Review: Super Princess Peach

Some of you might be wondering why I'm reviewing a DS game that came out 17 years ago. I had some recommendations to play Super Princess Peach on my old video game post, and I've always been a little curious about it. After all, there hasn't been a good handheld princess game since the Disney Princess Game Boy Advance game that came out almost 20 years ago. Disney makes great movies, but they don't make very good games outside of the Kingdom Hearts series, which has also been questionable of late. On the other hand, Nintendo is built entirely on its history of great games, and the Super Mario series is one of the most popular. Though Super Princess Peach does little to develop Peach's personality or backstory, it is a fun game that reverses that standard story structure where Mario must rescue Peach from Bowser. This time, Peach is the one who has to save Mario.

Super Princess Peach promo image featuring Peach floating over the brightly colored gameplay island

If I had to describe Super Princess Peach in one word, it would be "cute." Like most incarnations in the Super Mario series, the game takes place in a brightly colored world of mushroom toads and happy clouds. It has a paper-thin plot that never allows itself to get too serious. Even Mario's capture is glossed over as Peach happily floats around the island searching for hidden boxes to free toads that got in Bowser's way when he overpowered Mario with a magic scepter. The darkest the game gets is when it reveals the backstory of the sentient umbrella that helps Peach defeat the obstacles she encounters along the way. Through a series of dream sequences, the umbrella is revealed to be a child that was kidnapped from his grandfather by an evil sorcerer and turned into its present form. This could be a separate game entirely, but the umbrella's story is left unresolved by the end of Super Princess Peach. It's clear that the game developers were more concerned about creating a variety of environments for Peach to explore than they were about developing any of the characters.

This is one of few older princess games that I found engaging enough to play until the end. The variety of challenges prevents it from becoming too redundant. I like that Peach's emotion-based powers don't rely on violence like so many other video games that involve fighting enemies. These four abilities that players can use at any time are referred to as "vibes" and act like spells that drain a gauge the player can refill by feeding enemies to Peach's umbrella. The four vibes encompass every superpower a princess could ever need. Joy creates whirlwinds and allows her to fly as high as her vibe gauge will let her, sadness spreads water everywhere and allows her to run extra fast, anger sets things on fire, and calm allows her to heal, which is useful for players like me who are bad at dodging attacks. Her enchanted umbrella gains other abilities over the course of the game that can be purchased with coins that Peach collects throughout the worlds. My favorite is Floatbrella, which allows Peach to float over long distances by hanging off her umbrella like a paraglider. This ability takes some of the anxiety away from jumping across large platforms that wrack my nerves in similar types of games.

Super Princess Peach's vibes

Even though I found Super Princess Peach more enjoyable than most Mario games thanks to the helpful extra abilities, there were parts of it that I wasn't able to do on my own. My biggest issue with the Super Mario series is that it can be freaking hard, which makes me disinterested in playing many of the games. The ability to easily heal using the calm vibe, restore the vibe gauge by devouring enemies, and float or fly over obstacles with the umbrella or joy vibe makes this game more appealing to people who are generally bad at video games. However, it still has its challenges, such as certain levels where the screen moves on its own, and the player must get Peach across the slowly expanding set of obstacles before she gets swallowed up by the edge of the screen and has to start over again. There were certain bosses that were difficult to hit, but they only had five hit points, so that part wasn't so bad. I also like that the umbrella has little clones the player can jump on in each area to give helpful tips about what to do if they get stuck. Most of it is silly fun, but some parts catch you off guard with their difficulty.

Overall, I would say Super Princess Peach is one of the best, if not the best, princess games released for the Nintendo DS. That's not saying much, though, since Disney Princess Magical Jewels for the DS and My Fairytale Adventure for the 3DS are not particularly fun despite being much easier to get through. If I could have any four superpowers, they would be very similar to the ones that Peach obtains through her vibes, so it was great to live out that fantasy. This game is perfect for people who like the Super Mario universe in general but struggle with the difficulty levels in other games. Some might argue that the unlimited healing and floating abilities make it too easy, but there are still challenges that can throw players for a loop. However, this game did little to improve my overall impression of Peach as a silly airhead without much semblance of a personality.

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