It’s not often Peach gets to steal the limelight from Mario. Even when she can scrape up some screen time it’s almost always while being held captive under Bowser or someone else’s clutches. If you wanted to play as Peach you were limited to romps around the Mushroom Kingdom either riding go karts or playing tennis. But with Super Princess Peach for the original Nintendo DS the eponymous princess steps to the forefront as the game’s hero, saving Mario, Luigi, and countless Toads from certain doom. Although a bit old, the game holds up well and is a welcome addition to the excellent Mario franchise.
On its surface Super Princess Peach is a Mario-spinoff title: You travel through eight different worlds each with several stages and a unifying theme; you battle enemies like Koopas and Goombas en route to taking down Bowser at the end of it all; and the game is approachable and easy to handle for gamers of all ages. These comparisons are justified by the simple nature of the game: though it has Peach’s name in the title this is assuredly a Mario game. Which isn’t a bad thing at all. The pedigree for which Mario is known is among the best in the entire history of games, so being compared to the portly plumber isn’t bad.
The major difference here is how Peach goes about saving the Mushroom Kingdom. Instead of collecting Power-Ups like Fire Flowers and Super Mushrooms, Peach uses what are essentially her emotions to overcome every obstacle thrown at her. Assuming you have enough energy you can turn on Peach’s rage mode, which causes her to emit an aura of flames and lets her stomp really hard on the ground (thus flipping over enemies that otherwise couldn’t be flipped over, like those pesky turtles with spikes on their backs). Or you can make her incredibly happy, which causes her to twirl so fast she literally flies. Or you can send her into super depression mode, causing her to spray fountains of tears from her eyes which can somehow defeat enemies, turn wheels, and even grow beanstalks.
You’ll use these powerful emotions to defeat enemies and solve relatively simple puzzles. Oftentimes the solutions are so straightforward they’ll feel more like a nuisance than an actual problem. This is the biggest issue I have with the game: it’s just too easy. Most Mario games are a bit easy, but Super Princess Peach is so simple you’ll probably complete the entire game in a few hours. While each level is fun and diverse enough to keep you entertained, those looking for a more fleshed out Peach experience might be disappointed.
If you do happen to get stuck, your new sidekick Perry, a talking parasol who was once a magical toad, will offer his advice. Perry is kind of annoying early on, explaining the most elementary concepts (like climbing up a ladder to reach new areas), but perhaps for a younger player it could be useful to be told you can use the Rage emotion to burn a bridge and access a hidden area. Perry’s practicality comes moreso in what he can do for you during actual gameplay. Peach can swing the umbrella to knock out enemies instead of jumping on them, and after unlocking some power-ups she can use him to float, shoot energy at enemies, and even knock coins out of foes. Perhaps best of all, you can scoop up enemies and devour them to replenish your energy! It’s a nice level or strategy to an otherwise straightforward Mario game, even though there are dozens of enemies readily available to be gobbled up in joy.
Instead of collecting Stars, each level has three Toads in need of rescue. Finding the Toads is the best part of each stage as it represents the greatest challenge. Getting to the end of a stage and seeing you’ve only found one of the Toads will leave you scratching your head for where you may have missed them. Oftentimes the little guys are tucked away in areas that you can only access by using your emotions in creative ways. Usually it just takes a few minutes to go back and find them, but the added layer of longevity is greatly appreciated.
All summed up, the gameplay of Super Princess Peach is fun but easy. Pros of past Mario games will surely blaze through the game, while newer players will go at a slower pace. I enjoyed the lighthearted storyline and simple mechanics, and it was enough of a change of pace to keep my attention the length of the entire game.
Something I had no issue with was the game’s visuals. Despite being on the original Nintendo DS, Super Princess Peach is a gorgeous game that incorporates plenty of colors and varied backgrounds to keep your eyes stimulated. It’s standard for games in the Mushroom Kingdom to feature trees with faces and overly large boxes floating in air, but when everything is presented in top notch fashion as is here it’s as much a joy to play as it is to watch. The music wasn’t as inspiring however, with no tracks really sticking out. That isn’t to say the soundtrack is bad (far from it), but rather it won’t be infecting your brain with noxious tunes you can’t get out of your head (thanks Super Mario World!).
My largest actual gripe against the gameplay comes from the controls. For the most part everything handles like you’d expect, with running, jumping, and taking out enemies feeling like second natures. What doesn’t feel fluid is the incorporation of the emotions. You have to tap the associated icon on the bottom screen to activate said power up, and doing so can be a bit jarring since that means having to shift your hand awkwardly to the touch screen. It took some getting used to but after maybe two or three hours I got the hang of it. And I’m not sure if I just missed the explanation or what, but I feel like one of the emotions (the bottom right, “Happy”, one) is never fully explained what it does, and I had to experiment and find out on my own.
After collecting each and every Toad and completing the initial 8 worlds with 6 stages each, culminating in a boss fight, you’ll unlock a handful of bonus stages and the privilege of going back through every past stage to collect even more Toads. I understand wanting to breathe new life into the game when it’s supposed to be over, but Super Princess Peach takes a really lame angle. Instead of having to go back through those zones and replay old stages, just adding, say, one or two more stages to each world would have been wonderful. They’ve done it with past Mario games, and I wish they’d have done it here.
As a harder to find game, Super Princess Peach is a real gem in my collection. I’m very happy to have had the chance to play it, and I encourage anyone, collecting or Mario fan in general, to give the game a shot. Don’t be taken aback by the game’s outwardly seeming “girly” attitude: this is a great adventure that gives some of Mario’s better outings a run for their money. Though I don’t think I’ll hold my breath for a sequel, I can live happy knowing Peach had her chance to shine, and shine brightly she did.