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Developer:
Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: DS
Release Date: February 27, 2006

by Ryan Summerlin





Kind of like saccharin, bubble gum, and Barbie dolls, it comes in a pink package. Unlike saccharin, bubble gum, and Barbie dolls, the stuff inside this pink package is very, very good. Before you pass off Super Princess Peach as a no-boys-allowed, chicks-only version of the Mario universe, play it.


The story takes place on Vibe Island, which rests not far from the Mushroom Kingdom's shores. Otherwise, it's a cut-and-dry direct role-reversal of the standard Mario plot. This time around, Bowser and his minions manage to capture Mario, Luigi, and dozens of Toads with the aid of the Vibe Scepter, an artifact that alters folks' emotions. As the interactive opening credits play out (requiring you to use the DS's stylus and mic to perform various tasks), you'll watch Bowser's minions bungle things and unleash the Vibe Scepter's power, making nearly everyone and everything on Vibe Island uncontrollably moody.


Enter Princess Peach, immune to the scepter's powers. With complete control over her emotions, she sets out to rescue her friends from Bowser's clutches.


If the girl-saves-boys plot is too Sailor Moon for your taste, fret not. This is a Mario game through and through. As Peach, you'll run through levels, overcome platforming challenges, grab coins, and stomp any critter that gets in your way. For the first time in a non-turn-based RPG Mario game (that I know of), you'll also have a Zelda-style HP bar (in the form of hearts) and a Vibe Gauge (MP bar) which fuels Peach's four Vibes: Joy, Rage, Gloom, and Calm.


Managing Peach's moods (done via oversized colorful panels on the touch screen) is essential to overcoming Princess Peach's 40+ levels, each sprawling with hidden rooms, warp pipes, and secret areas. The Joy Vibe lets Peach fly and creates a whirlwind that blows away toxic mist and turns windmills. The Gloom Vibe gives peach a speed boost across falling bridges, and her tears can grow bean sprouts into beanstalks. Rage burns everything within half the screen of Peach, and Calm is a healing technique that gradually restores Peach's hearts until the first time she takes damage. All four techniques can drain your Vibe meter in a hurry, so keeping it filled by collecting Vibe Crystals is a must. As I was playing, I found that keeping the stylus out to quickly hit Vibe panels became troublesome, but the back of your finger works really well, so you can "thump" your Vibes on and off as quickly as necessary.


Helping out the Princess on her quest is a talking umbrella named Perry. (No, E. Gadd had nothing to do with this one.) Peach swings Perry like a sword to bash enemies and hides beneath Perry's canopy when she crouches to avoid some types of damage. Peach gets new 'brella techniques by either finding them in levels or buying them from the Toad Shop, which she can visit anytime between levels. The first (and cheapest) technique available in the Toad Shop is the Floatbrella, which lets her float for a bit in mid-air after a jump and glide across gaps SSBM-style. The technique is invaluable and makes overcoming Princess Peach's trickiest platforming tasks a bit easier. Other techs transform Perry into a ski-lift-type monorail and a submarine that has you blowing into your DS to fire lethal bubbles.


Also available in the Toad Shop are items that increase your Max HP and extend your Vibe Gauge. Working towards those crucial stat-ups will have you nabbing every coin in sight in ways the Mario series has never done before. In most Mario games, coins merely give you points, and getting a hundred of them gets you an extra life. Princess Peach gives you unlimited lives (No Koopa-1up trick required!) and doesn't keep score, so coins actually function as currency and are effectively experience points; you'll need every stat-up you can buy to beat Bowser at the end of World 8.


Perry also has one other crucial ability. After stunning an enemy by jumping on it, Peach can pick it up, then press Down on the control pad to have Perry suck it up Kirby-style. Exactly how an umbrella eats anything is beyond me, but the ability recovers a small chunk of your Vibe Gauge. Even stranger is what Perry does after you stand still after 10 seconds.... stranger still is that you can eventually purchase an ability that enables the standing-still sequence to recover your Vibe Gauge. Very strange, indeed.... (you'll just have to play the game to see what I mean).


Aesthetically, Princess Peach is a beautiful thing. The box may be pink, but the level design boasts a wide palette of colors and takes cues from Nintendo's Yoshi games, with a few enemy sprites coming directly from Yoshi's Island. (Sadly, no Yoshis have yet been spotted by this writer.) The original music is also great, original to Princess Peach and yet with a classic Mario feel. What's more, Princess Peach isn't really over after World 8. There are scads of unlockables, including 24 extra levels that are harder remixes of previous worlds, as well as tunes for the music room, stylus-driven jigsaw puzzles (you must find the puzzle pieces hidden in the levels before you can do them), and a trio of stylus-and-mic-driven minigames starring Toad. I couldn't help but notice that the background in "Toad Tote" looks an awful lot like Toad Town, leading me to believe it might have been a minigame left out of Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time.


Okay, so Princess Peach might not be the straightest game to play in public. I've raised a few eyebrows by playing Princess Peach in the break room at work, especially if I spontaneously start blowing into my DS during a submarine level. And some folks are bound to think you're... well, y'know. Say what you will about playing as a melodramatic Princess Peach... I'm sure you will; but if you're a devout Mario faithful such as I, you really don't want to pass this one up. It dashes a bit of action-RPG into the classic Mario recipe with delicious results. If you're a more casual Mario fan, or just afraid of bruising your masculine pride, you might be better off with New Super Mario Bros., which should be out by the time you read this article.


Final Grade: 90%


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