Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: NIS America
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 30th of March, 2018 (EU) & 3rd of April, 2018 (NA)
Whoever told you money isn’t everything, is a damn liar!
When it comes to NIS America, like Nicalis, they have been absolutely killing it when it comes to Nintendo Switch releases. Not every game may be a winner, but we did get Disgaea 5 Complete last year and Ys VIII is on its way. In the meantime however, more Switch releases are inbound and the latest is Penny-Punching Princess and it is a weird one.
Imagine a world where money is everything. Monarchs fall, as debts rise. The weakest can tower over the strong, as long as they have enough coin to keep them on top and a there’s a magical calculator that makes things like this possible and now stop imagining it. Why? Because you don’t need to, not when Nippon Ichi Software have developed a game such as this and it’s out in Europe this very week of writing this review!
At a first glance, Penny-Punching Princess certainly looks and a bit like a game that is intended to appeal more to the female gamer audience rather than the male, but it’s simply not the case. In fact, it’s not even a game for children, as it’s actually a hardcore delight that is intended for players who love a challenge. That’s not to say younger players couldn’t play it, it just means, they will require more guidance and assistance to help them advance. But, you should probably avoid letting them play it, since there is quite a bit of swearing to it and to be fair, If you’ve yet to teach them about the birds and the bees, it’s probably a little too early to be giving them a lesson on capitalism.
Now, although I lightly, touched on it, the story of Penny-Punching Princess, is a whimsical one. There is a land where power is no longer governed by strength, but by money and who has more of it. It’s also a tale of revenge. You see, 10 years previously, there was a King who got into a huge debt and his death saw him lose more than just his life, but his kingdom as well, as it’s now the properly of the Dragoloans.
The king also left behind his daughter, the princess who once called Castle Tyrannical home. Naturally, the princess, who is literally referred to as Princess, throughout Penny-Punching Princess, lost her will to smile. Her mother died giving birth to her and her whole world had been ripped from underneath her feet but a God did show mercy to her. With the world now ruled by money, one such God named Zenigami, appeared to the Princess and offered her the means to get her revenge and that means is a calculator. I realise it sounds a bit daft, but there is more to the calculator than first revealed as it has a long story behind it and a deep connection to the Princess’ family. But, with the calculator as the only weapon the Princess could ever need, her quest for revenge can finally come to an end and after 10 years of seeking vengeance, the end is in sight.
It is at that point, in which the events of Penny-Punching Princess get underway, but instead of Penny-Punching Princess being a game that has you play some of the final sequence, only to have everything go back to the beginning, or leap to any moment that is not the present, almost like The Longest Five Minutes, what Penny-Punching Princess actually does, is it teaches you a lesson on how long winded the pursuit of vengeance can be.
You see, what should be the end, isn’t and that is a key factor as far as Penny-Punching Princess is concerned, because every time you think you’ve reached the end, you haven’t. Without giving away spoilers whatsoever, there are so many plots twists and additional chapters that most of the time you see the word final, nothing is final, as there is more to do after it, so be prepared for quite a few final battles. Penny-Punching Princess has plenty and if you’re looking to play the game from start to finish, you will have to put 15 hours into the game easily, with at least 25 to try and fully complete it as one character.
Obviously, there is nothing wrong with having plenty to do in a game, as it is a nice way of ensuring you’re getting your money’s worth, but although I have yet to mention how the actually gameplay is, Penny-Punching Princess is long-winded. There are multiple instances where its story could end, but it doesn’t. Instead, the game and the story drags on and on, with a whole lot of repetitive action for you to sink your teeth into. The good news about an almost never ending story though, is the fact that players will get to see more of Sebastian the Butler, Princess and Isabella and their discussions with each other and enemies, which play out at the beginning and end, of each and every level.
Most of the time, it is money focused, since money is be all and end all, as far as Penny-Punching Princess and its cast are concerned, but there are instances where pivotal story reveals can be had. There’s also a voice acted narrator, who is hilarious to listen to, especially when he impersonates the Princess, in a bid to give her a voice, but expect a lot of Ah’s for I, and other broken English, because apparently, in a world where absolute power is a bottomless well full of cash, decent grammar simply does not exist.
Moving onto gameplay, Penny-Punching Princess plays out much like a beat ‘em up dungeon crawler. Each chapter is made up of 5 levels, with the fifth level always ending with a boss battle. Levels are made up of various stages, with the earlier levels all featuring the same them, but the later on chapters taking you from a fiery cave, to a golden palace, within the same level. But going from one place to the other is not a stroll in a park, because there are many areas monsters lie in wait, ready to ambush you.
