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Princess Peach: Showtime Review

A worthwhile theater trip

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Princess Peach is perhaps one of the most iconic video game characters without a myriad of gaming titles behind her. The last time the well-known princess had her own title and was the leading protagonist was nearly two decades ago with the Nintendo DS title Super Princess Peach. Unfortunately, that game was a bad depiction of the character, as the gameplay premise was that her emotions would give her powers, which, to put it politely, was not a good look for the royal highness. The heroine now has her own title on the Nintendo Switch with Princess Peach: Showtime, an adventure with charisma and charm, some neat boss battles, and a few technical problems.

Princess Peach: Showtime

In the same vein as other Mario spinoffs, the story is not too complicated, which makes it great to jump in and play immediately. Princess Peach receives a mystery flyer advertising a show at the famous Sparkle Theatre. Curious about seeing the show, Peach attends the performance with several of her trusted toads. Before they get a chance to redeem their premium tickets, a masked villain called Grape and her minions, The Sour Bunch, raid the theatre complex. However, these hecklers are not interested in an open house performance, so they conjure up a magical storm that blows off Princess Peach's crown and casts her theatregoer companions out of the building. Hard crowd to please. Peach then befriends Stella, the guardian of the Sparkle Theatre, and the pair decides to team up to restore the playhouse to its former glory.

The Sour Bunch have hijacked numerous theatre shows, turning them into dark, twisted renditions. The stories featured are generic and accessible—from a sleuth detective finding stolen items to a renegade cowgirl chasing down bandits. The game can be described as an action-adventure title, but it can flow between genres due to the nature of hopping to different theatre stages. A performance where you play as a cloak-and-dagger thief trying to infiltrate a building will have more platforming segments than a patisserie baking delicious treats. The gameplay is extraordinarily simple, like Yoshi Crafted World, which will come as no surprise as the same developer, Feel-Good, made both games. It may not have the same difficulty challenges as Super Mario Bros. Wonder, but this is not inherently bad, as it allows younger players to delve into various gameplay themes without being overwhelmed. In that regard, the gameplay delivers a healthy balance.

At the beginning of each stage play, Peach is her usual self and relies on her ribbon's powers to defeat The Sour Bunch, who are running amuck within these imaginary stories. The magical ribbon can also interact with environmental objects like plants to restore them back to life, or it can be used to help out Tweets, the name of the theatre citizens, with various tasks. Usually, by completing these actions, the next part of the level will open up.

Princess Peach: Showtime

When you progress further into the performance, you will come across a Sparkle, and with the help of Stella, Peach can transform into the story's hero. But it's not just her physical appearance that will change, as she will gain special abilities linked to the leading role, like running up walls as an agile ninja or controlling aquatic fish as a mermaid. Who knew an excellent wardrobe change could do all that? The costumes themselves feel well-designed. Mighty Peach, where she inherits superpowers, feels like she's been ripped out of a Tokusatsu show like Kamen Rider, and Peach's theif outfit heavily resembles Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon.

There are around ten transformations, and most of them are thoroughly entertaining, with surprisingly a lot of gameplay action. Some of the standouts are Swordfighter Peach, where you slice opponents with your longsword and utilise counterattacks to defeat tougher opponents, and Kung Fu Peach, where you kick anything and anyone that stands in your way. Even though defeating The Sour Bunch takes one button input command in these forms, I did not mind that the mechanics were not too elaborate, as everything was super engaging and fitted the gameplay style. Other transformations, like the patisserie baker and the figure skater, are less action-oriented and are more centred around mini-games, but again, there is enough interaction to hold your attention, even if these forms are weaker in comparison.

These transformation animations also feel highly inspired by the ones you would see in an anime magical girl show, like Cardcaptor Sakura or Pretty Cure. These segments should be one of the highlights, but these moments are slightly tarnished as lag and framerate instability occur whenever a transformation happens. Not only that, but the gameplay following right after the transformation will also have inconsistent input delays for the next minute or so, initially putting a damper on your new abilities.

