessert stolen, and has demanded that the Prinnies retrieve it.
There’s a problem here, obviously, as, aside from being cowardly, Prinnies have that penchant for exploding at the mere smell of danger. Etna, being the kind mistress she is, allows the Prinnies use of a magical scarf, which allows them to take a little more damage before inevitably exploding. This translates to four hits on normal mode and one on the harder difficulty, for gamers with sadomasochistic tendencies. Luckily, most of the deaths in the game will be from falling short on jumps instead of taking damage from enemies. Unluckily, there are a lot of deaths. The Prinnies, being completely and utterly replicable, are given 1,000 lives at the begging of the game. Odds are you won’t carve too deep into that number, but it isn’t out of the question to die several hundred times before the end of the game.
There are a few reasons for this, but the most important are the game’s controls, which are, for lack of a better word, rough. Once a jump is started it’s impossible to change direction even slightly, so there will be more than a few times where an easy leap will end in a quick death, ticking off another of the 1,000 lives. However, it never feels like the game is entirely at fault. While these jumps are frustrating, it’s still the player who didn’t make them, and there is a way to land it, it just takes a few tries. It might be slightly annoying, but it’s consistent, and you can’t get too upset when it’s you continually making the same mistakes. Memorization is necessary, and, although brutally punishing, it can be fantastically rewarding and entertaining.
As expected from a game about volatile penguins, Prinny has a great sense of humor about itself. The dialogue, which, as explained earlier, usually involves at least one utterance of “dood,” can be extremely funny, and hits its high points during the game’s uncharacteristically easy boss battles. An anime-styled furry seducing a man with “If you save me, I’ll let you touch my marshmallow,” is about as shocking as it is awkward, and it’s evident that Nippon Ichi Software definitely went into this game with the intention to make the player laugh.
In all honesty, for as fun as Prinny: Can I Really Be a Hero? is, it still feels like it would have been better bundled with a full Disgaea release, as an unlockable mini-game of sorts. The wonderful graphics and catchy music feel almost wasted in this release, and it definitely feels more like a series of side-missions than its own adventure. For fans of the series it’s enough of a departure to justify some examination, and it isn’t too inside to be inaccessible for everyone else, but the gameplay definitely isn’t for the meek, and the difficulty might be too much for someone looking for a run-of-the-mill platformer.