I have to admit I wasn’t too excited when I first heard about this game. I mean, of all the characters in the Mario universe I’d want to have there own game, Princess Peach wasn’t at the top of my list. My girlfriend, on the other hand, bought it the day the game came out and I haven’t given it back to her since. This game is seriously addictive.
The story starts with Mario, Luigi and Toad being taken prisoner by Bowser’s hench-turtles using their newfound Vibe Wand. The wand’s vaguely-explained powers are related to emotions, and allows the normally bumbling koopas to take down an entire castle of Toads and subdue our usual heroes. Someone does something stupid, the wand breaks, and the emotions of all the creatures on Vibe Island are thrown out of whack. This gives Princess Peach the perfect opportunity to come to the rescue… sort of.
I figured the game would cast Peach in a more forward role, explaining her side of the story more than the usual “Help, I need to be rescued” bit. In actuality, this is one of the most blatantly sexist games I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing (thank you misogynistic Japan!). Other than her emotion powers, which I’ll explain later, Peach can’t really take out any enemies without the help of Perry the Parasol, the real star of the game. You heard that right, Super Princess Peach Adventures is about a powerful, sentient umbrella that is trying to be reunited with its Grandpa. He allows Peach to destroy enemies, fly for short distances, defend herself, shoot charged bursts, travel underwater, absorb enemies, and slide on ziplines… not to mention look adorable. Not one part of the in-game story is about Peach, other than the fact that she wants to save Mario and the gang. As a matter of fact, I half expected the result of you rescuing Mario and Luigi to be getting to play the game over again with them and the game telling me “And now the real, important game can begin!”
Peach’s powers come from her emotions. If she’s calm she slowly regenerates health. If she’s happy she floats around in a whirlwind allowing her to reach high places. If she’s angry she lights on fire and for some reason gets extremely heavy (don’t ask). If she’s sad she cries a lot and runs really fast. So basically, the gist of the story is that a super emotional girl is trying to recover her “Vibe Wand” by swallowing enemies with her frilly parasol (thanks again sexually-repressed Japan!).
The game plays just like the 2-D Mario sidescrollers of old. The colors and backgrounds of the various parts of Vibe Island are quite pleasing to look at and the animations of the emotion powers are well done and never get boring to watch. Three captured Toads are hidden throughout each level and finding them, and then subsequently figuring out how to get to them can be tricky at some times, but never frustrating. The emotional powers factor heavily into the ability to get to secret areas and past some pretty obvious puzzles. They seem a little lopsided in their usage, as I found myself using the flying and regeneration powers almost exclusively. The times that call for the other two are pretty easy to spot and information from you handy umbrella sidekick (or should I say hero?) comes usually right before a problem that relates to it directly. Sort of like TV news broadcasts in the movies… only relevant to the main characters and just on time.
The game’s main weakness is that it’s much too easy. Some of the boss fights are a little tricky the first time you attempt them, but as the only penalty for death is a restart of the short boss intro level you never get too annoyed. You have unlimited lives, and the ability to recharge your emotion power bar by swallowing enemies and then using that power to regenerate your health makes it virtually impossible to die from attacks. Dying from missed jumps is another situation, as the jumping puzzles on more than one occasion left no room for error. It also seems that right about the time you start to get tired of all the running and jumping, the developers throw in a vehicle-based section to snap you out of it. Whether it’s jumping from zip lines in an umbrella basket, floating on the water in an umbrella boat or coin and squid-filled deeps in your umbrella submarine it’s a welcome break from the normal gameplay.
All of the old baddies make an appearance: Bullet Bill, the Hammer Brothers, Chomps, Boos, Lakitu and his freaking annoying floating cloud attacks. Added for this iteration are multiple kinds of enemy based on their emotional state. Some of the enemies are happy and will just bounce along whistling to themselves not even paying any attention to you, their mortal enemy. This makes killing and swallowing them even more fun. Some of them are crying hysterically, others are angry and will attack you from across the screen. The variety is nice and keeps you on your toes. Enemies and bosses fit perfectly into the areas of the island they inhabit.
A nice part of the game is the inclusion of minigames and collectibles. Being an obsessive-compulsive gamer, I NEED to get everything there is to get in games like this. (Starfox Adventures for the Gamecube was my white whale … and I never managed to get all of the bafmodads before my brother sold his system.) You can collect puzzle pieces in each level that allow you to play a minigame when you find them all. There are also three Toad-based minigames: Toad Shot, Toad Tote and Toad Jump (which makes use of the microphone input on the DS). You can collect musical scores throughout the levels that you can listen to later if you have no life. Once you beat Bowser, new levels are opened up and you can play the game through again on a higher difficultly level with more items hidden throughout the old levels. How’s that for replayability?
Overall the game is immensely fun. It’s easy to play but somehow manages to hold your interest all the way through. Top notch music, sound effects and animations. If you get over the overtly sexist nature of the game you can really dig in and learn something about Princess Peach as a person… oh wait… never mind. Either way, it’s the best game your girlfriend can ever buy.