Back in the days of the PlayStation Portable, NIS America released perhaps their most divisive Disgaea titles to date. Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero? and Prinny 2: Dawn Of Operation Panties, Dood! were both Action Platformers starring the series’ penguin mascots. Upon their original releases, both games drew criticism for their stiff controls and unusual difficulty curves. Ten years and six releases of Cuphead later much has changed in the realm of the game industry. With best selling titles like Dark Souls on the charts, being “too hard” certainly isn’t the demerit that it once was.
Was yesteryear too difficult on this challenging duology?
Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero? is all about Disgaea‘s infamous Prinny Squad. The Prinnies’ perilous adventure begins when summoned by their demonic master. As vassal to the Demon Prince Laharl himself, Etna controls a Prinny Squad one thousand strong. Once summoned, Etna points out the elephant in the room: her missing pudding. Blaming the bumbling penguins, Etna threatens the lot of them. Giving a strict time limit, Etna orders the Prinny Squad to find her the ultimate dessert, or to die trying. Swap out the words “pudding” and “dessert” with “panties,” and you get the plot of Prinny 2: Dawn Of Operation Panties, Dood!
Despite being a story involving angels and demons, Disgaea as a series has never been known to take itself too seriously. This certainly does not change in either Prinny game. Amongst Laharl, his vassals, and all his rivals, the Prinnies always come out on top when it comes to hitting rock bottom. What starts as a couple of silly quests quickly spiral completely out of control. Who would believe that picking up a dessert would be so complicated? Neither campaign really makes a lack of sense. In the netherworld of Disgaea, that’s par for the course. Those familiar with Larharl’s exploits will feel right at home with Prinny 1•2: Exploded and Reloaded‘s nonsensical narratives. Others looking for more meat on the bones may instead find the story as flat as a pancake.
Depending on the player, the gameplay is either the best or worst aspect of Prinny 1•2: Exploded and Reloaded. The playable Prinny must run, jump, and slash their way through a 2D terrain. Despite being a Platformer, the games don’t exactly play like the traditional Mario and Sonic titles. Akin to Cuphead, the Prinny games emphasize action-oriented gameplay.
Rather than run ‘n gun, Prinny 1•2: Exploded and Reloaded is all about the hack and slash. Each Prinny comes complete with grounded sword slashes and mid-air aerial beams. In addition, a Prinny can also show-off their signature spinning technique. This allows temporary invulnerability at the risk of becoming dizzy. While the base controls remain largely the same, the Prinnies’ second outing does add additional specials to take advantage of.
Prinny 1 and Prinny 2 are some of the least linear Platformers on the market. From the get-go, the Prinny Squad can go wherever their little hearts desire. The only sense of direction is the difficulty rating of each level. While this may seem straightforward at first, things escalate as the Prinnies progress. The more levels cleared by the player, the more ruthless the remaining become. In addition, the game also features a time mechanic. With this in mind, the difference between each stage variant is literally night and day.
Due to permadeath, each run of the game is experienced between one thousand Prinnies. While one thousand lives may seem like overkill, the scary thing is that it really isn’t. Based on difficulty settings, Prinnies range from fragile to falling apart at the seams. Everything in Prinny 1•2: Exploded and Reloaded is out to get the player. In addition to the plethora of demons out to get the Prinnies, the greatest judge maybe the players themselves. Regardless of the action, the game feels incredibly stiff. This is most apparent while attempting to traverse through the air. There’s nothing like jumping clear over a safe platform and falling into despair. The good news is that losing all one thousand Prinnies does unlock Asagi Mode. However, such a defeat may also lose the interest of all but the most masochistic of gamers. Here’s looking at you Dark Souls fans!
In terms of visuals, one of Disgaea‘s greatest strengths has always been its character designs. In fact, it is probably due to that very reason why the Prinny Squad might earn their own game. Notable characters such as Laharl, Etna, Flonne, and Asagi all make guest appearances. Perhaps the most common characters outside of the Prinny Squad would be the nameless demons that flood each stage. Most of these demonic races hail from the main series. While enemy bosses may look familiar, their overall presentation should come off as unique.
Much like the main series of games, Prinny 1•2: Exploded and Reloaded is made up of 2D design. Unlike the main series, however, Prinny 1•2: Exploded and Reloaded does not venture much into 2.5D territory. Etna’s room, the Prinny hub, levels, and boss encounters all makeup one big side scroller. True to the unwritten Platformer code, each area embodies a special theme. There’s serene grasslands, volcanic hideouts, and even a beach resort. With Etna’s place serving as the main base, this frequent destination looks ripped straight out of the original game.
With the release of Disgaea 1 Complete for Nintendo Switch, the original entry was outfitted with new and improved visuals. Aging like a fine wine, the HD sprites allowed Disgaea 1 Complete to compete visually with its modern successors. When compared to the Disgaea: Hour of Darkness or Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness on PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable respectively, Disgaea 1 Complete looks like a brand new game. With Disgaea 1 Complete, Disgaea 4 Complete+, and Disgaea 5 Complete already perfectly ported to Switch, fans may have been hoping for similar treatment with Prinny 1•2: Exploded and Reloaded. It does not look as if this is the case.
The games do not look bad per se. Unfortunately, there is certainly an outdated look to both titles. While the visuals are consistent between each outing, they both look about the same as they did on PSP. While Switch is the host of countless other ports, it is admittedly disappointing that Prinny 1•2: Exploded and Reloaded did not receive a fresh coat of paint. This is especially noticeable when comparing how beautiful the other Disgaea ports have all turned out thus far.
The phrase “sounds like hell” is generally used as a derogatory remark. With that said, there’s no better way to describe the soundtrack of Prinny 1•2: Exploded and Reloaded. Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero? and Prinny 2: Dawn Of Operation Panties, Dood! mix remixed Disgaea with original works. Regardless of a track’s origin, the Original Soundtracks sound like a perfect fit with any Disgaea title. The catchy tracks are what one might imagine played during a Halloween cartoon. With anime-inspired demons living in an upbeat Netherworld, the soundtracks set the perfect tones.
With the return of Asagi, Laharl, Etna, and Flonne, their respective voice actors reprise their recurring roles. Within minutes of either title, Etna starts yelling and threatening the lives of her own vassals. It is all fun and games until a Prinny explodes. While Asagi and the other protagonists are in the collected games, players will not be hearing from them very often. With the Prinny Squad front and center, the most frequent line is the word “Dood!” While most Disgaea veterans should be familiar with this catchphrase, it has some potential to annoy the uninitiated. It is really not as bad as it sounds. Anybody that would describe Kirby, Yoshi, or the Mario Bros. as wordsmiths has no idea what they are talking about.
Overall Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero? and Prinny 2: Dawn Of Operation Panties, Dood! are games for a very particular audience. Fans of Battletoads, Cuphead, or anything from FromSoftware will likely eat up Prinny 1•2: Exploded and Reloaded. While fans of the main Disgaea series should certainly take a look, the sheer difficulty may scare even the most devote away.
Hey! Hey!! Listen!!! gives Prinny 1•2: Exploded and Reloaded 7.6 Hero Prinnies out of 10.