Female protagonists in video games are nothing new or revolutionary here, people. We can all the way back to Metroid on the original Nintendo Entertainment System, or Famicom for our Japanese readers. There have also likely been female protagonists in other Nintendo titles as well. My point here is that there have been female protagonists in video games long before Lara Croft put on a skin tight tank top or set foot into a tomb.
Female gamers are becoming frequent and prevalent than they were back in the early days of video gaming and the entertainment industry, as a consequence, needs to change and evolve to meet the needs and demands of the ever changing market- both male and female- be it novella, television, movies or video games.
Now I’m not a sexist okay. I personally happen to have a strong fondness for strong, capable, and powerful female figures in fiction, as well as real life. Because let’s face it, there’s just something inherently sexy about a woman who can kick ass, save the day, and take care of business; just as well- if not better- than the guys can. And we’ve seen several good examples of that over the years: Ellie from last of us, Jodie from Beyond Two SOuls, the evolution of Samus Aran in Metroid and just recently Linkle from Zelda: Breath of the Wild.These days we have our fair share of Buffys, Chynas, Xenas and etc.
BUT! If I were to include Princess Peach in that list… Well… More than a few people would likely question my intelligence. However, the fair princess HAS surprised us before- I mean just look at the Super Mario Adventures in Nintendo Power. HOLY CRAP! Peach can kick all kinds of ass! And in Super Mario RPG shes a ridiculously useful healer who just becomes a GOD when equipped with the lazy shell!
Unfortunately though, that would be the last time we see Peach get any kind of real action… That is until 2006 when Nintendo would licence the Princess to TOSE games and we were presented with Super Princess Peach for the Nintendo DS.
The Game starts out with Bowser chilling at his summer villa in an island far off from the Mushroom Kingdom called Vibe Island. We go on to see that he has had one of his faithful minions go off to steal the mystical MacGuffin called the Vibe Scepter, a magical staff with ability to make a person’s emotions flip flop at the drop of a hat; basically turning them into the majority of people on Tumbl’r.
After testing it out on the mooks in his castle, he has a Goomba minion take the vibe scepter over to the Mushroom Kingdom to use it on Mario, Luigi, and the Toads in Princess Peach’s Castle. Since Goombas are native to the Mushroom Kingdom, and it has been shown in other Mario games before this that not all Goombas or Koopas are neccesarily evil, he can get into the castle without arousing suspicion… However this does raise several questions about the security of the castle. I mean not just any schmuck can go up and walk right on into the White House. You probably gotta go through all kinds of securtiy checks and clearances just to get past the firggin’ gate.
Anyway, the Goomba manages to get inside the castle and promptly proceeds to muck everyone’s emotions, making the Toads and the Mario Bros. easy pickings for Boweser’s troops. Fortunately however, Princess Peach, along with her faithful butler Toadsworth, were out shopping or something while all this was going down and managed to avoid the emotional meltdown. They arrive back at her castle only to be greeted by SHEER PANDOMONIUM as all the Toads are running around like Wall Street traders in the middle of a hug stock crash!
After finding a couple of Toads who are miraculously not emotionally unhinged somewhow, to partake in a mini game and round up all the other Toads, Toadsworth proceeds to hand Peach a parasol he bought while out on their little shopping expidition… which just so happens to turn out to be SENTIENT!
Weird… I wonder if he was just in a coma, or asleep, until Peach got him. I mean, I guess that all the screaming, singing and crying of the Toads in the castle could have possibly woken him; but I would have thought someone else in the Mushroom Kingdom would have likely bought him before then. I mean a magical talking umbrella would have to be a pretty friggin’ sweet find, wouldn’t you think? Who knows? Maybe he just cared off all the other potential customers… Regardless, it is now up to Princess Peach, along with Perry, her magical parasol, to head off to Vibe Island and save MARIO this time around and prove to the world that she’s more than just a pretty face with a crown who bakes cakes and has to be rescued all the time!
So, pretty stock as far Mario titles go, minus the role reversal. You go through eight worlds, fight Goombas, Koopas, Boos and the likes, fight eight bosses, rescue the heeerooo, question mark ? in distress, and fight Bowser. The only addition as slight as it really is a cutscene at the end of each world showing Perry’s memories up until the time that Toadsworth bought him; because as it turns out, he’s not really a parasol he was just transformed into one. So with the story not really being anything special or all that noteworthy, will the rest of the game actually have something more to talk about or make it stand out? Well… Let’s take a look…
Visuals and Gameplay
As far as the graphics go, I would say it’s pretty much standard for a DS game. There’s not really anything so special that you would write home about them. There’s no real 3D life like models or panoramic breathtaking backgrounds; but they do get the job done rather nicely. There’s lots of bright, vibrant colors; pastels, and expressive sprites, with all of Bowser’s minions fitting the emotional theme of the game. For the gameplay, emotions are the name of the game. You’ll be controlling Peach on the top screen with the D-Pad and face buttons, and using the stylus to activate one Peach’s four emotions on the bottom touch screen; for solving puzzles, finding hidden collectibles, and fighting bosses.
