Simply put, Super Princess Peach is the best Mario game to come out in a very long time. It has been far too long since there has been an original 2D Mario-style game from Nintendo. What you get with Peach is a just that, only without the Mario part. Nintendo has decidedly gone for the not so hardcore girl gamer demographic with this title. But you should not let the feminine side of things get in the way.
Although this game fits into the series quite well, it is not exactly what Mario fans are looking for. I fear most people will wait until May when New Super Mario Bros. is released. This is a shame, because if you pass up on Peach, you will be missing a unique take on the standard Mario story.
When Peach is out on a stroll, Mario and Luigi are kidnapped. This roll reversal works quite well, and setting Princess Peach as the main character was a great idea. She controls quite the same as any Mario platformer, but also has an entirely unique move set that we have never seen before. The moves and powers that Peach has distinguish this game and are used to great effect throughout your adventure.
Other than Peach, you are looking at standard fare for a Nintendo platforming romp (not a bad thing). Everything from the Mario universe is here, even down to the classic Bowser Castle (or in this case, "Villa") design elements. The game just looks stunning -- it's 2D done right and is every bit as likable as an iPod. Colors are crisp, and the animations are as tight as the controls themselves. Keeping the game in 2D was a smart decision, as it feels like an extension of Super Mario World and Yoshi's Island.
Super Princess Peach uses the feature set of the DS well. The DS Rumble Pak is supported, so you will feel every hit Peach takes. When you move through pipes you feel a slight vibration, and if there is something hidden in the room you feel a vibration there too -- otherwise it is just an auditory effect with an exclamation mark on the touch screen.
Peach has four "Vibes" that are represented by colored hearts on the touch screen. Changing Vibes is easy thanks to the size of the hearts in the quadrants of the touch screen. You will not have to take your eyes off of the top screen to switch from "Rage" to "Calm."
Besides Rage (flames surround Peach) and Calm (refills health) there are Joy and Gloom. Joy allows peach to fly as well as wraps her in a cyclone that takes out specific obstacles. When you use Gloom, Peach will start bawling. What is this good for? Putting out fires of course! Not to mention making plants grow, and is used for other environmental puzzles.
The mic is used as well. When underwater you shoot enemies with water bubbles by blowing into it. The mic is also used in the first mini-game that you unlock.
Oddly enough, you will not be collecting coins for extra lives in Super Princess Peach. There is not one 1UP in the game! You collect coins to spend at Toad's shop where you can upgrade your moves, health, and Vibe Meter; buy music, puzzle pieces and extra levels to mini-games (once unlocked).
This would not be a Mario game without the collectables. During your adventure there are three Toads per stage to collect. This is important as it is the only way to fight Bowser. You must save all the Toads on Vibe Island. You also collect songs and puzzle pieces as they cannot all be purchased.
Outside of the eight-area quest, Super Princess Peach offers more to do than ever before. Each of the three mini-games has 10 stages apiece. These games are:
- Toad Jump: Blow into the mic to make Toad jump.
- Toad Tote: Use the stylus to carry Toad to safety.
- Toad Shot: Use the stylus to knock the targets out of the sky.
Collecting and buying puzzle pieces will unlock eight different puzzles. Using the stylus you move the pieces into place until they lock; tapping the screen rotates the puzzle pieces.
There is a nice bonus for completing the game and these mini-games. You will have to beat the game twice however to unlock everything. Once you complete the game proper, three more stages become available in Area 1. Beating the boss in Area 1 unlocks three more stages in Area 2. You must beat every boss again to unlock all stages for a total of 72; eight of which being boss stages of course.
Boss fights require different strategies the second time through, and the extra 24 stages are much more difficult that previous stages in any given area.
As with the rest of Peach, the soundtrack is classic Mario as well. It is very up beat and cheery, fitting well with the rest of the game nicely. It also has a number of catchy tunes. The soundtrack completes the experience and brings back even more Mario memories.
If there is one gripe about Super Princess Peach is has to do with the difficulty level. The game is easy all the way up until Area 7 where it starts to get a little harder. Area 8 is Bowser's Villa and should be the hardest the game has to offer -- and it is. Just because the game is easy does not mean it is not fun. That said, you are spoon fed a lot.
What is most appealing to me is how both casual and hardcore fans of the series are given their due. The casual fan will play through and complete the game once. The difficulty is nicely ramped up at the end and capped off with a great battle once again with Bowser. Hardcore gamers will play through the game twice to unlock everything the game has to offer. Only the second time through isn't as much of a cakewalk.
Peach is not on par with the difficulty of other Super Mario games, but it does not need to be. By design this game is easier, and I think is better for it. It has been, after all, the Nintendo way to make games easier these days.
While many will view Super Princess Peach as a stop-gab before New Super Mario Bros. arrives in May, those who pick it up are in for a great experience. With a lengthy main quest and lots of extras, this game will keep you busy -- even if it is on the easy side. The lesser difficulty, and the more "girlie" aspects will surely turn people off. That's too bad.
(**** out of *****)