Penny Punching Princess, published by NIS America for the Nintendo Switch and Playstation Vita, harkens gameplay and presentation reminiscent of classic beat-em-up games of the late 80s/early 90s. While certainly appealing, its not without its issue of some serious difficulty behind it.
Penny Punching Princess sees you playing as a Princess of a fallen kingdom that has been overtaken by a family known as the “Dragoloan” family. As you progress further in the story you, your stag beetle butler Sebastian, and eventually your zombie relative Isabella go forth to defunct the Dragoloan family and take back what was once your kingdom. While on your quest to defeating the family that’s overtaken your kingdom through extensive amounts of wealth, its up to you to brawl (and buy) your way back to the top of your kingdom.
Penny-Punching Princess plays as an isometric brawler close to the same vein as games like “Scott Pilgrim vs the World: The Game” and the original SNES Ninja Turtles games. The game nails the 16-bit design that permeates across its characters and various stages throughout the story’s various Acts. The princess herself has a set of giant fists that primarily power the gameplay as you tear into your enemies with various light, heavy, AOE attacks, and special interchangeable abilities. The game allows for two different playstyles one being completely button-based on the Switch and the other called “Touch Mode” that allows for a combination of button and touch screen interactivity. I personally leaned more towards the game’s “Touch Mode” because of one particular feature this game boasts in the form of a magic calculator.
Amongst the enemies and various traps that you dodge, beat, and defeat, there’s a magic calculator that the Princess is able to use in the game. As you defeat enemies and garner more gold as you go, you can eventually round up enough gold per stage to literally buy enemies and traps, as well as buy “blessings” in the form of HP recovery or even reversing a “Game Over” entirely. Using the touch mode for the calculator proves to be alot easier to type on the side of the Switch opposed to the game’s button mode that makes for holding a button down and manually entering each amount you wish using the Switch’s D-Pad and choosing which enemy/trap you wish to buy out.To amass more money to your cause, there’s even a “break” system amongst the enemies that allows you to touch or rotate the right stick to literally shake extra cash out of the enemies ala “Warioware:Shake It” once their HP is lowered enough.
When you’re between stages, along with using the enemies you buy in-battle to assist you in fights, you catalogue each of the number of various monsters and traps you capture in an effort to create things called “Zenigami Statues”. Along with a little bit of gold, Zenigami Statues are created to make skill points to further power up your character’s stats and build various skills for usage in battle. In order to unlock further builds of Zenigami Statues, the game incentivises you to backtrack into enemy specific stages amongst acts to garner enough money each stage to collect a certain number of said enemy or trap to build more statues. That would be rather okay to handle if it wasn’t for the game’s primary gripe, its difficulty.
As you progress through the stages, and parts of the level section off which declares battle amongst enemies and traps, situations can get very hasty very quickly. Meaning that as battles go on, considerably stronger HP damage dealing enemies in tandem with the many traps on the field turns the game from less a battle of strength and more of a dance with the dodge button to get a solid plan of how to succeed. Bosses also share this because of the multiple smaller enemies that respawn and the amount of damage a boss can do if not properly dodged. I’ve experienced my share of multiple deaths simply because of a small closed off space with a many traps and enemies on the screen at once, and the checkpoint system after each loss adds to a serious chunk of progression lost between stages.
Penny Punching Princess is a game that stems itself in its genre of choice rather nicely in terms of presentation and aesthetic but not without some of its caveats in gameplay. One of the best features that it has going for it, is its relative attraction of pick up and play because of the Switch’s portability and ease of starting up and choosing to do a few levels. However with its currently $39.99 USD price tag on the eshop, its a bit steep currently to fully recommend on its gameplay style and aesthetic alone.