Developer: Nippon Ichi
Publisher: NIS America
Release Date: Out Now
Format(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation Vita
You can always trust NIS America to release games that embrace the quirky and unusual side of RPGs, right? We’ve seen a good selection of eclectic titles from the publisher in the past, and Penny-Punching Princess is their latest release that does something a little different with the genre.
The groundwork of the gameplay will feel familiar to most, with the titular protagonist Princess exploring dungeons and beating up enemies. The main difference is that she’s not afraid to spend some cash to get her own way, with one of the core mechanics being based around bribing enemies to fight for you. It’s quirky and certainly unconventional, but it helps make Penny-Punching Princess a uniquely enjoyable RPG experience.
Penny-Punching Princess puts you in the shoes of a Princess (duh!) who finds herself in a place of financial ruin following both the death of her father and the takeover of her Kingdom by the Dragoloan family. With nothing but her trusty calculator to her name, she sets out on a quest to vanquish her enemies and reclaim the kingdom for her own.
The tale never takes itself seriously and RPG fans looking for a deep narrative won’t find that here, but the quirky and comedic nature of the game certainly offers enough to keep you absorbed into everything that’s going on.
The bulk of your time in Penny-Punching Princess is spent exploring dungeons, collecting its treasures, and swatting the enemies that inhabit them. It’s a simple set up, but a familiar one that makes for satisfying gameplay for action-RPG fans.
Whilst the aforementioned enemy-bribing is at the forefront of the experience though, the Princess actually packs a punch herself. She’s armed with a decent range of attacks that are fairly effective as far as dishing out damage is concerned, whilst you can also continually improve her abilities and stats by equipping different armour – each of which can be obtained by bribing specific enemies (more on that later) and by spending gold. It shows that you’re not dependent on your purse alone in Penny-Punching Princess and it definitely has its moments where it feels more like a traditional RPG.
The bulk of the action during battles will come from bribing enemies to fight alongside you though. You can earn cash from exploring the dungeons or defeating enemies, and then you can spend it to have your foes do the fighting for you. Simple, right?
Fortunately, Penny-Punching Princess spices it up a bit by adding a tactical touch to the bribing. It’s never just a case of having an enemy fight alongside you, but also of weakening your foes too – if you’re facing a party of five enemies for example, you’ll want to have the most fearsome one fighting alongside you just to keep them off your back. It’s never just a case of bribing the enemy that demands the least cash, but actually thinking about each situation and working out the best way to approach it whilst not running out of gold.
It’s like a balancing act in a way, especially since you have a finite amount of funds – maintaining that gold whilst working out which enemies to spend it on is something you’ll need to keep on top of. You’ve also got to consider that you need enemies in order to unlock the aforementioned armours, so you’ll also have to consider whether you’ll pay a stronger enemy to fight alongside you or perhaps pay a weaker one who can help you unlock some new gear. There’s a deceptive amount of depth to it all, but it makes the whole experience a lot more satisfying for the player.
Interestingly, it’s not just enemies that you’ll be bribing. You can also spend cash to get inanimate objects in the environment to work for you, in turn making little traps that’ll unleash destruction upon your foes. It’s something that lives up to the quirky nature of the game where everything and anything can be bought for the right price, but it also adds another fun and surprisingly tactical element to the Penny-Punching Princess’ combat.
Whatever you’re bribing in-game, it’s all done with the Princess’ calculator. Acting as a little menu of its own in-game, the calculator could actually be a little fiddly to use at first. You’ll be sending out bribes all in the middle of the action, and whilst there are shortcut buttons to keep on top of things, the process of inputting an amount and selecting the enemy you want to give it to could just be a little bit awkward. It’s something you’ll adjust to with time, but it was hard to keep on top of during the initial hours with the game. But hey, at least there’s an ‘auto-bribe’ system in place that can help you out (minus the flexibility of bartering).
You can expect to die a lot in Penny-Punching Princess, especially during the earlier stages of the game where you’re still finding your bearings. Whilst it’s not the most difficult of games you’re ever going to play, it isn’t really forgiving to new players – there’s a fair bit of tactical prowess demanded in regards to which enemies you bribe and what armour you need to have equipped for each situation, so until you figure it all out you can expect to fail quite often. Sometimes, you’ll even have to restart whole stages if you’re left in a dire state, which is always a pain.
This is where the dependence on grinding comes in. You need to have a decent amount of gold and a good collection of enemies if you want to become powerful enough to take on those trickier levels and tough bosses, and the best way to obtain both is by replaying earlier levels. Whilst the demand for grinding is present in most RPGs though, I felt like I had no choice but to venture through earlier levels again in Penny-Punching Princess – there was rarely an opportunity to tough things out and see if you could progress through a mixture of skill and sheer luck, but instead had a dependence on simply becoming stronger through repetition. It’s not the end of the world nor is it a game breaker because Penny-Punching Princess is a lot of fun to play – it was just a little frustrating that you could feel a little forced to do the same things over and over again.