Princess Peach: Showtime! is clever 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 Mushroom Kingdom’s monarch has had a starring role in her own game. Though Princess Peach: Showtime! vastly improves over its predecessor, Super Princess Peach, it feels a little too simple for a game two decades in the making.

Showtime has a simple premise: Peach goes to a play. But her excitement for community theater is quickly dashed as nefarious forces ruin all the productions, much to the dismay of the legions of Theets that run the shows. Teaming up with the magical hair ribbon Stella, Peach takes on Grape and her Sour Bunch with the power of main character energy. Each stage represents a different play starring Peach in one of 10 different roles, including the gallant Swordfighter Peach, the graceful Figure Skater Peach, or my favorite, Kung Fu Peach.

“Run up, get done up.” – Princess Peach, probably.
Image: Nintendo

Much like the dress spheres 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. Elementary, my dear Wario… with elementary being about as difficult as each stage gets.

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

Make no mistake, this is a game for younger children. And while that’s perfectly fine — I don’t play Mario games for their technical complexity — the exceeding simplicity of Showtime got boring really quickly.

The variety of Peach’s powers and how each level utilizes them ameliorated that boringness somewhat. I got a kick (heh!) out of fighting with Kung Fu Peach, timing my attacks just right to defeat a powerful mini-boss. (But that oversimplicity reared its ugly head again as there’s a visual prompt to tell you exactly when to attack.) The game’s lack of complexity meant I had to make it interesting to me in other ways, which led to me becoming obsessed with finding every sparkle in a level. Some sparkles were easy enough to locate; the game vibrates, and a spotlight shines on Peach when there’s a secret area to explore. Other hidden sparkles required being just a bit more observant, noticing sparkling lights shining behind a stage prop or venturing just a bit beyond the beaten path.

Showtime’s visuals scratched the magical girl itch that’s been inside of me since I first heard “Moon Prism Power, Make Up!” way back when I was 10. There are so many delightful details. The game never breaks the immersion that the levels Peach goes through are in fact actual plays. The “stage” often rotates to open up a new area, and creatures are represented as artfully crafted stage props. When Peach transforms into a mermaid, the stage doesn’t fill with water; rather, ribbons of paper-mache delineate dry land from open sea. It makes for a nice throwback to the iconography of Super Mario Bros. 3 or Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door — that all the adventures Mario and friends have had for over 30 years weren’t players controlling a character but performances for our entertainment.

Despite the myriad little details that make Showtime fun aesthetically, if not mechanically, the game definitely highlights the fact that it’s running on seven-year-old hardware. Nintendo games have been pretty good at getting around the graphical and computational limitations of the Switch. But in Showtime, they were so glaringly obvious that even I, someone who gives less than a shit about those kinds of things, couldn’t ignore them. There were a lot of moments when Peach struck a heroic pose where you could see the jagged edges around her model, and some loading screens were unforgivably long in this ninth generation of consoles. 

I love Princess Peach, but I have to extrapolate why I love her from the less than substantial roles she’s had over the last 40 years in a way one doesn’t really have to do with Mario. He bounces from being a silent, nigh rizzless protagonist in his early games to his latest game infusing him with the most personality he’s ever had. Mario games themselves have also run a wide gamut. They’ve been funny, serious, heartfelt, goofy, and sometimes tragic — and all with varying levels of technical and mechanical difficulty. 

But with Princess Peach, though she doesn’t lack personality, there’s a missing depth to her that I hoped Showtime would fulfill. It seems like Nintendo is less willing to experiment with her as they have with her cake-mooching lil’ friend.

Princess Peach: Showtime! is certainly an improvement over Super Princess Peach. This time around, she’s at the center of her own story and able to tap into all sorts of interesting powers that don’t play off the harmful stereotype of “women be having emotions.” But the two games feel too similar, too simplistic. Taken together, they give the impression that Nintendo doesn’t think a solo Peach game has an appeal outside of young girls, or worse yet, they don’t want to take the risk to see if she does.

To be clear, I don’t need a Princess Peach game to be just like a Mario one, and I certainly don’t need her games to include the trappings or members of the Mushroom Kingdom (except Daisy, justice for Princess Daisy!). I just wish Nintendo would let Princess Peach have the same range as Mario — after 40 years in his shadow, she deserves it.

Princess Peach: Showtime! is out now on the Nintendo Switch.



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