The four emotions you have to choose from are: Anger- which engulfs Peach in flames, allowing her to light torches and burn down certain obstacles; and do a ground pound to momentarily stun enemies. It also makes you invincible to most enemies while it’s active; Sorrow- which allows Peach to run fast, helping her get past blue donut blocks; as well as grow bean stalks, turn water wheels, put out fires and get past certain obstacles; Joy- which allows you to fly- and therefore break an already easy game- as well as solve certain puzzles and clear certain screen hazards; and finally Calm, which allows you to heal yourself.
So… The female protagonist who is supposed to appeal to the female gamers demograpic’s powers are… emotions.. You know I distinctively remember the commercial showing princesses going through boot camp and making brick walls explode, not to mention using different ELEMENTS to save the day… NOT emotions! Talk about your bait and switch! I suddenly feel kind of cheated!
No truth in advertising folks….
There are eight worlds altogether, including Bowser’s Villa, and all seven of the main worlds are pretty easy overall. You have a grassland area, a forest area, a Boo house, a lava world, a beach/water world, an ice world and finally the sky. Again pretty standard, as far as Mario games go. Like the Mario games that came before this mainly Mario 64 and Mario Sunshine, there are collectibles to gather this time around in the form of captured Toads. Sprinkled throughout five of the six stages in every world there a tree Toads locked up in red “!” boxes for Peach to find. Now mind you, you don’t need to all of them to prgoress through the game… just to finish it, but I’ll go over that later. There are also puzzle pieces, music scores, and minigames to find hidden throughout every level… that do precisely all of bull and squat! Well, they do unlock something, but I’ll save that for the end… <_<
The game is pretty friggin easy all the way through, and you don’t really face any real challenge through all seven worlds; which is one of the biggest negative criticisms it receives from video game critics and players alike. While I do personally find it to be just a liiiitle bit too easy, myself; I don’t necessarily get turned off by it, not to mention that it makes it crazy accessible to newbie platform gamers… That is until end game. I personally don’t think you should really even break much of a sweat throughout the majority of the game- until you reach Bowser’s Villa! I mean… figgin’ A! You can pretty much coast throughout the the entire game, not really having much difficulty until your reach world eight! It’s like the developers just got bored with how easy they had made everything else up until this point; and just dumped all of the difficulty that they could have spread through out the rest of the game- thus giving it a decent scale of difficulty- right out onto the last world! I mean you have sliding sections, auto scrolling sections, screen rotating sections… The whole nine yards! But by far the most difficult and unexpected parts are the run or die segments where you’re being chased by thousands of Boos wearing blindfolds!
The boss to Bowser’s Villa is apparently a powered up Hammer Bro. who sends a squad of mooks after you. He’s pretty easy to beat; just chase after him, avoiding the mooks, whack him with your parasol, and follow him when he switches sides of the screen- wash, rinse and repeat. But once you manage to get him out of the way, you finally get to exact your revenge for all of those years of being kidnapped… right? I mean we are going to fight Bowser, aren’t we? I mean the final boss of the game wouldn’t just be a ridiculously easy glorified mook rush… WOULD IT!? Well… You remember when I told you about the Toads… and finishing the game? Heh…heh…heh… WELL! GUESS WHAT! You CAN’T fight Bowser! Not until you rescue all 120 FRIGGIN Toads! That’s right, you go through the entire game, through all seven worlds, through the grueling obstacle course that is Bowser’s Villa, only to run into this games version of a giant brick wall! Well… I guess Perry does give you a message about it before you enter the final boss stage, but by that point, you’ve already gone through the whole EFFING game! What the heck! SO! You gotta drag your royal butt all the way through all eight worlds again and find whatever Toads you’ve missed…. Aaaargh!
SO anyway, you collect all 120 Toads from all eight worlds and finally face off against Bowser himself- the oversized, brutish, manic obsessive, kidnapping creep- and he uses the Vibe scepter to go through the five stages of grief before deciding that he’s had enough of your crap; and cranks the Vibe Scepter up to eleven, going friggin’ Godzilla on your butt! His final form has several attack patterns you’ll need to memorize. He will either breather fire at you, try to squash you with his hands, materialize Hammer Bro. hammers to fire out in a pattern at you, or cause a rain of Bob-ombs to fall on you. Once you manage to defeat Bowser, he reverts to his usual size, where Peach decides to finally let the big green kidnapper have a peice of her mind, and WHALES into him with Perry, sending his fat ass flying off into the sunset!
After a scene of Peach running into Mario’s arms, sending poor Luigi bouncing all over the place as he gets trampled on by the princess, we are treated to a final cutscene of Peach and company strolling back to the Mushroom Kingdom with a metaphysical closing text talking about how your dad got mad at you for something, and how your mom’s been laughing happily a lot, and how the Vibe Scepter could be in your house somewhere…. I don’t get it. *shrug* But going back to the first part of the end scene, poor Luigi. I mean even after you rescue him from the second to last boss, Peach just labels him as “the green man”. That’s just cold. I mean, crap, she can’t even be bothered to remember his friggin’ name! Miyamoto just really get his jollies making the poor guy the whipping boy of the Marioverse..
