Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? Hands-On

No penguin tossing this time, but we do get to throw other random objects around in NIS America's upcoming side-scrolling action game.

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The volatile and expendable penguins with peg legs who are frequently abused in the Disgaea series finally get their own video game. In Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? you are the star, except that you still report to Etna, the evil and abusive leader of the Prinny Squad. In this side-scrolling action platformer, you must cater to Etna's whims by collecting ingredients to make the ultimate dessert. Someone from the team must have eaten it, but she's furious and wants her cake right now.

Prinnies everywhere are fighting for the ultimate dessert.
Prinnies everywhere are fighting for the ultimate dessert.

If you haven't been following the series, Prinnies are slaves in the Netherworld who were once humans leading a life of crime and now must pay their dues. Since Prinnies tend to explode on impact when thrown, Etna has set it up so that you can take a few beatings before blowing up. You begin with 1,000 lives, and if that seems like a lot, trust us, you'll need them. The game doesn't even hide the fact that it's hard. There are two levels of difficulty, so if you're playing on standard, you can get hit three times before losing a life. Hell's Finest mode lets you get hit only once, so proceed with caution. As one of the hard-working Prinnies, you must explore and conquer the various areas of the mysterious Netherworld, defeat its demons, and "borrow" their ingredients. There are six stages when you begin, but four more will be revealed after you've completed the first six. Time also passes in the game, and the difficulty increases depending on whether it's morning, evening, or night.

As a Prinny, you can use the square button to slash wildly at oncoming foes, jump and double jump with the X button, and unleash a stunning butt stomp by jumping and holding down on the D pad. The butt move is key if you want to stun bosses (or other enemies) because it allows you to just wave your dual swords like mad for several seconds. You can also do a ranged attack by hitting the square button while you're in the air. You don't get to throw other Prinnies around, but you can pick up items, like bombs, and toss them onto unsuspecting enemies. You'll also come across random vehicles that you can hop into and use to fire lasers. Other than all the wacky and random features, Prinny plays very much like an old-school platformer in the sense that it's all about memorizing patterns of movement and timing your jumps precisely to survive. There isn't a lot of maneuverability once you've left the ground because the controls feel stiff. Directing your Prinny in a midair jump is tricky, making it difficult to land those rump stomps if the enemy moves quickly. If you enjoy tough platforming challenges, though, this would be it.

Visually, Prinny looks fantastic with its detailed backdrops in all of the stages. Each level has a different theme, and it looks like a lot of care was put into the design as well as the characters. Like in the Disgaea series, the humor is silly and offbeat and the storyline is completely ridiculous. The music is catchy, and throughout the game you'll be able to find music tracks and set them as background music. The ability to record your gameplay session to share with other PlayStation Portable owners is also available if you want to show off your skills. We were told that both English and Japanese language tracks should be available by launch.

 Dood, it ain't easy, being a Prinny.
Dood, it ain't easy, being a Prinny.

Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? is shaping up to be a crazy platformer, full of eccentric characters, quirky humor, grueling levels, and plenty of tasty goodies to find. You don't need to have played any of the Disgaea games to know what's going on; it's fairly straightforward, and it even provides an excellent in-game tutorial to get you started. Help the Prinnies in their never-ending life of servitude when Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? is released on February 17, 2009.

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