Princess Peach: Showtime! is smart and playful, but Peach deserves more

It’s been 35 years since the princess debuted as a playable character in Super Mario Bros. 2 and another 19 years since the monarch of the Mushroom Kingdom starred in her own game. although Princess Peach: Showtime! significantly improved compared to its predecessor, Super princess peachit feels a little too simple for a game twenty years in the making.

Show Time has a simple premise: Peach goes to a play. But her enthusiasm for community theater is quickly quashed when nefarious forces ruin all the productions, much to the dismay of the legions of Theets who run the shows. Teaming up with the magical hair ribbon Stella, Peach takes on Grape and her Sour Bunch with the power of the main character’s energy. Each stage represents a different play with Peach in one of ten different roles, including the brave Swordfighter Peach, the graceful Figure Skater Peach or my favorite, Kung Fu Peach.

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Just like the clothing areas of Final Fantasy X-2, the different outfits for each role convey special powers that help Peach defeat her enemies. Mighty Peach packs a powerful punch, Ninja Peach throws kunai, while Detective Peach uses environmental clues and the power of deduction to solve mysteries. Elemental, my dear Wario… elemental is about as difficult as any stage can be.

Peach fights, skates, bakes or lassoes her way through each floor of the theater, collecting “sparkles” that are used to unlock that floor’s boss fight. There’s no real platforming challenge to speak of, and the toughest thing the game gets is how creatively it hides sparkles on certain levels. The game is also extremely tolerant in combat, with enemies and bosses going down with one to four hits. Even then, for tricky sections, there is an option to spend coins to completely complete the level.

Make no mistake: this is a game for younger children. And while that’s fine, I don’t play Mario games because of their technical complexity – the extraordinary simplicity of Show Time became boring Real fast.

The variety of Peach powers and the way each level uses them softened that tedium somewhat. I got a kick (heh!) out of fighting Kung Fu Peach by timing my attacks just now right to defeat a powerful mini-boss. (But that oversimplicity reared its head again, as there’s a visual prompt that tells you exactly when to attack.) The game’s lack of complexity meant I had to make it interesting to me in other ways, which mattered led me to become obsessed with finding every sparkle in a level. Some of the glitter was easy enough to locate; the game shakes and a spotlight shines on Peach when there is a secret area to explore. Other hidden glitter required you to be a little more observant, noticing sparkling lights shining behind a stage rack or venturing just a little off the beaten path.

Show Time‘s images tickled the magical girl itch that’s been in me since I first heard “Moon Prism Power, Make Up!” heard. a long time ago, when I was ten. There are so many beautiful details. The game never breaks the immersion that the levels Peach goes through are actually actual plays. The ‘stage’ often revolves around opening up a new area, and creatures are presented as artfully crafted props. When Peach turns into a mermaid, the stage doesn’t fill with water; instead, ribbons of papier-mâché demarcate the dry land from the open sea. It makes for a nice return to the iconography of Super Mario Bros. 3 or Paper Mario: The Millennial Door – that all the adventures Mario and his friends have had over the past thirty years have not been players controlling a character, but performances for our entertainment.

Despite the countless little details that make it Show Time Aesthetically pleasing, if not mechanically, the game certainly highlights the fact that it runs on seven-year-old hardware. Nintendo games are pretty good at getting around the Switch’s graphical and computational limitations. But in Show Time, they were so obvious that even I, someone who doesn’t care about such things, couldn’t ignore them. There were many moments where Peach struck a heroic pose where you could see the jagged edges around her model, and some of the loading screens were unforgivably long in these ninth generation consoles.

I love Princess Peach, but I have to extrapolate why I love her from the less substantial roles she’s played over the last 40 years in a way that doesn’t really involve Mario. He goes from a silent, almost wrinkle-free protagonist in his early games to his latest game, which gives him the most personality he’s ever had. Mario games themselves also have a wide range. They were funny, serious, heartfelt, wacky and sometimes tragic – all with varying levels of technical and mechanical difficulty.

But Princess Peach doesn’t lack personality, as I had hoped Show Time would fulfill. It seems like Nintendo is less willing to experiment with her than with her pie-meddling friend.

Princess Peach: Showtime! is definitely an improvement over Super princess peach. This time she’s at the center of her own story and can tap into all kinds of interesting powers that don’t go against the harmful stereotype of “women have emotions.” But the two games are too similar, too simplistic. Taken together, they give the impression that Nintendo thinks a solo Peach game won’t appeal to young girls, or worse, they don’t want to take the risk to see if it does.

To be clear, I don’t need a Princess Peach game to be just like Mario’s, and I certainly don’t need her games to feature the attributes or members of the Mushroom Kingdom (except for Daisy, justice to Princess Daisy!). I only wish Nintendo would give Princess Peach the same reach as Mario – after 40 years in his shadow, she deserves it.

Princess Peach: Showtime! is now available on Nintendo Switch.

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