Super Princess Peach doesn't quite live up to its superb, subversive concept, and is merely a decent platformer.
Ah, Super Princess Peach. One of those “oh yeah, that game exists” games. What struck me the most about the game before I played it was that they actually made a Nintendo published spin-off where they reversed roles and Peach saved Mario. That it was that, and yet today it is next to irrelevant. How could the game with such a concept be so forgettable? The answer to this question lies in its gameplay. No, not shoddy gameplay. But gameplay that is somehow forgettable in the midst of it all.
This game is a platformer. You’ll run, jump, smack, cry and fly through levels. Peach has an umbrella like she did in Super Mario Bros 2 and she can glide like she did in Super Mario Bros 2, but she has to use an umbrella instead of her mystical gliding dress and you have to buy said ability from the shop first. She can hit things with her umbrella, and pick stuff up and throw them. Other games have proven she doesn’t need an umbrella to do these things, but I suppose it’s more lady-like to get somebody else to do it. Yeah, the umbrella has a face and it talks too. Just another dude to wait on her, really.
They bring back plenty of faces from older games. Though you won’t recognize some at first, because the art style is a tad more generic than your average Mario game. They brought back those grey/purple/blue dinosaur things from Super Mario World. They got Petey Piranha. They got King Boo from Luigi’s Mansion with the crown that he only wears in games that aren’t Luigi’s Mansion. Everybody.
Then you got Perry, who is a new, quirky character who would normally be more suited to any Mario RPG. Super Mario RPG, the Paper Mario series, Mario & Luigi, anything. He somehow fits the story-ish tone this game provides, however. He wouldn’t really work in any other Mario platformer. But he’s Peach’s weapon and pseudo sidekick, so you’ve got to want to get to know him.
This game is so pre-Year of Luigi that Luigi gets smacked and ignored. Not that he ever deserved that kind of abuse.
There are some puzzle aspects. Some are simple, but require an instance of thought. There are some that are downright laughable, like a waterfall you can’t progress through and a giant exclamation mark block-switch to turn it off right before. Why they included things so unnecessary is beyond me, as experiencing them is an insult to otherwise good level design, and whoever the player may be.
There’s tip blocks which can serve as refreshers or to let you know things the game only decided to teach you at that point, or can make completely obvious something you could have figured out on your own. So sometimes you regret hitting them.
The music is decent. It sounds like they told some employee who knows how to make MIDIs the setting of each area, and he did a soundtrack. It does the job, but anything that Koji Kondo has touched shits all over it. Can’t hold it to the standards of a main series Mario game though, now can we?
Peach uses emotions. Joy, Gloom, Rage and Calm. She has to use them to save Toads, solve those simple puzzle-esque things, and even beat bosses. Is this sexist to use emotions as a prominent feature of the one game in the Mario series to star a female character? The intentions of the developers here (Tose) are unclear, and will probably remain unclear forever. I doubt they’re going to do an Iwata Asks about the game now, and Tose is an intentionally elusive developer. However, it makes sense in the story which they happened to use for this game. Most other characters also use those four emotions. Random Koopas will be angry or sad, or joyous enough to sing! So they’re not just painting Peach as overly emotional, but theyare painting Peach as overly emotional. Just curious, is all. Oh, and the mostly easy difficulty isn’t terribly empowering to females either.
There are three Toads you can save in every level. This would be a cool challenging concept like golden coins in New Super Mario Bros or something, but if you die you still retain them. So the only challenge at all is locating them. This makes it feel convenient, but by the same token sometimes pointless. I don’t have such a strong urge to go back and get Toads I missed, because all I’m doing is looking for it. No added challenge or incentive. Seems a bit too much like a chore.
But wait, they make you go back and get them all! Or else you can’t fight /spoiler Bowser at the end! /endspoiler. I’d complain that this leaves absolutely no replay value, but after you beat the game they add about 3 extra levels to each world. I haven’t gone through them all yet, but the stuff I played seemed sufficiently challenging in comparison to regular levels.
There’s also puzzle pieces you can collect. The way it’s implemented is so lame and tedious that it’s not worth it unless you’re an absolute completionist nut; you don’t get to see your puzzle pieces until you’ve completed a puzzle. That shit makes me appreciate Streetpass Mii Plaza a hell of a lot more.
Overall, Super Princess Peach is a platformer that attempts to be different. It has some interesting ideas, but it doesn’t live up to the fun that can be offered by almost any other 2D Mario platformer. The mechanics feel different, despite how familiar much of the atmosphere is. For all, a playthrough will definitely be fun at times, boring at others. This game wasn’t developed in Nintendo’s house, and it shows. Still, I don’t regret my retrospective curiosity purchase, and I urge anybody else to purchase it if they’re interested in seeing how this game turned out. Came out 7 (note- now 10, I originally wrote this in 2012) years ago at the time of writing, and that year you would’ve been having much more fun playing the original New Super Mario Bros.