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• Super Princess Peach

developed by Nintendo & Tose, published by Nintendo
1 player/3 save slots/Nintendo DS/2006.02.27

The Mario franchise has spawned countless entries in the hop-n-bop platformer genre, but surprisingly Nintendo hasn’t made a game specifically starring the series’ archetypal damsel in distress until now.  She most notably appeared as one of the four selectable characters in the 8-bit Super Mario Bros. 2 (1988), and regularly participates in various sports games, but you’d think Nintendo would have made a game like this sooner given their large female demographic. It has taken more than 20 years, but the tables have finally turned as this time it’s up to the blonde, blue-eyed Princess Peach to save the day.

Game Play

For the most part, this game plays like a standard Mario game with side-scrolling levels.  The one major twist is that Peach’s changing emotions are her secret power, controlled by an enchanted parasol.  Players can tap one of four large hearts on the bottom screen, easily accessible by the thumbs, to swing from one emotional extreme to another.  The different effects only last as long as her Vibe power, which is just long enough to complete little objectives.  She floats blissfully in the air when she’s feeling joyful, waters plants or douses fires with her tears when she’s sad, stomps switches and starts fires when she’s mad, and regains health when she’s calm.  Her parasol can swallow enemies to refill her Vibe energy, and coins can purchase new abilities and extras from a shop.

As expected, the levels are fairly well designed and contain a variety of gimmicks that require you to use Peach’s abilities in different ways, and feel quite a bit like the 16-bit classics.  The Vibe powers do a decent job of mixing things up, but there’s not enough of them and they lack the spontaneity of the power suits.  It seems like a missed opportunity to have Princess Peach play “dress up” in a variety of colorful costumes for added effects.  The standard enemies are also given emotions, which change their basic behaviors based on whether they’re happy, sad, or angry, which was a nice touch.

Challenge & Replayability

Super Princess Peach starts off very easy – to the point of being somewhat boring – but by the end of the game the levels present a decent challenge.  Thanks to the Vibe ability that replenishes your health you probably won’t die very often, and when you do you are returned to the stage select screen to try again.  There are no lives and no game over screen, which makes the game more accessible to a casual audience than even NEW Super Mario Bros..  That said, the game requires you to find and rescue three Toads in every level before you can finish the game, and when you think it’s all over an extra 3 levels are unlocked for Vibe Island’s 8 areas.  You can also return to all of the older stages to collect some new stuff, which provides an excuse to revisit conquered territory.

There are also 8 puzzles to complete and 3 minigames with 10 levels of difficulty.  The first one requires you to move a Toad through a flaming obstacle course using the stylus to guide him.  Another one requires you to blow into the microphone to make Toad jump over enemies and pits to reach the finish line.  The final one is a simple peck-the-screen game where you pop balloons to score points.  They’re a nice little diversion from the main game.

Presentation

Vibe Island is a vibrant place, and each of its areas features its own distinct style.  They all look pretty nice, but they do fall into predictable tropes like volcanic mountains, ice-covered glaciers, haunted houses, and so on.  Unlike New Super Mario Bros., the game doesn’t feature any 3D elements.  It’s an eye-pleasing 2D affair that would probably benefit from a few special effects like the ones seen in Yoshi’s Island.  The music suits the generally cheerful atmosphere like typical Mario stuff, which is hard to fault them on.  Unfortunately the story is as brain-dead as every other Mario game ever made, and lacks any charm one might expect.

Final Thoughts

Nintendo has published a number of platforming games on the DS, including a few stinkers like the poorly-converted Super Mario 64, an underwhelming sequel to Yoshi’s Island, and the awful Wario: Master of Disguise, to name just a few.  In retrospect Super Princess Peach is probably a bit under-rated, as it manages to feel quite a bit like the classic 16-bit Mario games.  It’s not doing anything too innovative or exciting, but it’s nice to finally see Nintendo put out a competent game directed specifically towards girl gamers that is fun for anyone.  Unfortunately, the game isn’t on store shelves any longer, and picking it up 2nd-hand can be an expensive prospect.  It seems this may become a collector’s item.

Quick Run Down

PROs:

  • Cute, colorful 2D graphics
  • Evokes the 16-bit Mario games
  • 40 stages + 24 extra
  • Decent Mini-games
  • Good for all ages

CONs:

  • Only 4 Vibe powers
  • No powersuits?!
  • Graphics could use some special effects
  • Story is pitifully lame

One Sentence Review: A fun traditional 2D platformer with plenty to offer starring none other than Princess Peach.
One Word Review: Colorful!

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