Princess Peach Showtime Review

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Welcome to the Sparkle Theater. With its flyer promising the chance to experience dreams, mystery and adventure, Princess Peach is excited to visit to check out its wonders – her loyal Toads wheeling her suitcase close behind. Plays chosen and tickets purchased, as they head to their seats the wicked Grape and her masked Sour Bunch crew suddenly attack and throw everything into disarray.

With the Sparkle Theater’s leading actors – known as Sparklas – missing in action after the chaos, its glittering guardian Stella is left distraught about the situation. The Sparkle sprite asks to team up with Princess Peach, her ribbon granting the power to interact and transform on stage. Your goal is to work your way up each floor of the Sparkle Theater, clearing Grape’s disruptive acting troupe from the plays they are interfering with to restore the building and its performances back to their pure-hearted magnificence.

In this unexpected battle between Sparkle versus Darkle, Princess Peach, in the absence of the Sparklas, must take the leading role in three-act plays which are each themed around the transformations that she can undertake. These acts are scattered across the Sparkle Theater’s multiple floors, and, while those on a particular floor can be beaten in any order, you cannot progress to the next without clearing those that you have access to first.

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The first floor, for example, will have you take to the stage as Swordfighter Peach, Ninja Peach, Cowboy Peach and Patissiere Peach, where, after grounding Disco Wing (the floor’s Darkle Boss fight) you can move on to the next where new transformations in Dashing Thief Peach, Figure Skater Peach and Detective Peach await you. Every transformation has been approached with tremendous thought, but, even if there were those that I didn’t find to be as memorable, Princess Peach Showtime has been structured in a way that its constant variety and desire to surprise always pushed me onwards in its adventure to return to or discover a new favourite.

None of the transformations are bad in that sense, but, by the time the credits rolled, there were clearly those that I had enjoyed far more than others – something that I’m sure will be different between all those who play the game. The action-orientated Swordfighter Peach and Kung Fu Peach were clear successes, as were Cowgirl Peach’s daring horseback train chases, Detective Peach’s crime scene sleuthing, Mighty Peach’s futuristic heroism and the stylistic flair and espionage of Dashing Thief Peach – for which I found it hard to shake the Phantom Thieves in Persona 5 Royal from my mind.

Whereas, despite their screen-lickingly sumptuous visuals, baking cookies and decorating desserts as Patissiere Peach felt like little more than an expanded Mario Party minigame, performing quick-timed spins and jumps as Figure Skater Peach lacked spectacle and Mermaid Peach, in which serenading schools of fish with her magical singing voice lets you guide them to solve puzzles, weren’t able to achieve the same standing ovation.

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That leads to perhaps the strongest criticism that can be directed at Princess Peach Showtime. Say that you enjoy sneaking your way through Ninja Peach’s three acts, your only choice, aside from conquering its shortlived Rehearsal Challenge stage that you can unlock, is to replay the same content. That each transformation delivers a solid enough gameplay experience is a commendable achievement, but I know that I won’t be alone in wishing that there was more content to elongate my enjoyment with those that I clicked most with.

The Darkle Boss stages are an applause-worthy standout based on their execution alone. Wonderfully inventive and playfully imaginative in the challenges that they wish you to overcome, the team must have had just as much fun in the design process as I did toppling them. But, now a repeated criticism, there are only a handful of them and I was left disappointed that there weren’t more encounters to defeat.

That said, I understand that this is an accessible action game created for a younger audience that Nintendo hopes to attract – evident in its largely one-button inputs – compared with the thirtysomething-year-old age bracket that I exist in. In that sense, it achieves what it sets out to be, and the relative ease to even its toughest challenges was surely counterbalanced with the hope that it will encourage most players to see it through until the curtain comes down.

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Longevity comes from hunting out hidden collectibles. There are secrets to uncover by striking a pose in suspicious locations, Sparkle Gems to recover, and a character called Balloona to rescue from the Sour Bunch’s bullying antics in each stage who will reward you with a Dress Ribbon or Stella Ribbon. There has been a wonderful effort to include customisation options for Princess Peach and Stella, that, once unlocked and purchased from the Ribboner’s shop, let you choose new dress patterns and coloured ribbons for each character to wear.

The game’s presentation on the whole is magnificent. The plays that Princess Peach and Stella leap into more often than not look like they would do if they were actual staged productions. Thought out in ways similar to the Paper Mario series or Yoshi’s Crafted World, in the colour-packed stages you will soon spot fake windows stuck on pop-up buildings, cardboard cutout trees, or Princess Peach riding a horse marionette puppet operated with strings. It’s a magical experience in places. However, irregular framerate inconsistencies can detract from its splendour and often at times where it’s unclear what could be causing the issue.

After her scene-stealing role in The Super Mario Bros. Movie, it was about time that the Mushroom Kingdom’s royal star had the spotlight placed on her own heroic prowess for a change. Princess Peach Showtime is more often a box office hit than a flop in delivering the experience it sets out to achieve, and, just like the best shows, it had us applauding for an encore as the curtain fell.

Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Nintendo

8/10
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