Inside Pulse 12

Review: Prinny 2: Dawn of Operation Panties, Dood! (Sony PSP)

Prinny 2: Dawn of Operation Panties, Dood!
Developer: Nippon Ichi
Publisher: Nippon Ichi
Genre: Platformer
Release Date: 1/11/2011

Two years ago, Nippon Ichi took a risk. Instead of making yet another tactical RPG, they decided to branch out of the genre entirely and make a platformer starring the comedy relief from the Disgaea universe of games – the Prinny. The game was also designed to be the most brutally hard platformer in existence. The end result was proof that Nippon Ichi isn’t just a RPG developer/publisher and even though I tend to loathe platformers, I found Prinny 1 to be quite fun, even if made some 8 and 16 bit platformers look easy.

So know here we are with the sequel. Is Operation Panties proof lightning doesn’t strike twice, or did Nippon Ichi manage to catch it in a bottle?

Let’s Review

1. Story

Like the first Prinny, Prinny 2 doesn’t have much of a story – especially if you compare it to NISA’s RPGs…which admittedly would be unfair. However, my issue is that in Prinny 2 you have the exact same plot that you had in Prinny 1, save that a desert is replaced by a pair of Etna’s underwear…which actually surprised me that she wore any. So once again you follow the exact same plot from beginning to end. Etna blames the prinnies for the loss of her goods and so the prinnies have to go through the Netherworld via six stages in whatever order you choose. There’s a mid-boss fight based on the order you played the first three stages in (You’ll most likely get Flonne) a “final fight” against the Phantom Thief (who is the generic replacement for the previous game’s Sir Sweet), and then you’ll do a few more stages and another boss fight. There are also boss fights at the end of each platforming stage, with each one named after an herb, spice, or cooking ingredient.

The game really doesn’t do a good job of explaining any of the Disgaea characters or background to newcomers save for a voiced over paragraph at the very beginning. If you haven’t played the SRPGs, you’ll most likely miss all of the in-jokes, and have no idea how these characters know each other or even their personalities since everyone is pretty wooden and two-dimensional here. The big issue I had was that the story and even the run-through of the game was a Mad Libs version of the original. Just names and slight details were changed. Very disappointing, especially as we all know Nippon ichi is better than this. Sure there’s a bit of comedy in here and if you haven’t played the first one, you won’t realize the plot and layout of the game is carbon copied from the original, but fans of Disgaea that are also extremely good at platformers will be forgiving of the hack job here.

Story Rating: Decent

2. Graphics

I was blown away by the original Prinny graphics. It’s the best visuals I had ever seen in a Nippon Ichi game and it was one of the prettiest 2D platformers ever. Two years down the road I’m still impressed by the graphical design save for two big issues. The first is that, like the plot, nearly all the visuals were taken from the first game. There are some differences in the level design and background graphics, but the enemies are almost all exactly the same visually. There were maybe a dozen new character designs for antagonists (most of which were bosses) and much like the story, I had this constant feeling of, “Haven’t I played (and reviewed) this exact same game before?”

The second issue is that unlike my time with Prinny 1, I was dismayed to encounter SLOWDOWN with Prinny 2. This is pretty much a dealbreaker in 2010 as slowdown really shouldn’t be happening in a game these days, and it’s something that WILL get you killed in Prinny 2 due to the already jacked up difficulty level and insanity you have to go through just to get from save spot to save spot to the end of the level. There’s nothing more frustrating than having memorized a layout so you know exactly what jumps, ducks and attacks you have to make and at what time (Which is the only way to get past this game) and then getting hit with unintentional slowdown, that throws off your plans completely as well as gets you killed in the process. FRUSTRATING.

So the game is VERY pretty, but it’s also a step down from the original. Prinny 1 was impressive because it was NIS trying something new and doing a great job with it. Prinny 2 is one of those spit out sequels and this is most noticeable here in the visuals. It’s also disappointing that the game also developed slowdown where the first one was free of it, but disappointing is a great way to sum up Operations Panties across the board.

