Releasing for both the Nintendo Switch and the Playstation Vita, Penny-Punching Princess by NIS America offers a fresh new on the top-down brawler. Here’s our review, for which we played the Vita version of the game.
NIS America hasn’t just been one of the most prolific publishers on the Vita in recent years, they’ve also been responsible for some of the best games on the system (Danganronpa) and some of the most original ones – the latter partly due to the fact that NIS has the guts to convert quirky Japanese titles and bring them to the west. Penny-Punching Princess is one such title, with its main gameplay element being the ability to ‘bribe’ your way through the game.
The titular princess that you control has seen her dad’s kingdom fall apart under the influence of the Dragoloan family – capitalists who have turned your birthplace into a money-obsessed environment. And while Penny-Punching Princess certainly isn’t the first brawler, it definitely has a different role reserved in the game for that aforementioned money.
As you collect money, you don’t just use it at save points or in in-game stores. Instead, you can spend it in real-time by bribing your enemies to start fighting for your cause instead. Alternatively, you can “bribe” one of the game’s many traps in order to take out enemies at a fraction of the costs you’d incur if you had bribed all of them. Sure, “bribing” a trap requires you to suspend your disbelief for a second, but the core gameplay works pretty well even though a lot of the later game eventually turns into something with a tad too much repetition.
Breaking up the repetition is the ability to level up/boost your stats by amassing enough followers of a certain enemy type by bribing them, as well as the narrative that drives the game forward and the tough bosses you’ll encounter. So while you might have a lot of fun with the traps in the game, you’ll want to also build your “army” if you want to stand a better chance in the later levels. There’s always going to be a bit of grinding involved in this, but if you’re not careful in the beginning then you could be looking at more of it than you’d like down the road.
The story itself isn’t deep, but told with plenty of humor and little stabs at the Dragoloans and their capitalist ways, which makes for some entertaining banter. Penny-Punching Princess isn’t a story-heavy game though, as the emphasis is firmly on the brawling and bribing aspect. They’re both solid, but not without their faults. The brawling mechanics aren’t terribly deep, as you’d expect from a 2D, top-down brawler where you essentially take out dungeon after dungeon of bad guys. The bribing can get repetitive, but there’s an option to auto-bribe in place. Disable that, and you’ll get a big calculator that gives you the option to negotiate a deal that’s under the asking price. Haggling’s fun and you’ll want to disengage auto-bribe because of it, but the downside is that bribing takes place in real time and you’re vulnerable when the calculator is on screen – which can lead to frustrations.
Despite these little issues, Penny-Punching Princess is an original approach to a familiar genre that is fun to play. It’s priced on the higher end at launch with a forty dollar/euro price tag at the moment though, where it faces stiff competition (Danganronpa 3, for instance). I definitely wouldn’t hesitate to pick it up once it hits a sale though, as it’s a solid brawler that’s also Playstation TV-compatible.