Penny-Punching Princess Nintendo Switch Review by SwitchWatch
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: NIS America
Release Date: March 30th 2018 (EU), April 4th (NA)
Price as of Article: $39.99 USD, £39.99 GBP
It seems that NIS America are fully in love with the Nintendo Switch. With an impressive line-up of games coming this year and beyond, after The Longest Five Minutes releasing last month, the second game in their volley of quirky titles is Penny-Punching Princess. With a delightfully alliterative name, it may either grab your attention or falsely lead you to think it’s a bit of a throwaway girly game. But no, Penny-Punching Princess is certainly worth a look for hardcore gamers.
The story of Penny-Punching Princess begins with the titular Princess on her warpath of vengeance. Long ago, the rise of capitalism caused the ruler of the great kingdom to fall. Having been tricked into investing in some dodgy foreign exchange scheme, the King succumbed to the Dragoloans tribe and soon died of shame. His once sweet daughter wants to seek revenge and beat the living daylights out of the Dragoloans by using the very thing that brought down her father’s kingdom: money.
It’s a simple story with one very prominent concept: Money. Money, money, money. The story of the princess and her trusty beetle butler, Sebastian hammers home the concept of money and it does kind of wear thin rather fast. There’s little in the way of cutscenes, all of them are kept to text boxes and bobbing heads of those involved. Sadly there’s no cinematic effort and I find that a shame. Even though I was interested in the story I think it could have found a much more interesting way to tell it.
The writing is really quite comical, with exaggerated accents for example “my” is “muh” and “I” is “ah”. It’s rather funny and I liked the style overall even if it’s all a bit extreme and in your face.
As you’d expect from any NIS America game the soundtrack is top notch. It’s really upbeat, frenetic and as whimsical as the premise of the game at times. There’s a nice mix too, some slower, more relaxed tracks mixed with the hectic battle music. I suppose my main criticism is that there’s nothing that really stood out to me as I was playing. I had to specifically listen out for the tunes rather than being hit by them themselves.
Visuals & Performance
Visually I think the game is okay, it’s bright and colourful, full of comic violence which we all love as gamers. Just by looking at it you know it’s not exactly pushing the Switch to any limits as can be seen via the small file size of less than a gigabyte. Characters are sprite based and look really awesome with nice amounts of animation frames. Of course, the HD-ness of it makes the sprites really pop off the screen, especially in handheld mode.
Where the game falters is in the environments. They’re all a bit copy and paste for my liking. Levels are a bit bland with no personality in each of the separate offerings, each chapter has a set colour and theme but overall it’s a bit disappointment in this area.
The game performs almost perfectly on the Switch too in both docked and handheld mode, I only noticed a few dropped frames if the action became just a little too mental, but even then it’s questionable if I was just imagining it or not, so nothing to worry about in that department.
The gameplay is where things get a little difficult to talk about. Penny-Punching Princess is a whacky game, but at its core it’s an over-the-top isometric brawler. You run around the environments beating the stuffing out of enemies. This game however, adds elements on top of it that really set it apart from the rest.
You have your normal spamming attack, plus a push away button if enemies get too close to you. There’s a dodge-roll as well as a strong attack, a skill attack and even a panic attack which will drain your health. It sounds like a lot and the odd thing is, it seems like too much, yet not enough. While there’s options, the general gameplay loop seems to involve doing the normal attack a few times, then pushing the enemy away. Almost like you’d see in a Dynasty Warriors game. Sadly, your normal attacks aren’t exactly varied.
The main gimmick of Penny Punching Princess is the magic calculator which you can use to bring bribery to the enemies or spend your cash to give you access to what’s known as a Miracle Coin, granting you a special power.
To bring up your calculator in battle you hold the ZL button. From the side of the screen a number input device will pop out. It looks a bit overwhelming at first put it’s simpler than it looks. The first thing you’ll be doing is the bribery. Each monster or environmental trap has its own price and if you pay it, they will join you, granting you a special attack with a couple of uses before disappearing. You will be grateful to hear that you don’t have to write in the specific number of the enemy’s value, even though that’s possible with the directional pad or touch-screen. Instead you can lock on to the enemy with the ZR button and press enter. It’s far more efficient but in my opinion it has an annoying flaw that often got me in to trouble. The fact is, my button inputs were often way ahead of what the game was capable of doing. My instantaneous reaction is to slam ZL, ZR and then the confirm button all within a second of each other (something not difficult to do, of course) but the game would more often than not, miss out the ZR input leading to me pressing the number 5 key on the number pad, rather than bribing the enemy as planned. Annoying, yes, but made all the more worse thanks to the need to then manually use the D-pad to cancel the 5 input. Bare in mind, all of this is going in realtime with enemies and hazards to avoid.
The bigger the enemy, the bigger the price on its head. Some small grunts will cost you 100 minimum, but later enemies can go into thousands. The key to all of this is money. As the game loved to shove down your throat in the story, money makes the world go around and even a level 1 pleb can rule the world if they have enough dosh. Getting money is simple. You find it in chests, by knocking enemies out and, my favourite part, if you bash an opponent enough they will go into a break state. This is where you can spin the right analogue stick to pump more cash out of them. It’s definitely worth doing as the more cash you have, the more power you have and it’s the best way to get an S rank in all of the battles.
There are RPG elements to Penny-Punching Princess, in a basic sense. Between levels you head back to base (which is just a menu system, sadly) and can acquire ability points to spend on increasing some of your stats. These ability points are gained from finding statues in levels as well as by having bribed certain combinations of enemies which can then be synthesised, of sorts. You can even whip up armour using the same method. It says armour, but it increases your attack as well as defence and gives you a different special attack. It’s this synthesising of enemies that will make you want to go back and replay levels in order to “grind” certain bribed foes. I didn’t find this ideal or enjoyable to replay levels but it did add incentive to keep playing.
In that regard I did find Penny Punching Princess a tough game in places. A few levels here and there did give me more trouble than I thought this game would. Some enemies can be brutal and if you don’t have your tactics right, or get caught fiddling with your calculator, I think you will see a good few mission fail screens. In fact, I personally went back to grind some enemies so I could acquire better armour so I could power my way through some of the tougher situations.
As for value, sometimes it can be really difficult to talk about NIS America games in this way for two reasons. I do feel that they are always a little on the pricey side coming in at £39.99 and $39.99. For a huge game like Disgaea, sure, but as The Longest Five Minutes showed, there are lines to be drawn with when it comes to price. Secondly, I’m still not happy with the price conversion to the UK. £40 is not $40, guys. While there is a cheaper physical option for the game, if you must purchase it digitally then be sure to get it from the American store and save yourselves about £12.
For those interested, Penny-Punching Princess will take up a tiny 913MB of storage to download.
Mindless, fun gameplay
Money grabbing is fun!
Money inputs can be fiddly
Copy and paste environments