Graphics Rating: Very Good

3. Sound

Nippon Ichi usually does a great job in this category. The music is often great and the voice acting tends to be tremendous. Here…not so much. Aside from Flonne’s voice actress, everyone sounds like they are phoning it in. I was especially surprised by Michelle (Etna) Ruff’s “Ben Stein’ing” of her lines since she normally does a great job. Then there’s Laharl. I don’t know what happened here but I fully expect to see a revolt by Disgaea fans across the internet (and probably straight onto NISA’s forums) about this. Thankfully, 99.99% of the people who pick up this game won’t ever encounter Laharl, but man, it’s so bad you have to wonder what happened to his original voice provider. As well, I liked the concept of all the prinnies having distinct voices from each other here. However, most of the people providing the voices don’t do a very good job. A lot of the voice acting is cringe-worthy. I don’t know. Things just didn’t come together here, whether you judge the game by NIS’ usual standards or just when compared to Prinny 1.

The soundtrack is quite fun. My favorite track is easily the one that takes Christmas music and puts a Netherworld twist to it. Creepily awesome. Sadly, you won’t be able to hear much of the music over the din from the game itself and generally when you can hear the music, you’re tuning it out or turning it off so you can concentrate on the game at hand. And yes, before you ask, some of the tracks in the game are recycled from the original.

So yes, the drastic drop in the voice acting quality really brings the quality of this category down, as does some of the music being rehashed, but the new tracks are fun and catchy. It’s a decent job overall, but again, the game just feels like it was spat out for a quick sequel.

Sound Rating: Decent

4. Control and Gameplay

Now, this is the real stinker of the game. Sure the first game had the occasional issue, and lots of people took issue with some of the jump controls, but for the most part, Prinny 1 played like just about any other 2-D platformer out there, with some slight differences. Much like the rest of this game though, Prinny 2 is a huge step down in terms of quality, which still boggles my mind considering it’s a carbon copy of the original. All I can say is that where the original game had some noticeable control issues, Prinny 2 has the same issues but turned up a few notches to the point where 75% of the times I died were because the controls stopped working or outright ignored my input compared to the other 25% where it was completely and totally my fault. There is nothing more aggravating than seeing the end of the level and your “husky hip attack” (which is needed to activated the level gate) stops working and then why you try for the fourth time to get the game to recognize your jump +X commands, you get hit by an attack and die. I’m sorry, but this is unacceptable now matter how you slice it. It gets even worse with this particular attack as you need it to hit bosses on their heads in order to stun them and do damage. Unfortunately if you touch the boss in any other way, you take damage. Now with the knowledge that the attack rarely works (I actually got out a piece of paper and kept track of how often it worked after a while. 62% success rate after two playthroughs. That’s it. That’s also horrible by any standard), it’s no surprise that you will be killed repeatedly simply because the controls for this particular move, and many others, flat out suck. I tried the game on three different PSPs and even compared popped Prinny 1 into each of them. Universally you could tell Prinny 2 was sluggish and unresponsive compared to Prinny 1 with special attacks. So basically, you have a game that is designed to purposely be insanely hard and frustrating to the point where most gamers will swear loudly at the thing and throw it away (or even break it depending on anger management issues) and then it’s coupled with accidentally unresponsive controls. In effect, Nippon Ichi has made a game that will only serve to speed people on their way to stress induced ailments and illnesses. That’s not very cool.

There are several other control bugs, such as aiming your jumps. We can further break this down to the game sometimes not recognizing your input for a double jump, the game sometimes oddly giving you as third jump (even though that’s supposed to be impossible and only ever happens when it will lead to your death), the inability to really aim your jump at some points, and worst of all – jumps aren’t universal. By this, I mean that if you jump from the same exact spot ten times, you will most likely end up in two or three very slightly different end points. Again, I find this unacceptable as in platformers, just being a pixel off can mean death, and when a game like this is left up to chance in that situation, that’s just bad programming across the board. Finally this is the first ever 2-D platformer I can honestly say has camera angle issues. This means that sometimes things from offscreen can hit you and you can see the attacks coming until it’s too late. Now the game gives you the ability to look up and down from your current location, but these attacks happen from the left or right. This is especially true with a particular boss fight where the attacks will not only come from off screen, but will home in on your location. Get ready to die a lot there.

So other than these issues, the game is pretty much a standard platformer, albeit it one straight from hell. You have to navigate some pretty long levels, jumping and stomping on things along the way. You also have a few other attacks like your Prinny blades, a Prinny barrage that does a lot of damage at the cost of multiple lives (You have to lose all 1,000 of your lives and start over to get this ability though) and the Prinnikaze, which works about as often as your husky hip attack and has some of the stupidest control layouts for a move that I’ve ever seen, and I’ve played every SNK fighter ever. The Prinnikaze is jump + square + R, which is an exceptionally awkward way to have your hand sit on the PSP. Why not just have you jump and then just hit R. It’s not like you ever use the trigger for anything else.