When battle commences, in addition to being able to roll with B, Y is used for an effective quick attack, pressing Y and B, can be used for a stronger attack, with holding the two buttons just mentioned, to pull of an emergency omnidirectional blowback. A blowback, which just so happens to consume health, so only use it when you have to. If it’s a heavy attack you prefer though, then the A button is your best friend. As for ZR, should you have at least 1 Hidden Skill available, ZR is the button to be used to trigger it, with the effect depending on whatever armour you have equipped (more on this later.) But fighting isn’t for everyone, especially when the bigger monsters can be overwhelming in the first 5 hours of playing, so that’s where the magic calculator comes in.
When the Calculator Gauge is full, holding ZL will bring it up and should you have enough coin on you, you can actually bribe others to do your bidding for you. With the calculator up, using A and the directional buttons can be used to input the required value to bribe the object of your desire. Every monster and relic that can be bribed, will have a price tag pop up, but you can only use what you have at the time. So if you only have 198 G and a monster requires 200 G, you will need to get more money first. To get more G, simply seek out every chest every stage has to offer and every time you fight a monster and make them enter a Break state, rotate the right analog stick to milk them for as much as you possibly can and make sure to collect them before it disappears.
In the event you have the amount you need however, monsters and relics can soon be enslaved and made to attack by pressing the X button, but you will have a limited number of uses, so always try to make each one count. Oh, and if you’re wondering what a relic is, they’re traps. From a fan, to a cannon that fires 3 cannon balls, to statues that breathe fire and even a guillotine, there are many objects intended to harm you, but if the price is right, they can hurt those who oppose you, just as badly.
Something worth mentioning about the calculator though, is although there is a quick method of bribery, as you can always use ZL to bring it up, ZR to quickly input the fee for a monster and A to confirm the bribe, there are touch controls available, should you wish to turn them on. With the calculator capable of being tedious to use, as it is easy to put in the wrong values and risk death by trying to clear it, using your fingers is a quicker way of getting the job done. But, if you really want to spend a pretty penny, why not enter in as much money as you want and go for a Coin Miracle. The results can very depending on how much you spend and which option you pick.
When all is said and done and you’ve fought or brought your way to victory, each battle segment will end, with you being given a score based on how well you did (S being the highest.) Except battles don’t care so much on how much health you lost but more about how much money you made during the spat. If you did lose a lot of health though, keep an eye out on Healing Magic Circles as they can be used to restore health so you can proceed onward and finish the level.
Much like each battle, upon besting each level, you will receive a score based on how you’ve done and find yourself being taken to your castle, which is both a preparation menu and a save space, because you can actually save her. Talking of preparation, this is the place to go to ensure you have the upper hand in each adventure. From sacrificing monsters and relics you’ve recruited, you can create new armour with varying stats and properties, create Zenigami statues, which can also be found in special chests on each level that rewards you Skill Points and there’s even a menu for updating your skills. From upgrading health, to attack, defence and even given yourself a dodge attack, there is quite a bit you can improve for Princess and Isabella. Isabella is an unlockable character and a relation to the Princess on the Princess’ mother’s side. Isabella is also a zombie and has quite the interesting fighting style. She can’t use the calculator like the coin demon Princess can, but she can still bribe and she’s completely awesome.
Should upgrades and improvements not be enough for you, you can always head over to the Control Center to keep track of how many Citizens your castle now has (monsters and relics you’ve bribed,) and be rewarded for how many you have as 10 Skill Points will be given to you when you meet 100 Citizens and 300. You can also look up details on everything you’ve captured already, for some background information, but other than that, Penny-Punching Princess is very: live, die and repeat. You head into battle, if you clear the level, you move onto the next one and so on, until you come to a level you can’t beat and need to revisit earlier levels to capture certain things to build specific armour and find any Zenigami status you missed the first time around. You can also upgrade your rank on each level, but there is a lot of grinding to be had and it does make Penny-Punching Princess, get pretty stale, pretty quick. Especially when you take in the fact that a number of the stages feature the same layouts, but with a different background, which feels lazy compared to recycling at its finest.
Amusing money focus aside and a clever calculator feature, Penny-Punching Princess, is something of a mixed bag. It has the potential to be something great, and it’s certainly something you can sink a lot of time into, but the soundtrack is nothing special, the game feels like it drags on way too much and the difficulty spike could be too much for some players to stick around for. If you can look beyond all that and the frame-rate drops when too many monsters are present on the screen and in the Break state, Penny-Punching Princess isn’t a bad game, but it does feel like a gimmick game at best, as opposed to a must-own title.
THE VERDICT: 7/10
*Review Key Provided by NIS America