Once again, NIS puts their money where their mouth is to come forth with another stylish game providing support for the Switch and like their previous titles released for the hybrid machine there’s no sucker-punches thrown here. Penny-Punching Princess is a comical, fast-paced brawler seen in a top-down perspective centered around capitalism, coins & cracking bones. A few quibbles stop it from being a true utopia, but its addicting gameplay and comedic presentation has its worth.
A royal bloodline fighting for the people is certainly a noble pursuit. Being in the position of wielding enormous power and using it for good rather than evil makes for a happy tale. Princess has taken it upon the given circumstance to fight only for herself and she’ll beat up anyone who stands in her way as seen by her mean-muggin’ eyebrows; and muggin’ is her specialty. She wasn’t always this way. Back before her father the King was alive and had all the fortune she was a sweet spender, but thanks to the Dragoloan family who encouraged the King to put his investment towards the cusp of what would turn into capitalism he lost all that he had and died strictly of shame. Now, the Princess is out to seek revenge and fueled by her anger she’ll have to pummel her way through a variety of enemies and traps.
Fans of classic beat-’em-ups will find that fun, arcadey action here. Where it becomes a bit deeper is the RPG mechanics which tie into the main gameplay. The Princess is in possession of a majestic calculator gifted by a god directly inspired by Japanese folklore. This Zenigami calculator has the ability to see how much a monster or relic can be bought for. Bribing is fundamental and downright crucial to have the advantage that you need. You begin with a tutorial teaching you all of the basics and you’re given as much time as you need to get comfortable with the controls before moving on. Pressing Y performs punches and simple combos. Pressing B dodges and pressing A performs a strong attack. Simultaneously pressing punch and dodge will perform a knock-back maneuver to put enemies at a distance. Holding down particular buttons for a brief amount of time will charge a move and the level of charge is also indicated on your character. The right trigger activates a special ability.
Most importantly, the power of money is what will help you win. Your calculator will pop up on-screen for any duration that the left trigger is held down. During this moment, players will need to use the directional buttons on the controller to input numbers, more specifically the price of what an enemy can be bribed at to join you. Since the action never pauses and will have you constantly moving about, a convenience has been set in place to auto-bribe. Pressing the right trigger once the calculator is open will automatically highlight a nearby enemy and punch in the price on your calculator if manually doing it is too much to handle. You can also use the directional buttons to toggle between the enemies before confirming your selection. I found myself doing this the most. Once the transaction is made, you now have the power to unleash the now-ally monster by pressing X. Likewise, relics behave the same. Relics are environmental objects which are traps or hazardous in other manners. It’s often a wise idea to bribe relics so they don’t damage you and instead set up traps for your enemies. There are a set amount of uses for that one bribe, be it monster or relic, and you can only have 1 in your possession at a time. However, fortune is by your side and you’re always assured that you’ll have enough for at least the cheapest creature around. Being sufficient in a battle will grant you more money and playing your cards right can get you the rights to bribe a much larger, yet expensive monster who is undoubtedly more powerful. I never found the lack of money to be an issue overall. Instead, lots of accidental bribes occurred a number of times during my playthrough. Multiple times it wouldn’t highlight the one I wanted when I most needed it resulting in an undeserved death.
Since battles can be hectic and you’re constantly running from danger, decisions made are generally done in a quick fashion. There’s just not enough time to see what digits have been put on the calculator when there’s a lot going on. In order to auto-bribe, the calculator must be set at 0. Many times I’ve tried to auto-bribe, but would fail to do so since I’ve accidentally pressed the number 5 instead when I thought I had highlighted an enemy. This would be less of an issue if putting away the calculator and bringing it back would clear any digits pressed, but they remain present and having to run for your life and find time to use the d-pad to go to the button to clear it away is obtrusive to gameplay. There are friendly monsters who also provide health. At times I’ve wanted to auto-bribe even when it was the only thing next to me and it would highlight a different monster, once again resulting in my unwarranted death. Scenarios such as these don’t happen for the most part, but they’re frequent enough to mention here. Fortunately, players also have the option to play with the touchscreen where players can punch in the exact digits on the screen and even tap enemies. This process works well. The only downside it’s either one or the other. I would have liked to be able to use both the touchscreen and button inputs at the same time.
