Princess Peach Showtime! A Bright, if Flickering, Spotlight

The Princess does the saving this time

Princess Peach Showtime! A Bright, if Flickering, Spotlight
Source: Press Kit.

Allow me to open with a confession: I was never that big of a Mario fan. Not to say I hate the franchise but it wasn’t on my radar as much as other franchises while I was growing up. Over the years, as I got to play more of the games and experience other media related to the Italian Plumber, I did open up to a lot more of the magical Mushroom Kingdom. From finding appreciation for Bowser thanks to a YouTube Machinima or Luigi becoming a favorite thanks to the Luigi’s Mansion series, not to mention the games themselves being fun, I am a bigger Mario fan now than I was then.

However, one aspect of the franchise I didn’t grow attached to is Princess Peach. She’s the damsel in distress, and nothing more. I know she was playable in Super Mario 3D World and Super Mario Bros. Wonder, but that’s two games out of how many in which she’s just a prize at the end? Other adaptations such as comics and the recent animated movie gave her a more permanent role, which is great on paper, but at least in the latter she felt like a generic girl boss without any actual character. Mario is your traditional hero, Luigi is the loveable goofball who’s secretly brave, Bowser is an ego-manaic, and Peach…is the girl you save. 

So it came time for Peach to get her own time in the spotlight (quite literally) in Princess Peach Showtime! for the Nintendo Switch. While Peach did get her own game before, in Super Princess Peach, Showtime! feels more like her own game. I should stress that I haven’t played Super Princess Peach, but it seemed more like a Mario game with Peach rather than a Peach game. In fact, I have to give praise that from the second you boot the game up, it feels like a Peach game. Just like how Luigi’s Mansion felt like it was Luigi’s game, this feels like Peach’s game.

Source: Press Kit.

Just like how Luigi’s Mansion felt like it was Luigi’s game, this feels like Peach’s game.

Showtime! begins with Peach and her fellow Toads arriving at The Sparkle Theater in order to catch some of the latest hits. But trouble strikes, of course, as an evil witch named Grape takes over the theater and traps Peach inside while also kidnapping the star Sparklas away from their plays. Knowing the theater depends on her, the princess teams up with the theater’s guardian, Stella, and the two embark on a journey through all the plays in the theater in order to save it from Grape’s rule. While the plot is nothing special, it gets the job done well enough.

Peach may not be a fleshed-out character, but she works well as the audience surrogate, allowing the players to connect to the world and experience it from her point of view. Stella is your typical guide character, but she’s not annoying or intrusive and it does feel like her friendship with Peach is genuine. Grape is a decently hammy villain. The story hits all the parts it needs to hit and as a fan of Broadway musicals, I couldn’t help but smile to see the whole game themed around that idea, which gave it a unique look.

Throughout her adventure, Peach enters 10 different theater settings, each with its own mini-plot. From a detective mystery to an action sci-fi adventure, the scenarios are varied and keep you wondering what adventure you’ll be taking on next. While not all the levels are winners, they all have beautiful set designs to distinguish them and the usage of stage props and even spotlights help to sell the sensation that you're watching a stage show. From the curtains of the stage signaling the boundaries of the level to the background details looking like cardboard, this is a very unique setting and look for a game and I really enjoyed it.

Sadly though, the visual presentation has one major flaw that breaks the immersion and destroys everything the game was going for: the frame rate. This game has no consistency at all when it comes to the frame rate and more than once it brought the game to the state of a slideshow. It doesn’t happen all the time, and for the most part, the experience is smooth, but when it happens, you notice how terrible it looks. This is the same console that ran Super Mario Odyssey with a smooth framerate seven years ago! What happened here? The game does have a great visual design and it’s a shame that a lack of optimization lets it down.

Source: Press Kit.

While not all the levels are winners, they all have beautiful set designs to distinguish them and the usage of stage props and even spotlights help to sell the sensation that you're watching a stage show.

Gameplay is the really interesting point here. What do you do in a game where you take control of Princess Peach? Plenty of things as it turns out. For starters, Peach isn’t all that versatile on her own. She can run, jump, and attack using Stella’s power. That’s it. However, each level will eventually give you access to one of Peach’s 10 possible transformations. While the transformations grant Peach more abilities, most of them are context-sensitive and don’t differ much from how Peach functions in her normal form. There’s a different visual flair, but the controls don’t change beyond the basics. This has both its pros and cons.

On the positive side, it keeps the gameplay simple and easy to get into. A new transformation doesn’t mean you have to get used to a whole new list of moves or adjust your muscle memory for every level, so it keeps the experience consistent and flowing. On the negative side though, it means that the levels differ visually but not much in terms of the gameplay which could get stale after a while. This isn’t that big of a problem since the levels tend to be at the right length, but at some point I felt like the fun I had at the start began to fade. I did want to see the game to the end and I don’t regret the time I spent clearing it, but the feeling of excitement ended up turning into an obligation to finish what I started.

Let me be clear: there is nothing wrong with a simple game. I have a lot of games which I find easier than most but I enjoy them because they’re still engaging. Princess Peach Showtime!, at some point, just loses the engagement. It’s still fun, but it doesn’t feel like the game really reaches the limit of each transformation. Whether or not they tried to keep everything consistent or were just aiming to make a simple game anyone could enjoy, I feel like the game never reached the top of its potential. 

A special shoutout goes to the side activities the game has to offer; in every level Peach can find a certain number of collectibles in the form of sparkle gems and ribbons. The ribbons are used to transform Peach’s dress into Stella’s colors, which might be nice to people who are interested in that stuff but it has no impact on the game. Sparkle Gems are the main thing you’d want to be looking out for. Some are hidden, some are rewarded for fulfilling special tasks, and some are rewarded for just beating the level. While a certain number of those are required to beat the game, you need less than half of the maximum amount in order to reach the ending.

While it is nice to know you don’t have to collect every possible gem in order to progress through the story, it also makes the optional challenges feel redundant. If I’m getting nothing out of collecting more of these things then why bother going after them? I bring this up because, kind of like Crash Bandicoot in comparison to something, trying and going after all of the sparkle gems adds a bit more meat to the game than it would have otherwise. But while the above-mentioned example has a reward for going the distance, Princess Peach Showtime! doesn’t. You’re most likely going to have enough of the sparkle gems if you just play through the game normally and since there’s no reward for getting them all, why bother with it? 

If you were to ask me if I’d recommend Princess Peach Showtime!, my short and quick answer would be: “Yes, but…”. Do not misunderstand me, I enjoyed the game, quite a lot even. The premise is fun and unique, I love the game's theme, and despite being simple it was a lot of fun to go through. However, I can’t ignore the choppy presentation, the lack of innovation as the game goes along, and side missions that felt arbitrary and were poorly managed without any reward for your troubles. I guess I am recommending the game but it’s also a very cautious recommendation.

Source: Press Kit.

Looking at the entire package, this is definitely a game you should give a shot, especially if you were clamoring for Peach to get a starring role. I’d even recommend this to people who aren’t skilled gamers and would like to try and get their feet wet. However, if you’re a seasoned Mario fan who’s interested in this out of obligation to the franchise, it may be best to wait for a price drop. 

What we have here is a good game that will deliver the fun. It’s a shame, however, that some problems are preventing it from taking center stage.


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