A peachy keen adventure
Usually, for us die-hard Mario enthusiasts, saving Princess Peach is the name of the game when it comes to an adventure. After all, we started way back when with Pauline in Donkey Kong and moved up to Mushroom Kingdom clean up in Super Mario Bros. But occasionally, the script gets flipped and it’s about saving Mario instead. Super Princess Peach does just that and does a damn fine, if not stereotypically emotion-filled, job.
Starting things off with business as usual, Bowser invades the Mushroom Kingdom in a bid to steal Peach and wreak havoc. He succeeds but, changing things up, manages to capture Mario and Luigi instead and create chaos with the Vibe Scepter, which controls other beings’ emotions. Instead of hoping for a hero, Peach decides she must return the favor and sets out across eight worlds set on Vibe Island to save her plumber beau and his brother.
In her quest, Peach is assisted by a sentient umbrella named Perry. Perry imbues Peach with Vibe meter by defeating enemies and provides other techniques for her arsenal. And Vibe meter is really the other big mechanic here. On the DS’ bottom screen, there are four emotions that Peach utilizes to solve puzzles: Joy, Rage, Gloom and Calm. The emotions are innovative and easy to use, making controlling Peach a breeze. Rarely are the touchscreen controls an issue, and it’s easy to quickly switch among them on the fly.
Graphically, Super Princess Peach is cute and vibrant, which plays well for the vibe Nintendo is going for here. I expected that Vibe Island would look bright and colorful in most places and has a light, airy feel to it. The backgrounds pop and the character sprites are cute and weird in a good way. It carries the normal Mario charm, but there’s something about running around as Peach with the adorable Perry that looks and feels genuinely refreshing. The soundtrack is also something special. It has a groovy vibe to it, and all the tracks work well with the surroundings. Also, Peach’s voice acting is spot-on. Peach sounds exactly like what I would expect in modern games, and I particularly enjoyed the sound effects for the different emotions she employs.
My only bone of contention is small but a big part of the game: The Vibe meter. While a nice mechanic as far as gameplay goes, there was something about it that bothered me that I couldn’t articulate when the game was released in 2006, but I can now. I’m not overly fond of the concept that Peach is led around by manipulating her emotions. It’s the concept that women are emotion-driven creatures that jumps out at me as a little more than offensive. If we’re capable of saving our beau — which we wholly are, and it only took from 1985 to 2006 to show this — then we can do it without it implied that we’re wildly mood-swinging weirdos who are giddy at one moment and raging or crying at the next. It’s a little more than stereotypical misogynistic nonsense that quite frankly wasn’t necessary to attach to an already damsel-in-distress archetype trying to change the status quo. The game, on its technical merits, is strong enough to stand on its own, honestly.
Despite some wonky ideas about Peach’s emotional stability and fortitude, Super Princess Peach is a quaint and fun adventure. It’s not a game-changer in the Mario pantheon but it’s easy, accessible, and adorable. I can’t ask for more out of my hop ‘n’ bop done right. It’s just peachy.