Ehhh…. Once again, Weegee getsa de shaft… Fock my life…
But that’s not the end of the game, oh no! There is actually a post game to go through once you’ve rescued all the Toads and defeated Bowser. I’m sure if you look over the extras in the options menu you’ll probably see that you’ve not found everything there is find in the game. You’re going to be missing some puzzle pieces and also some music scores and mini games as well. You see, there are three extra stages to go through, that are unlocked in every world after you’ve completed the main game. On top of that, you’ve got fight the boss of each world a second time just to unlock these levels. BUT, on the plus side of the ordeal, these levels should pretty much be a breeze for you once you’ve already gone through the whole game not to mention you don’t need to repeat the annoying pre boss fight stylus mini games you’ve already cleared them or defeated the boss of that world.
There are two puzzle pieces and a music score to collect in four of the five previously finished stages of each world; but fortunately you don’t have to go through the entire level again. Once you find the puzzle pieces and scores you can just exit the level and the a star should appear in the clear circle confirming that you’ve found everything there is to get in that level. In all of the extra levels there is only one puzzle piece to locate, with the exception of worlds 6 through 8 were you can find extra levels of difficulty for the Toad Mini games. On top of that there are as I mentioned before puzzles to work- granted you’ve found all the pieces- mini games to play on the side and a glossary of enemies to complete and read through… 100% completion of the game means not only collecting every puzzle piece and music score; which means going through the game TWICE; but also passing every level of difficulty in all of the Toad Minigames and and also defeating every single type of enemy at least once to complete the glossary… It’s a real chore, as easy as the main game honestly is… But once you manage to 100% the game, once you go through all 72 levels, once you manage to clear all of the minigames and defeat every enemy in the glossary- what do you get….?
NAH! I’m just kidding, though that would be a much desirable reward for your time and trouble than what you actually get… Once you manage to complete the game 100% you are rewarded with “Endless Vibe Mode”, which gives unlimited Vibe Energy – which is completely, totally, and utterly MOOT at this particular point in the game! – SIGH – At least it’snot a friggin’ post card. YEAH THAT’S RIGHT! I’M LOOKING AT YOU MARIO SUNSHINE!
Final Verdict? To me this game has black marks, barring it from being a great game. Number one, it’s too friggin easy! If you’re not going after 100% you can pretty much breeze past it all, not including the final world. Sure some of the Toads might give you a little bit of crap, but after a little thinking and exploring you should be able to find them pretty easily. Not to mention, the game does give you an alert whenever there’s a secret or hidden collectible in every screen of each non boss level, so you really shouldn’t have much trouble at all. Number two, and this is just a nitpick- and because SOMEONE will bring attention to it if I don’t- the emotion power ups. Personally, I don’t really mind them. Some people might see it as sexist, but I honestly don’t take that from them. I doubt that Nintendo was deliberately trying to be sexist with the development of the game; and it is something different and interesting that stands apart from the tried and true basic Mario mechanics. The Vibe Powers are utilized well, being non situational and helpful throughout the game- particularly the Joy Vibe. Interestingly enough though, according to the Mario Wiki, earlier versions of the game had the screens reversed with Peach on the top screen without the Vibe Hearts and the game screen on the bottom- hinting at the developers originally wanting this to be an average platformer game. But for what it’s worth, I am glad they decided to include them. And Finally, the reward for getting 100% completion is not worth the time and the effort you will be putting in to doing so. I think the extra levels after the boss of each world should have been made more difficult like Star or Crown World in 3D World or Grandmaster Galaxy in Super Mario Galaxy. Or maybe your reward for finding all of the Toads could have been Endless Vibe Mode, then they could have made all the Minigames, Puzzle Pieces, and Music scores, available at the shop and your reward for getting all of those could have been the post game levels. Or they could have made your reward an altered, more difficult version of the game, similar to Ocarina of Time 3D’s Master Quest. As it is though, I really see NO point in going for 100% completion outside of bragging rights…
With all that being said however, I really don’t believe that this is a bad game by any real stretch of imagination. It isn’t infuriatingly difficult, and it controls just fine- even if I do personally feel that Peach has just a tad too much forward momentum. It has nice enough graphics and visuals for what it is, and it is honestly pretty fun to play. It’s… above average, if I HAD to rank it. It has some things that I feel could have stood to have a bit more work and time put into them to make it really good if not great- but I certainly wouldn’t consider it a wast of money to pick up. I honestly think it’s a shame that it didn’t sell quite well enough for Nintendo to consider doing anything else with the title. I would love to see a revamped, redesigned, fully fleshed out remake or sequel of this game… For the upcoming Nintendo Switch, perhaps? Who knows? But as it stands for right now, we’ll simply have to settle for what we got and rely on fan projects for what might have been…