Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? Review

I'll admit it; I've been anticipating this one for a while now. When I heard that Prinny, a kind of expendable character (characters… there plenty of these little guys around) from the fan-favorite Disgaea universe, was getting his own 2D side-scrolling game, I was interested. Then I found out it would be a PSP exclusive, something the flagging system really needed (though to be fair, the past week's new PSP game announcements have brought the system back from the brink of obscurity), I was even more interested. Finally, I heard tell of the game's wildly punishing difficulty. Let's see… 2D side-scroller, interesting and funny character, AND fling-your-PSP-across-the-room difficulty? That pretty much makes up the holy trinity of what I seem to be constantly wishing for in a new game, and this one was pre-ordered, bought and paid for months before it was actually released. Now that Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero? is out and I've finished it, the luster has faded with a few nagging errors, but it is still one of the best games available on the system and a must-own - but only if you think you can rise to the challenge. No sugar coating here; most players won't have what it takes.

Not everyone is familiar with the Disgaea universe, so we'll start with a quick catch-up session, not that you'll need to have even HEARD, let alone actually PLAYED, any of those games to follow what is going on here. Here's the short version: In hell, the souls of the very worst people are imprisoned in small penguin bodies with two peg legs - Prinnys - for eternity. They also refer to everyone as 'dood,' which is just hilarious to me for whatever reason. In the Disgaea games, Prinnys were more or less your pawns in battle; instantly expendable and certainly not lacking in sheer numbers (there must be a lot of bad people strolling around, huh?). Weird, right? It gets weirder.

This game sets any army of these little guys (1,000 of them actually) out to recover a legendary dessert, lost by Etna, another character from the Disgaea series. To hunt down the pieces, you'll have to traverse a number of different locations, each with a boss battle at the end. Collect the pieces, deliver the confection to Etna and you win. A fun character, running to the right, boss battles; Prinny, in a lot of ways, plays very much like the 8-bit side-scrollers we all grew up with. What sets this adventure from the generic run-and-jump games is its previously mentioned insane difficulty.

You might have noticed I said 1,000 - that's right; you get one thousand lives to make it through the game's handful of levels. It seems like a lot, even too many chances to get it right. But by the time you've lost 15-20 lives just trying to finish the game's tutorial levels, you'll realize that even 1,000 extra lives might not be enough. "Ok," I can hear you saying, "What makes this game so tough?" For me, it was two things - the jumping and the bosses.