Getting the basics of combat is easy enough to grasp, but still results in a fun time hammering through enemies. Whenever attacking an enemy, you’re just as vulnerable to attacks because they don’t flinch. A critical hit will stun them, but they are random. What’s a sure bet is when enemies “break”. Each monster has a breaking point marked by at least 1 tick on their health meter. Depleting their health to a tick point will not only stun them, but maximize the moolah you earn. Whenever a break happens, rotating the right analog stick will churn out tons of G’s. The result is a rewarding feeling seeing a heap of coins flow out and be absorbed into your wallet. Breaking multiple enemies at the same time doing it will get you richer quicker. The more money you have, the better monsters or relics to bribe. You can expect boss battles at the end of chapters. Some levels even require you to have a certain amount of money just to complete it. The battles in any given level are segmented between minor exploration. The level design is pretty straightforward, but you can take certain paths to earn money from chests or even Zenigami statues in their own exclusive chests. These status will help your character progression.
When not playing a level, you have the option to browse all of the monster & relics you’ve bribed along with how many total you’ve bribed of them individually by doing so in the Control Center. There, you can see them move around similar to a trophy room as well as get a bit of info about them. Players can upgrade their skills and stats, such as health, attack power, etc. in Training Center. Here, players can also equip a new set of armor they’ve created. Acquiring skill points and creating armor is done by purchasing them in the Workshop, but bribing monster/relics fulfills the requirements of them both. All of the Zenigami statues you’ve found in levels will show up in a list and upon successfully creating one will earn you a varied amount of skill points to spend. A certain amount of monster/relics are required for different statues. The same is said for armor. What’s interesting about the armor is the different abilities you’re given. The game gives a basic description of the armor along with its skill type and elemental attribute, but you won’t know how they’ll play out until you make the purchase and try it out. Better armor provides a higher skill damage and a higher defense, but it can also expand your wallet size allowing you to carry more money. You’ll likely only purchase a handful of armor on your initial playthrough so the ones you go for will probably just adhere to your play style. Perhaps you want to use the hidden skills of an armor to replenish your health? Or maybe you’re the type to go for poison damage instead?
One feature of the calculator is the Coin Miracle. Put in a number and the gods will listen. The higher you bid, the better deal you’d get. The effects are a randomly presented choice of three. You may even try to bid 1 coin and get just enough health out of it. A random effect may even nerf your speed or it may cause a meteor shower to rain on enemies and you got lucky. When you find yourself in a tough spot and have a few coins to spare it just might save you.
The locations are themed differently with a hand-drawn design, but they’re repetitive. The art itself is nice, but it’s not crisp. The presentation is pleasant to look at with its bright colors and flashy menus. What really stands out – and in a good way – is the characters themselves. I’m a fan of the pixel art and animation. It’s very retro and it looks great. The Princess herself feels good to play as. Her expressions have character and the sound it makes when she runs is satisfying in a cute way. What’s nice here is half-way through the game a new character gets introduced who plays a bit differently while using the same controls. I of course wanted to try her out, but wasn’t sure how much I’d play with her since I was so used to Princess, but I ultimately play the 2nd half as the new character. It was a nice way to switch it up.
The entire game has voice over narrator during dialogue sequences before & after levels who will probably sound like a familiar voice to you. The chatter between characters do some charming muttering, even if particular monsters share the same sound sample which might get repetitive to some. One thing is for sure, the central focus of capitalism is lighthearted and twisted at the same time. It’s brings a chuckle to see how money affects the world brought through the dialogue. It doesn’t invest in one point for very long, but it’s enough cause resonance. I think the music is great. It’s upbeat and cheery. The world map is catchy.
What should be noted is the save menu. You can save up to 64 different slots (typical RPG stuff), but the menu is quite bland. In-fact, the gameplay feels like it should auto-save after every level, but it doesn’t. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting to save. The game naturally feels like it should. You can get a good 15+ hours out of this.