Of the many products that we expected to see again on current generation consoles, the two spin-offs of the Disgaea saga dedicated to the funny Prinny were among the very last, not only for the fluctuating success they met already at the release, but also for the particularity of the two products, platformers in two and a half dimensions of rare evil .
Yet we were wrong: NIS America has decided to fish out these two crazy products and propose them to Switch users both in physical version, complete with extra content, and digitally, with the possibility of downloading them also separately. Let’s see how it went. Those were the years in which Sony fought on multiple fields, on the home console one with Microsoft, capable of giving a significant boost at the beginning of the generation with Xbox 360, and on the portable one with Nintendo, the undisputed master of gaming away from the living rooms.
PlayStation Portable managed to carve out a substantial slice of the market and to offer (absence of the second analog apart) gaming experiences very similar to the home ones in terms of graphics quality and type of titles: the strongly Japanese soul of the console was also reflected in a whole series of “minor” productions, chapters specially developed exclusively that were nothing but reduced versions of the parlor counterparts or spin-offs of famous sagas.
The two episodes of Prinny , released in Europe respectively in 2009 and 2011 , belonged precisely to this category: on the wave of the great success of the Disgaea saga , of which the sixth chapter was recently announced, NIS America decided to make some hilarious demonic penguins the protagonists of two platforms in two and a half dimensions with castrating difficulty, dedicated to an audience perhaps even more niche than its turn-based strategy.
The final result was fluctuating: if the two titles had their strong points in the irresistible demented comedy, in the discreet visual presentation and in the prohibitive level of challenge, they were also plagued by rather woody controls, by a school level design and by peaks of difficulty. which could only lead to frustration even the most seasoned of veterans of the genre.
This brief historical premise is not only useful to contextualize the titles for all those who have never heard of them (and they could be many, since they have never been published elsewhere after the first issue), but also to describe, briefly , the gaming experience offered by Prinny 1 & 2 Exploded and Reloaded , since, rather than remakes, we are talking about simple ports with some forethought here and there. It could be read as a spoiler, since we say it at the beginning of our analysis, but the treatment given to the two titles (and, in a way, the players) could have been much better.
The sadistic difficulty almost as much as Etna, which forces its subjects to the most unspeakable misdeeds, still represents one of the distinctive marks of the two productions, and nothing has been done to soften it (such as, for example, including difficulty selectors or a system of advice in-game): do not mislead the thousand lives granted to the player at the beginning of the game, because, except for the first two stages of both games, the possibility of losing even fifty per level is not so remote.
Jumps to be calculated to the millimeter, treacherous enemies positioned in the most bastard way possible and an omnipresent timer that presses the player are just some of the elements that those who are not accustomed to the subcategory of “frustrating platformers for the sake of being” may struggle to digest. The second chapter, from this point of view, timidly extends its hand to less experienced players, widening the range of moves available to Prinny and facilitating their entry into a sort of berserk state, in which they are vulnerable but inflict also a large amount of damage.
Where, however, frankly unacceptable peaks of difficulty are reached is on the occasion of some of the boss fights, as hilarious in terms of nonsense humor as frustrating to play: between attacks almost impossible to avoid, deeply unjust attack patterns and the strong disproportion between the damages inflicted and those suffered, it was really difficult not to make a hole in our television with one of the Joy-cons.
To worsen this perennial feeling of inadequacy there are the same controls as the original titles, adapted to Switch without too many improvements: the inertia of the jumps and the precision required by certain platform phases are still incompatible today, and the amount of collateral damage that is possible cashing in by mistaking a single move is still off the scale.
Working on the woodiness of the controls , reported by many at the debut of the games on the market, NIS America could have given life to extremely complicated titles but all in all fair to the player, who, instead, often has the impression of being a victim of events and a trial and error that is not very rewarding in the long run.
At present, no changes have been made to the jump, for example, which remains not only much lower than many other congeners, but also non-directionable: as for the games of the very difficult Ghouls’n’Ghosts school , once a leap there is no way to go back or even partially change the landing point.
This, combined with the evil positioning of some enemies and the sudden appearance of others from nowhere (some emerge from the ground, others descend from above), causes the loss of numerous lives, even by selecting the system for which three contacts with the enemies before seeing one evaporate. Another responsible for several insults is the backward leap that the protagonist makes once hit, which, alone, was responsible for at least a hundred lives thrown to the wind during our test.
Obviously, there are also positive aspects in the gameplay of both titles, otherwise at the bottom of the page you would have found a sound rejection: the combo system, sketched in the first episode and refined in the second, rewards the most capable players, and the sadistic joy of sinking the blows against the enemies is accompanied by a satisfying sensation of physicality , in line with the already described heaviness of the protagonists in the jump phase.
Although the dubbing, the music and the aesthetic characterization of the characters have held up very well with the passage of time, thanks also to their being constantly over the top, we cannot be as benevolent in judging the porting operation itself. The only addition in terms of content is represented by the handful of levels that were published post-launch in the form of downloadable content , some for a fee, talatri for free: a little bit, especially in light of the fact that the low longevity and practically zero replayability already at the time of the original release represented two of the main Achilles heels of the productions.
Net of the hundreds of failed attempts, with associated foul language and transfer of bile, it is possible to complete both chapters in just over fifteen hours , and the risk of never returning, unless you want to knowingly conquer an excommunication from the Saint. Headquarters, it is high. The crazy artistic direction, the parts of the backdrops drawn by hand, some hilarious animations would have deserved a different treatment by the development team, which instead limited itself to copying and pasting the source code by raising the resolution and giving a clean up to certain textures, which would otherwise have been out of the question by today’s standards.
PSP was indeed a portable console of great power when it was launched on the market, but still we are talking about a portable console released at the end of 2004, and a more massive intervention on the worst aged graphic aspects (much of the enemy bestiary, the backgrounds, the overall polygon count and even certain filters) would have been welcome, as well as appropriate. In the current state of things, however, the sprites are rather blurry (especially playing in docked mode), as well as the writings in the menus, a clear sign of a lack of general optimization and a shameless use of the original assets, despite the abundant dozen of elapsed years.
The launch price of about twenty euros per game is thus a bit high, probably, both in relation to the amount of content and to the (minimal) amount of the restoration interventions and the extras inserted (null): even to the most stainless fans of the franchise we therefore recommend waiting for the first price drop before proceeding to download.
Although it didn’t age that great and deaths can feel unfair. Prinny 1 & 2: Exploded and Reloaded can still be enjoyable platformers, especially for fans of the original PSP releases.