Princess Peach: Showtime

In order to progress through the campaign, you will need to collect a certain amount of Sparkle Gems that are scattered throughout the level. Most of them are really easy to collect, but if you reach a specific part of the stage, you can no longer backtrack and will have to replay the entire show to collect the remaining ones. Even as a full-fledged adult, I'll admit I missed a few, and some of the shows can take up to twenty minutes to complete, so going back and trying to do one hundred per cent of everything will definitely add up on your playtime.

The shows themselves are brilliantly designed, and each costume transformation has three levels, which are usually based on the theme of the transformation. Ninja Peach, for example, will have levels centred around feudal Japan, so the area encompasses colourful Sakura Trees alongside shoji-sliding doors. There are also tiny details that everything is a mirage, and the whole thing is a theatre performance hidden within plain sight, like marionettes hanging and cardboard cutouts of trees and rocks, which you would see in a traditional rustic theatre hall. These small nods are not as obvious as the ones seen in Puppeteer or Little Big Planet, but these subtle nuances really add to the overall atmosphere.

After completing all the levels on the theatre floor, a boss battle will become available, and you will have to exchange Sparkle Gems to gain access. Fortunately, as long as you pick up Sparkle Gems as you go along, you should have enough to progress to the boss battle and will not have to worry about replaying stages. These battles are really well-thought-out and feel very creative. One boss featuring a funky bird called Disco Wing will drop disco balls, and you will have to exploit the shift in gravity to hit the opponent, whereas another boss battle featuring a snake called Light Fang reminds me of a kid-friendly version of Batman: Arkham Asylum Scarecrow nightmare boss, as you have to avoid being detected by the reptile as he shines a beaming light around the surrounding area.

Princess Peach: Showtime

The visuals are a sore point, and feel like it's a game from the early life cycle of the Nintendo Switch console. The resolution in docked mode is fine, but the quality was massively reduced when playing in handheld mode. The loading screens for all the different theatre shows are excessive as well, and when some of the levels last around ten minutes, it's a bit annoying. I couldn't help but think while playing that Princess Peach: Showtime would have been an excellent launch title for Nintendo's new console generation. All the different gameplay themes could have tapped into the console's new gimmicks in the same way Astro Playroom did for the PS5. This game style has the potential to be symbiotic with the console software, so seeing it squandered this way was a bit disappointing, as there are sparks of genius here at times.

Princess Peach: Showtime is undeniably aimed at younger players, but it does not isolate its whole audience like Detective Pikachu Returns did, as the gameplay keeps you engaged regardless of your age range. I also appreciated subtle things here, like how the story cleverly tears Peach away from her crown in the opening sequence, as it allows the monarch princess to embrace these new roles without the narrative feeling forced. It will take roughly eight hours to complete, which seems decent for its US $59.99 / £49.99 price tag. It's generally a good time, apart from some of the performance issues. I don't think this Mario spinoff title will have the same impact on Peach in the same manner Luigi Mansion and Wario Land had for those corresponding characters, but I do hope this title gets an encore performance, as a few tweaks to the formula and some patches could be the difference.

Our ratings for Princess Peach: Showtime on Switch out of 100 (Ratings FAQ)
Presentation
75
The theatre shows and costumes you transform into for the leading roles are well designed.
Gameplay
75
The difficulty level is similar to Yoshi Crafted World, which is incredibly easy. However, the gameplay is thoroughly engaging, and all the different theatre show themes stand out in their own way.
Single Player
75
The narrative is straightforward, like other games in the Mario universe. There is plenty of variety and the campaign offers a good amount of content for the asking price.
Multiplayer
NR
None
Performance
60
The technical visuals are disappointing and get worse in handheld mode. Lag and inconsistent framerate occur during transformations.
Overall
72
The first mainline game for Princess Peach in nearly two decades is a charming adventure with some solid ideas and excellent boss battles. Princess Peach: Showtime demonstrates that the heroine is worthy of being a leading protagonist on her own merit, despite a few performance issues.
Comments
Princess Peach: Showtime
Princess Peach: Showtime box art Platform:
Switch
Our Review of Princess Peach: Showtime
72%
Good
The Verdict:
Game Ranking
Princess Peach: Showtime is ranked #1107 out of 1980 total reviewed games. It is ranked #13 out of 34 games reviewed in 2024.
1107. Princess Peach: Showtime
1108. Stellar Blade
PlayStation 5
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