The bottom line is that Prinny 2 is basically a copy of Prinny 1, but it’s a copy in the same way Bizarro is a copy of Superman – an obvious and fundamentally flawed copy. The game suffers from even more issues from the original and only the most fanatical Nippon Ichi fan or someone who pretty much loves every platformer ever made will be forgiving of the sharp downgrade in quality here.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Bad

5. Replayability

One thing Prinny 2 really has going for it is replay value. Well, that’s if you can actual last long enough to get through the game. You have multiple optional mid-bosses ranging from Flonne to Sir Sweet. You have three extra stages you can unlock through finding Lucky Dolls. You even can unlock Prinny Laharl and Prinny Asagi as playable characters in the main game depending on if you get them as your mid-boss and you find the orb in one of the stages that unlocks the “facility.” You can also unlock a second game called Asagi Wars if you are extremely lucky and or good at this genre of games. The trick is you have to get all ten “torn tickets” from the slightly hidden jumping challenges above the hub after every level. If you miss even one, or you don’t realize they are there until later in the game, you are screwed out of the ability to play the full version of this game. This is totally awful in my opinion, especially as NIS has plugged Asagi Wars so strongly. To have it be out of reach of nearly everyone who picks this up simply is bait and switch marketing in my opinion.THANKFULLY there is a code to let you play a “preview” version of AW. Triangle square x triangle square x circle. You’re welcome.

Besides all this, you can play the first six stages (and two tutorials) in any order. The catch is that the later you put a stage off, the harder it will be. This means that you can play the game in a drastically different fashion each time and get a very different experience. Again, that assumes most gamers are even going to be able to complete the game once… Still, if you find that you really like the game, Nippon Ichi has at least loaded the thing up with plenty of reasons to come back to it.

Replayability Rating: Good

6. Balance

If you are looking for any semblance of balance, you need to look elsewhere. The Prinny games are purposely designed to leave you frustrated and swearing like a sailor. They are the Wizardry IV of platformers and as such, they are pretty inaccessible to most gamers – especially if you’re looking to beat the game. Much like the original, even pretending this game is remotely balance, or has a learning curve, or makes even the slightest attempt to be user friendly, would be inane, so I’ll be up front and say that this game will make nearly everyone who plays it, its bitch. This is a game where the only way to get past is through dying a lot and memorizing exactly where and how you died and then reacting to the threat before it actually occurs. Even then, you’ll have to rely on an inordinate amount of luck to see you through thanks to iffy controls and slowdown.

The game offers a “baby” mode, which Nippon Ichi claims to have put in due to the complaints about how hard the original is. Don’t be fooled though. Baby mode is just the same as easy on the previous games save for the fact you can now enter break mode (extra attacks and damage) when you hit a checkpoint and you have diapers instead of scarves to act as “lives” for each of your 1,000 prinnies. Oh, and you get several extra )but breakable) blocks to help with some jumping challenges. That’s really it. It doesn’t really underscore the true problem that people had with the original game, or this one, which include command detection, enemies and control over your jump direction.

In what might be the stupidest move in the game, after you beat the game you can switch your regular break mode(which just does extra damage and breaks platform blocks far easier, so it’s more a curse than a blessing) with “classic” break mode, which doesn’t increase your damage, but lets you earn extra diapers/scarves so your Prinny can last longer without dying. What is the point in giving you an easier way to play the game after you beat it? Classic should have been the default break mode and the higher damage mode should have been the unlockable as it would give gamers more of a challenge to beat it a second time. This is just a nice example of how FUBAR’d Operation Panties is.

Basically, there is no balance whatsoever to this game, and as much as I love insanely hard games, I also hate poorly designed things. Sadly, Operation Panties is both.

Balance Rating: Worthless

7. Originality

As mentioned throughout this review, Operation Panties is little more than a cut and paste job of Can I Really Be the Hero? with a few changes, such as level layout and a ramping up of boss fight difficulty. When you have the same plot, same characters, same exact progression, same graphics and same basic everything (albeit it not as good), it’s really hard to give a positive score for originality here.

However, there is Asagi Wars, as nigh unobtainable as it is for most gamers. It’s pretty weird and it’s like an old school Contra style shooter. Honestly Nippon Ichi would have been better off to offer AW as a 5-10 dollar DLC title for your PSP. That way everyone could play it and they’d have made more money in the process. Everyone would be a winner instead of well, the exact opposite that we have now.

