If there is one gaming company that will definitely bring you quirky games whether you want them or not, it’s NIS. Next to be added to their unique catalog is this rather interesting brawler, Penny-Punching Princess, available on Switch but also on the PlayStation Vita as well. Our very own James reviewed it a number of weeks ago, but I am here to add a second opinion and my thoughts as well. Oh, by the way, you can find his review right here.
Penny-Punching Princess focuses on the titular, yet nameless heroine, who is a determined young princess out to save her kingdom. You see, her father died and left the kingdom in a massive amount of debt, which has left almost everything to be taken by the evil Dragoloan empire. It’s up to the princess to rebuild her kingdom, gain new followers, and build up a ton of cash. The game definitely focuses on the benefits of capitalism, which sometimes seems to be the only thing that this game is really about.
The story is fairly light on narrative, and while the dialogue during cutscenes can be entertaining, not a lot really seems to happen in the game. The focus then is on the gameplay which is pretty good, but I feel like the princess, her trusty stag beetle servant, and the rest of the world could have been fleshed out a lot more. In the end, there’s not much to keep you going other than to beat the game and the grind to get more gear, which isn’t a bad thing, but know that before you get involved with Penny-Punching Princess.
Thankfully, that grind isn’t so bad as the actual gameplay mechanics are pretty solid. The game is a top-down brawler, and the princess has some basic attacks and dodges, plus the ability to push back enemies. This is definitely necessary as you’ll often need a bit of breathing room as sometimes hordes of enemies will be flocking towards you. There are EX moves that you can get depending on gear equipped, and some of those moves were definitely more useful than others.
The big thing in Penny-Punching Princess, and it’s love for capitalism, is the ability to bribe enemies. When you’re fighting enemies you can basically stun them and shake the right-analog stick, and get a bunch of money from them, plus the money they drop when you knock them out. After you have some money built up you can bring up your trusty calculator and target an enemy, and spend a certain amount of money to bribe them. This takes them off the screen, and then when you need them, you can trigger bribed enemies and unleash them upon their former compatriots.
On top of enemies, you can also bribe traps or healing pads, and assorted things to help you out in your battles. The only thing you cannot bribe are the bosses, which is fine, however, one thing that I used mostly where these special jackpots. You can dump some money into them to get health boosts or attack boosts, so when fighting bosses I would clear out some minor enemies then use my money to get some help to beat the bosses. I found the biggest issue though was when there were too many enemies on screen it was pretty tough trying to select certain ones to bribe. You can use your push move to make some breathing room, but it still got to be pretty annoying when you wanted to target a specific enemy.
Why else are you bribing enemies other than to make fighting a bit easier? Well as I mentioned you’re trying to rebuild your kingdom, so when you bribe enemies they become a part of your kingdom and you can see your new servants when you go back to your castle. What is key though is that they are used to make new gear for the princess and to help build up your stats and abilities. You will get points to spend to increase general stats, but to craft new gear you’ll need certain enemies for different pieces.
Now this, this is where the real grinding comes in. Early on in the game, it isn’t too bad, but later in the game, there are some crazy difficulty spikes and you need to do some serious grinding to build up the princess. I’m used to playing games like The Division or Monster Hunter where you are doing the same missions over and over again to get materials to craft and upgrade your stats, so Penny-Punching Princess grind wasn’t that new to me. However, what those other grinding games have is multiplayer, and I find going on repeated hunts with friends in Monster Hunter to be a blast, where Penny-Punching Princess is single-player so after a while, I was really getting tired of its grind.
The overall aesthetics of Penny-Punching Princess are pretty good. The game has a great 16-bit pixelated style, and the princess and enemies, from lowly skeletons to massive bosses, all look fantastic. However, the worlds seemed to be a bit muted in color or blurred out a bit sometimes. Not sure if this was intentional to make the character sprites pop, but it was a little distracting sometimes, especially on the tv in docked mode. The soundtrack was pretty good, with a couple standout tracks, but for the most part, they seemed to blur together and I would block them out after playing missions repeatedly. As well on the Switch, the game plays great in both handheld and docked, and I never had any issues with it, other than the aforementioned background blur.
All in all, if you like brawlers, and really like ones with interesting characters and aesthetics, then Penny-Punching Princess could be for you. It should be noted though that there is a lot of grinding, which also narrows down who may be a fan of this game. You can’t really just plow through the levels and beat the game without grinding, so be aware before diving in. It’s a pretty decent brawler with RPG aspects, but know what you are getting into before you fight back against the evil Dragoloan empire with cash and calculator in hand.
A Nintendo Switch review copy of Penny-Punching Princess was provided courtesy of NIS America for the purpose of this review.