Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero? was one of NIS' rare forays outside of the RPG genre. A straightforward platformer, Prinny stood out as much for its old-school design aesthetic as anything else. The game was a bit of an acquired taste; it was difficult and punished players at every turn, so in order to enjoy it, you had to be willing to work with the Nintendo-level difficulty. This is why it may come as both a relief and a disappointment that Prinny 2: Dawn of Operation Panties, Dood! doesn't deviate much from its predecessor. It offers some new features that make things slightly easier for casual players, but it still features the same difficult and potentially frustrating level design.
Prinny 2 opens up with players back in the Netherworld from the original Disgaea. Etna is currently in charge, and as you'd expect, she's lying around and doing nothing except watching TV and abusing her faithful Prinny servants. The (relative) peace is shattered when a mysterious thief breaks in to the castle and raids Etna's laundry. I'm sure you can guess from the title that the burglar makes off with her panties. This makes the hotheaded Etna furious, but not quite furious enough to get them back on her own. Instead, she issues her Prinny army an ultimatum. They have one day to get her stolen underthings back, or she'll deliver unto them an awful fate. All they have going for them is a special scarf that allows them to avoid exploding at the slightest bump. Since there's only one scarf, only one Prinny at a time can go into the field. It may not be much, but when the only other choice is a furious Etna, it's enough to motivate the Prinnies to come heroes once again.
Prinny 2's plot will probably amuse Disgaea faithful, but I found it rather lacking. Something about the game's humor felt forced, instead of the more natural humor that's in most NIS titles. The idea of a theft revolving around something mundane and silly is an amusing idea, but the joke wears thin long before Prinny 2 stops using it. Compared to the surprisingly clever Z.H.P: Unlosing Hero vs. Darkdeath Evilman, Prinny 2 feels like a step back. The Prinny are still amusing, and the cameos and in-jokes are certain to make fans laugh, but this is one of the least funny NIS titles I've played. It's not due to the translation, which is fairly solid, but rather that the jokes feel stale. Perhaps it's just that I've seen these characters often enough that their wacky personality quirks have gone from amusing to expected, but Z.H.P: Unlosing Hero vs. Darkdeath Evilman was far more funny the entire way through.
The basic gameplay in Prinny 2 is similar to that of the original title. It's a platformer, and your Prinny is tasked with reaching the end of the level. You have a few moves at your disposal, and you'll have to master them if you intend to survive. The jumping mechanic is going to feel unusual. Once you've jumped into the air, you can't really alter your trajectory. You can do a double-jump to give yourself a slight amount of control, but you don't get the fine control that you'd usually see in a platformer. This is an intentional throwback to the old NES days, but it takes some getting used to.
Prinny's other abilities include hip-dropping enemies to stun them and bounce to greater heights, attacking foes by using his blades, or a long-distance Prinny barrage. You also have the ability to spin and dash, and this makes you invincible for a brief period but leaves you vulnerable afterward. That's the main challenge in Prinny 2. You commit to every move you make, so if you choose to attack, jump or dash at the wrong time, you'll be vulnerable to an enemy or obstacle. The game strongly discourages button-mashing gameplay, as a single wrong action can lead to your death. You'll unlock a couple of minor abilities throughout the game, but nothing really changes your basic move set.
Prinny's levels are so difficult that the game gives you 1,000 lives at the beginning of the adventure. It's unlikely that you'll spend all 1,000 lives, but it's perfectly understandable because the levels are packed to the brim with death traps and cruel enemies. Every few steps, you'll encounter spikes, a pit, or some other danger that can take away your lives. If you're lucky, you'll just get hurt. If you're unlucky, instant death awaits. The game has a few difficulty levels in place to allow players to tailor things to their own level. Normal mode allows players to take a few hits before dying. Hell's Finest, on the other hand, means players will die after a single shot.