I’m going to be kind here and give the originality score a thumbs in the middle since there is the Asagi Wars option and this is only NIS’ second ever platformer. I just wish they’d have been innovative once again instead of basically spewing out the same exact game for a second time.

Originality Rating: Mediocre

8. Addictiveness

Look, the vast majority of gamers are going to suck at this game. It’s unrelenting, insanely difficult, and it has some control issues that can’t be denied. As such, most gamers are going to put it down before they even reach the halfway point. The bottom line is that most people aren’t going to find this fun for whatever reason. For myself, I got extremely bored with the game after my second battle with Phantom Thief simply because of how much of the game was an exact repeat from the previous title. It wasn’t the difficulty that made me want to put Operations Panties down – it was the complete cookie-cutter operation that the game consisted of. Sure I swore a lot at the game, but almost all of that was when the controls didn’t respond rather than, “Oh noes, the game am too hardz.” That’s a bad sign for any game.

Truthfully, people are going to put Operations Panties rather quickly. It’s just one of those games that does its best to make itself utterly inaccessible to the majority of gamers, and those that do “get it” will be disappointed with the fact it’s basically the same exact game as the first. Only a small niche group of gamers will really enjoy this and stick with it as it’s just a crappier version of the first game with more noticeable flaws.

Addictiveness Rating: Bad

9. Appeal Factor

There’s just not much of an audience here. Sure, people like their 2-D platformers, but do they want a game that makes them angry and frustrated rather than gives them a challenge? No, not realy. DO people really want a game that is exactly like the previous one they already played? Only sports gamers. I’m having a hard time thinking of who the audience for Operation Panties would be other than an odd cross section of Nippon Ichi faithful, extreme platformer fans and escapees from an insane asylum. That’s not a huge audience by any stretch of the imagination.

Now that being said, I’m sure a lot of gamers will do with Operations Panties as they did with Can I Really Be the Hero?. They’ll pick it up, fool around with it, find it cute but hard, and then never pick it up again. Right now I only know of two people that actually beat Can I Really Be the Hero? and that’s myself and D.J. And you know what? Neither of us are big fans of the genre. All the people I know that consider platformers their favorite genre? They either didn’t beat the game or even pick it up. That’s telling and/or damning, depending on how you look at it. No, there really isn’t going to be much of an audience for Prinny 2, especially since you can pick up the first game for less and it doesn’t have the extra negativity this game has going for it.

Appeal Factor: Poor

10. Miscellaneous

Operation Panties is basically a great example of how NOT to do a sequel to a decent hit. You DON’T basically make the same exact game in every way from the plot to layout and even some boss fights. You DON’T give gamers worse controls than in the first game, especially when there were complaints about that in the original. You DON’T make the game inaccessible to all but a small portion of gamers, especially when that eats into your profit and fan base. You DON’T do a huge marketing push for a second game that is included with the title and then make it exceptionally hard to unlock it. If you’re going to push the unlockable as the big selling point you can’t make it something that is easily missed AND hard to achieve once you figure out what you need to do. Now, Prinny 2: Dawn of Operation Panties, Dood! is a misfire in nearly every way. Nippon Ichi is better than this. Hell, Last Rebellion is better than this. I’m deeply disappointed by the end result for Prinny 2, especially after how good Prinny 1 was.

Miscellaneous Rating: Mediocre

The Scores
Story: Decent
Graphics: Very Good
Sound: Decent
Control and Gameplay: Bad
Replayability: Good
Balance: Worthless
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Bad
Appeal Factor: Poor
Miscellaneous: Mediocre

Short Attention Span Summary
Prinny 2: Dawn of Operation Panties, Dood! is a lackluster cookie cutter of a game that is all but a clone of the original (and far superior) Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero?, except it does everything worse. Controls are far less responsive, there are some severe move detection issues, slowdown occurs, and the game is purposely to designed to alienate all but a very small fraction of gamers, ensuring that few people will actually finish the game. The voice acting had definitely taken a turn for the worst, ranging from Laharl’s voice being really off to the other actors phoning it in compared to previous roles in the Disgaea universe. Finally, Asagi Wars, while being heavily promoted as a major feature of the game, is all but impossible to get for the majority of people who pick this up, which basically boils down to bait-and-switch marketing on NISA’ behalf. Honestly, just stick with the first Prinny game. It’s better in every way and it’s cheaper since it’s two years old. Unless you want a game that the vast majority of you will barely touch and either never pick up again or just trade in, avoid Prinny 2.