Penny-Punching Princess is a retro isometric brawler from the comedy RPG geniuses at Nipponichi Software, and brought to the west by their stateside branch NIS America, Inc.
There's so much to like in PPP, such as arcade beat-em-up fun, unlockables, and stat-building goodness, that whether on the PS Vita (reviewed here) or Nintendo Switch, players would be remiss to miss out!
The gameplay trailer for Penny-Punching Princess:
The game tasks players with control of the Princess, a young girl led by her bug-butler Sebastian to use the other-worldly power of money to build up her kingdom and power in a bid for revenge against the Dragoloans Lending Company, which financially ruined her father. ("DLC," get it? Stole all his money? Yeah, you get it.)
Unfortunately for the Princess, money corrupts creatures both morally and physically in this funky post-fantasy world, so she'll have to contend with that in addition to her fire-breathing foes.
The writing is clever, funny, and occasionally poignant, and adds another layer of fun to the game's excellent mechanics.
Penny-Punching Princess is comprised of two sections: battle missions, and your hub kingdom. From your hub kingdom, you can depart to battle missions known as "Islands," instruct your bribed minions to craft new armor or Zenigami statues (permanent stat boosters), equip new armor, and try out various special attacks in a training match. From the hub, missions can be replayed to find missed secrets, collect more money for your kingdom's coffers, and bribe more minions for your crafting use.
The battle missions are the meat of the game, and feel like a fantastic arcade blast from the PSOne-era past. Cute pixel graphics with nicely crafted backgrounds make up the visuals, and bashing enemies into a pulp releases money for you to collect. There are also treasure chests with more cash, occasional powerups, and Zenigami tokens. Zenigami is the god of cash-ola, and hence where you get your power from. A Zenigami token, like those you can have your minions craft in the kingdom hub, lets you boost various stats (such as Speed, Attack Power, etc.) or unlock new attack powers (such as Freeze powers or the ability to attack when rolling).
The battle system involves several attacks–your main attack, which chains into combos ala Streets of Rage or Final Fight, a power up ground-slam attack that sucks your life force, a special attack with limited uses that varies depending on the armor you're using, and a minion attack, which varies depending on what the last creature you bribed was. When pummeling your enemies, they have various break lines indicated on their life bars, and when their life drops to one of the lines, they enter a "break" state. While in a break state, you can tap the stricken character on the touch screen repeatedly to make them spill out coins. Because it ups your money earned, making sure you stop pummeling creatures so they don't die before you can exploit their break state is useful.
In addition to beating the life out of your foes, you can use a shoulder button to open your Zenigami Calculator. This allows you to, mid-battle and using the touchscreen, enter a bribe amount and touch an enemy to bribe them. It's a useful tactic if your overpowered and rich in coin, but you'll have to be careful not to tap the wrong enemy or bribe with too much or too little (which can be tough to avoid in hectic battles). This mechanic is great fun, but also can lead to some frustration when the Vita touchscreen is more iffy, such as near the screen edges. On the plus side, if you absolutely hate using the touch screen, you can switch to Playstation TV controls that are completely button-based.
The isometric angle is a nice choice for graphical flare and a pleasant switch from the surfeit of top-down games these days, but it does mean players have to contend with the inherent difficulty of hit detection, specifically with environmental enemies such as flame cannons and ground-embedded buzz saws. Players will quickly learn to just avoid the general area of these hazards when possible, but accidental damage that feels unfair is sometimes unavoidable. Luckily, even these immobile enemies can be bribed and added to your minion staff, so don't be stingy!
In addition to the fun battle action, Penny-Punching Princess has an entertaining greed-themed revenge story with hilarious dialogue and characters that call to NIS's flagship series Disgaea in both quality and tone. There's also an entire second playable character, and constant dialogue from enemies and allies alike, such as pummeled skeletons and your beetle-butler Sebastian.
graphics and Sound
The pixel-chibi character art in Penny-Punching Princess is fun and fanciful, and the character designs themselves are a pleasure (seriously, your butler is a stag beetle!) The backgrounds are drawn and digitally painted, and add a beautiful depth to the whole aesthetic when combined with the cartoon-esque characters.
The music is anime-styled metal, and amps up the feeling of melee madness during battles. It's overall nice, but we'd have liked a goofier theme when in the hub kingdom that'd better fit the feel. The sound effects are loud and arcade-y, and we got the idea that putting the game into an actual quarter-sucking arcade cabinet would've been an act of meta-genius.
All in all, if you like arcade action on the go, you can't go wrong with Penny-Punching Princess. There's suitable progression and story to keep you engaged, pleasing graphics and driving music to build the proper mood, and it's launch price is a mere $39.99 US. What are you waiting for? Dole out the meager price of admission, and wreak your horrible gold-laden revenge!
|+ Fun arcade action||– Some quirks with isometric angle|
|+ Satirical story with clever writing||– Occasional touch-screen irritation|
|+ Lots of replay-ability|