Prinny: Can I really be the hero is a 2D Action Platformer in where we take control of a squad of Prinnies out to make the ultimate dessert or die trying. These set of events are triggered after someone ate their master Etna’s dessert. It is a nonsensical tale yet manages to be very engaging throughout due to the wacky humor that the Disgaea series is well known for. Our set of little heroes called Prinnies are fanny pack carrying penguins with a certain fondness of saying the word “dood”. In the Disgaea universe they are pretty much humorous joke characters that explode when thrown or hit with enough impact. To counteract this flaw Etna gives a single Prinny a magical red scarf that keeps them from exploding. Besides making them look adorable it is basically a really convenient excuse to only have a single Prinny on screen at a time. When you die another Prinny from your squad will put on the scarf so it basically comes down to a gloried live system where you have 1000 lives to get through the game.
That amount of lives may seem excessive but contrary to the cutesy artstyle and laid back humor this is a pretty challenging game. Starting off the game you will be given the choice to choose either the standard difficulty where you are able to take 4 hits before exploding or Hell’s Finest difficulty where your scarf is no longer functional meaning you will explode in a single hit. You will be able to finish the game with a good amount of lives remaining on standard so that should be the mode to pick if you would like to finish the game anytime soon. In the tutorial stage you will have an unlimited amount of lives so it is the best chance to get a feel of the game risk free. When you finally start the game for real you will be in a hub like town of Prinnies where you can talk to NPCs, look at your stats and listen to the game’s music among other things. Walking to the right until you reach the gate out will allow you to pick from a list of 6 levels that you can choose in any order you please. The order in which you tackle them does actually matter as every mission you complete will make an hour go by and when it reaches night the demons become much stronger and the levels will change slightly.
As for the actual gameplay the first thing you’ll notice is that the controls are slightly unresponsive. Once you jump you are unable to alter your direction or distance you want to jump so you are stuck with your decision, making platforming harder than it should be. Luckily you are able to double jump and that will allow you to change the direction you are headed which does help improve the feel of platforming slightly. On the combat side of things your Prinny is able to duel wield swords and slash at nearby enemies as well as use an aerial attack where he throws a unlimited supply of exploding swords at the enemy. The aerial attack is by far the most useful attack and will likely be your go to move when handling enemies as it will keep your Prinny at a distance away from harm and the energy explosions that come from them manage to make a Prinny feel powerful, funny as it may sound. Also at your disposal is a butt slam that will stun your enemies and is crucial for defeating bosses. I found myself not using it in combat as it takes way to long to pull off. Your Prinny will do a few flips and then just hang in the air for a few moments before dropping, causing you to be vulnerable for far too long.
Pulling off butt slams can be a useful way to earn a few scarf icon for taking an extra hit, as whenever you stun an enemy with it a combo meter will fill up and give you cakes, smoothies and eventually a scarf icon. Butt slams are also used to activate check points and butt slamming an enemy mid air grants you an extra jump which will allow you to reach higher places. The aforementioned cakes and other sweets are scattered throughout the level as well and will grant you points upon picking them up. Points don’t really have a use other than having proof of how well you did in the game and showing off your high score. There are other far more rewarding collectables hidden about like notes that unlock information and back-story to an enemy, living dolls that allow you to purchase things but can only be found by butt slamming certain locations of the level and finally there are orbs. You will receive an orb after the tutorial level that will unlock an NPC that allows you to save the game while in town but more are not earned by level progression and are instead hidden throughout certain levels. Some kind of explanation should have been hinted at and it just seemed like bad game design. Orbs unlock awesome things like the music player, monster encyclopedia and the choice of starting the game over with all your stats and items.
Boss fights are the high point of the game. You will be facing far superior creatures than your Prinny and button mashing the attack button will do very little. Bosses with their guard up will take little damage from any of your attacks and it is far wiser to butt slam them until they are stunned. It is a great feeling battle system that will have you desperately avoiding attacks, getting in a quick butt slam and when they are finally stunned you will be able to cause huge damage. Your attacks are as fast as you can press the button so mashing the attacking button as quick as you can during their few moments of vulnerability is vital. All the bosses minus the last one will go down rather quickly making the fights feel fast paced and makes it feel like a matter of skill over endurance. Final boss has about three to four times the amount of health that a regular boss has which not only makes the fight annoying due to how many times you will mash the attack button but he also has the stock three minute time limit of every boss fight making you more likely to die from the timer than the actual boss. And the level before that is merely a boss rush mode where you will face every boss of the game again. It felt pretty unnecessary and like a cheap way to expand playtime.
On the subject of the game’s flaws, one of the biggest is how zoomed in the camera is. It is a problem in some instances due to not being able to see anything in front of you and being forced to take a leap of faith. Enemies attacking you off screen happens at times but is pretty rare. The reason I bring this up at this point of the review is that boss fights suffer the most from this. Due to many being quite agile and jumping around the screen you will often lose sight of them and have very little time to react to the projectiles. It is not game breaking but can be a bit frustrating especially on Hell’s Finest difficulty. Bosses all have dialogue and what they say will change depending on the order of how you tackle levels. You may even fight a completely new boss when you play a mission at a certain time. An example being instead of fighting a ninja boss you will fight a dragon bathing in lava if you tackle the mission late during the day. It is a really neat feature that drives up replay value considerably and helps to separate itself from other 2D action platformers. Even the stages layout changes depending in what order you play and will have a new set of collectibles. This is a game made to be replayable though you will still receive a satisfying experience if you only play through it once.
Music is fairly decent and has that Disgaea feel to it. It has a wacky, upbeat feel to it and it fits perfectly with the feel of this game. Graphics still look solid to this day due to the cartoony approach of their sprite art though the 3D world is starting to show it’s age. The 3D world is just a visual aesthetic and will never be used for gameplay, it is solely 2D platformer type gameplay. I’m fairly certain that the reason the camera is so far zoomed in is to keep the frame rates from dropping, due to having to display more of the graphically demanding 3D world at once. If that’s the case the 3D environments are not worth it at all and they should have stuck with a pure 2D look. At the very least they could have gave us control of the camera to look left and right, it is a pain knowing that the analog nub is unused for anything while it could have improved one of the games biggest flaws. Moving on from graphics, voice acting is pretty cheesy and it adds more charm to the game. Most dialogue is voice acted and you will quickly notice how few actors there are. It’s not really a problem though it can be rather weird hearing a boss have the same voice as Master Etna. Prinny himself retains the same voice actor from the main series and the rest of the NPC Prinnies are voiced by children. None sound anywhere near as good as your main Prinny but at least it helps to make your hero unique.
In the end of the day Prinny: Can I really be the hero was a surprisingly good spinoff from a SRPG series. It does have enough flaws to keep it from being great but fans of the genre or of Disgaea will more likely than not enjoy their time with it. Just be ready for a lot of challenge. Basing this game around the Prinnies was a great idea, their humor really steals the show and keep you looking forward to what is next. There is just something so satisfying about controlling a poor frequently abused Prinny as he sets off on the menial task of making dessert. The game is on the short side as you can finish it at around 4 hours but if you are into collecting you will spend many more hours searching through the levels. I wasn’t tempted to go for most due to the awkward jumping and camera issues but they do net pretty nice rewards like unlocking a feature that lets you save playthroughs and more music to be played from the music player. The extra tutorial stages also have quite a few important collectibles in them so make sure not to simply pass them over. Overall if you are in the mood for a humorous hard as nails action platformer on the go, this would be a pretty good option, dood!