New to this game is Baby mode, an easier difficulty level that alleviates the nastier challenges. Enemies are easier, the player can take more hits, and tough platforming segments are simplified. There's no punishment for playing in Baby mode, except that your icons are replaced by diapers, and the game has no problem letting you know that you're a "n00b" for playing in that mode. The levels also change as the game progresses. The Prinnies begin with 10 hours to find Etna's lost panties, and every time you complete a stage, you lose an hour. There's no time limit on the game, but the time limit is a rough indicator of how challenging the game is at that point. The early stages in the game alter depending on when you go into them, so they'll become more challenging as the day progresses.
Surprisingly, I found the bosses to be easier than the levels. Most boss fights involve figuring out a pattern, and while you'll almost certainly die a couple of times against some particularly hard-to-read attacks, it's easy to get the hang of a simple boss pattern. The fights tend to boil down to finding the proper time to hip-drop a boss. Once you do, you drain one of its defensive skulls. If you successfully hip-drop enough times to drain all the skulls, the boss will be stunned, allowing you to deal out damage. It's simple enough, but the boss fights are clever, and I found them to be some of the more enjoyable parts of the game. The unusual jumping physics feel a lot less restrictive here when compared to the platforming segments.
Where Prinny 2 is going to lose a lot of people is in its difficulty level. As mentioned, the game is tough, and, in an intentional throwback to the days of NES games of old, the difficulty is not really fair. You can pick up something like Donkey Kong Country Returns and have every death feel like it was your fault. In Prinny 2, it feels like the game is punishing you for not knowing what comes next in the level. The stiff jumping controls are probably the biggest offender in this situation. Some classic Nintendo titles thrived on unusual jumping physics. It still means that the game never feels natural to play, and many of the deaths you'll experience wouldn't have occurred if the jumping physics were slightly friendlier. If you're the kind of player who loved the older Castlevania titles because they forced you to commit to a jump or die horribly, you probably won't have a serious problem with Prinny 2. The addition of Baby mode helps to sort this out, but even Baby mode can have you driving into spikes or falling off cliffs.
There's a ton of content in Prinny 2, so players will definitely get their money's worth. There are hidden bosses and collectable items aplenty, some of which are hidden in such a way that you'll almost certainly have to replay the game multiple times to find everything. There's even hidden characters, including one who surprisingly changes up the gameplay by altering how your health system works and offering new abilities. While you're obviously not going to get a Disgaea or Z.H.P. level of insane content, there's so much to do in Prinny 2 that you'll almost certainly spend hours upon hours finishing everything. Even if you do, mastering each of the levels is a task that even the most hardcore of gamers will be hard-pressed to do.
Prinny 2 looks unchanged from the first game. There are a few minor improvements here and there and a few new sprites, but overall, it's pretty clear that this game is more of the same. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the original game had a very real charm to it, but it gives the feeling of not adding much. The soundtrack, on the other hand, is quite good, and there are a lot of solid tracks to enjoy as you go through the levels. The voice acting is the same quality you've come to expect from the NISA dubbing team, and while there are a few sour voices here and there, the work is pretty solid. The Prinny voice in particular is charming enough that you won't mind having to hear it over and over again during the game.
Prinny 2: Dawn of Operation Panties, Dood! is certainly not for everyone. It's a challenging platformer with a difficulty level that is geared toward those who are nostalgic for the punishingly difficult platformers from the NES days. Even new features, which make the game feel easier, do little to alter this fact. This doesn't make it bad, but it means that the game has a limited audience. If you enjoyed the original Prinny or simply don't mind a game where learning the control limitations is part of the experience, there is a lot to enjoy in Prinny 2. More bothersome is the bland and forced humor, which turns what could've been a charming adventure into something less so. It also makes it tougher to overlook the game's occasional flaws. In the end, Prinny 2 is a straightforward sequel to the first game, so if you liked the original, you'll like its sequel. If you didn't, not even the addition of Baby mode is going to change that.
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