Saturday, October 23, 2010

Video game number three hundred and two: Super Princess Peach

Video game review number three hundred and two in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Super Princess Peach".

I have huge problems with this game. For the last 25 years of my life, I've been helping Mario rescue the princess. Sure, from time to time...she's shown some heroic qualities (in Super Mario 2, she could Mario Kart she can drive, etc)....but as far as saving people in platformers...she's almost always the damsel in a dress.

In Super Princess Peach, Bowser gets a hold of some magic "Vibe wand" that makes everyone dance (tee hee), and using this wand, he manages to capture Mario, Luigi AND Toad. Peach is out for a walk during all of this, and when she gets back, she decides that she's going to be the one doing the saving. She sets out on her quest, and it turns out she's got a ton of powers we never even knew about. If she gets angry, she can turn into an inferno and burn shit down. If she gets sad, she can cry rivers of tears that can repel enemies (and spiky platforms). If she's happy, she can become a flying tornado. If she's calm, she regenerates health. She's also got this magic umbrella to beat the shit out of people with.

The entire world of video games was just turned upside down.

Stop for a moment and think about what this means. If Peach had all these powers all along, what the hell did she need Mario for? Maybe he could have fixed her toilet for her, but I don't think she ever really needed his rescue services. Clearly, she is quite capable of helping herself. In this game, she's actually stronger than Mario is...and one wonders if she's always been that strong. If she has been, that's pretty messed up.

Indulge me for a moment while I explain why.

Peach isn't just Mario's girlfriend, she's also the princess of her kingdom, and over the years...she's stood idly by as Bowser has kidnapped her citizens, burned down her castles, and taken her prisoner....all without ever lifting a finger. For 25 years, she's let herself be carried off, yelling for Mario and Luigi to help...when apparently, she's had the power to save herself (not to mention her kingdom) all along.

Imagine being one of the Toads living in the Mushroom kingdom. You've probably got relatives who died in the tragedies of October 1988, when Bowser attacked and destroyed several cities of the Mushroom Kingdom in Super Mario Brothers 3. Perhaps you were old enough to remember the events of June, 1996...when Bowser took over the castle in Mario 64 and encased the monarch in a stained glass window. Your vacation might have been ruined in 2002, when the resort you were staying at was vandalized by some guy named "Shadow Mario", while Peach was kidnapped and helpless once again. The graffiti all over the walls of those thatched roofed huts probably ruined every vacation picture you took there.

If you were a citizen of the Mushroom Kingdom, even if you somehow survived all the dark times, surely you had to be traumatized by them. So long as you read the daily news, you were aware that your ruler had been kidnapped on no less than half a dozen different occasions, and your kingdom had been repeatedly attacked by terrible creatures. You were probably a little confused as to why your nation's entire defense strategy was to call some plumber from another dimension, and wait for him to save the day.

Imagine finding out that Princess Peach had the power to restore peace to the kingdom all along, but instead...she just laid back and let the place burn, over and over again.

Opinion polls would drop to the lowest levels in history. Toads all over the kingdom would probably be staging demonstrations with "Impeach Peach!" signs on the front lawn of the castle. Tabloids would write articles about how she was some kind of danger slut who enjoyed being kidnapped and actually liked watching her citizens suffer from time to time. Mario would probably break up with her and move back to New York. Since she had no heirs, the monarchy in her land would likely come to an end, and the Kingdom might become a democracy. Republican and Democratic Toads would have campaigns about how their would be "change", and you would be completely confused about which Toad to vote for, because they'd both look and sound exactly alike. As punishment for her treachery, Peach would surely be exiled and disgraced, or even beheaded. The Mushroom Kingdom would never be the same.

I'm sure Nintendo just wanted to give Peach a chance to shine on her own. They probably didn't think about all the scary doors this storyline would open. They were just trying to make a game that would appeal to girls (and something new for the Mario Brothers series), and I totally get that. I don't actually think that there are many people out there thinking about the political ramifications of Peach showing off her super powers for once, most folks just like smashing Koopa Troopas.

Aside from all the important questions this game raises, it's actually pretty darn fun.

Peach is indeed awesome, and the DS touchscreen feature is sparingly employed here. Your four "super powers" are displayed as hearts on the bottom screen, while gameplay takes place up top. As you're traveling along in the world, you can tap one of the hearts, and while you have power in your gauge for'll be "super" for a bit. You can refill that gauge by finding coins, or killing enemies, both of which are easily found in each level. It's not gimmicky, it's minimalist...and I like that.

I played through the first 5 or 6 maps and instantly checked my Gamefly Queue to see if it was for sale. I want to own this one, but alas, it is not for sale from Gamefly. Since the saves are on the cartridge itself, I'm going to have to return this, but I definitely want to get a copy of my own someday soon and continue my adventure. This game is great. Classic Mario adventure with a brand new hero. It shakes up the gameplay just enough to make it interesting, yet doesn't screw with the formula so much that it doesn't still feel like a classic.

I have my complaints. Running doesn't work the same way it does in other mario games, and the princess can't float anymore without using her super power. There's no way to customize the controls, so're stuck learning the new defaults. The gameplay also feels a bit dumbed down from other Mario games, but not dumbed down to the point where it isn't fun. It's just...easier. Neither of these things was a deal breaker for me and this game is pretty good otherwise.

Overall Score? 8.0/10. I really like this one...and I intend to buy and beat it. Mario fans will like it, the girls I'm assuming it's aimed at should enjoy it too. There's a little something for everyone here. It doesn't feel like a "girl" game, feels like Yoshi's Island did. A story set in the Mario universe, with a new (but familiar) hero. I'm totally down with that. This is a great all around game. If you own a DS, you owe it to yourself to give this one a try.

No comments: