Princess Peach: Showtime! – The Final Preview
11 mins read

Princess Peach: Showtime! – The Final Preview


Princess Peach: Showtime is not a Super Mario game. Let’s just get that out of the way real quick. It’s not a straightforward 2D platforming game where you hop on Goombas and Koopas, duck down warp pipes, and try to save the Mushroom Kingdom from Bowser. Which is fine because we’ve had a ton of those already, including last year’s excellent Super Mario Bros. Wonder, which featured Princess Peach as a playable character. No, Princess Peach: Showtime! is very much doing its own distinct thing and it looks and feels unique because of it. In fact, as far as I can tell based on what I’ve played so far, Mario isn’t anywhere to be seen here, which feels different than when Luigi got his first solo game and needed to rescue Mario, or when Super Princess Peach came to Nintendo DS and also had a plot centered around rescuing him.

There are similarities to the Mario Bros. games, of course. There’s some platforming, boss fights, hidden areas with collectibles, levels that can be completed and then replayed if you’re interested in 100%-ing them – which I very much am. It’s got the Paper Mario 2.5D approach where you can move up and down in a level rather than being locked into a 2D plane. There’s even a Super Mario 64-style hub world with doorways that lead to individual levels that can be played in any order, and completing them will unlock new floors with more new doors to open up. And it all comes together with a stage play aesthetic, meaning nearly everything in the background and foreground feels like it could theoretically be assembled out of wood and paint and puppet strings. Curtains swing to the sides, sets rotate and fall over, objects lower from the ceiling on ropes and pulleys, and an unseen audience claps and cheers from the stands. Interestingly enough, Princess Peach’s first appearance as a playable character was in Super Mario Bros. 2 for the NES, a game that featured a similar theater curtain and spotlight look on its character select screen.

But while Princess Peach: Showtime! takes some inspiration from the Mario games that came before it, once you start playing it you realize it plays much more like an action game with some platforming rather than the other way around. But don’t expect something with the depth and combo-heavy gameplay of a more intricate character action game like Bayonetta or Devil May Cry. Showtime is a much simpler game to control. You’ve got a jump button, an action button, and the shoulder buttons that let you pose in place to open new areas and trigger events. It clearly skews towards a younger audience, although a casual player will likely be able to reach the end of a level quite easily while it will take a more advanced one to do everything it has to offer and uncover all of its secrets, in typical Nintendo fashion.

Once you start playing it you realize it plays much more like an action game with some platforming rather than the other way around.

Speaking of fashion, that’s where this uncomplicated action game (with some platforming!) truly becomes its own thing. Peach has a ton of transformations that, on the surface, might seem like simple costume swaps, but instead act as entire thematic overhauls to not just her wardrobe and abilities but also the literal stage around her, including enemies, music, bosses and more. When a level involves a transformation for Peach, everything else joins in on the production. This is where the gameplay variety truly kicks in and makes each stage feel like something special – and something that would sit comfortably in Nintendo’s portfolio. Or jewel in their crown, I guess, pun intended. The first transformation I rushed for was Swordfighter Peach, a zippy, stylish hack ‘n slash makeover that turned Peach into Zorro and her surroundings into castles overrun with thick, spiny vines and armor-clad enemies. None of it was particularly challenging – I lost an occasional heart to overconfidence or negligence, rarely approaching a game over screen – but all of it was immensely satisfying, and again, for a game aiming for younger audiences, that’s a great vibe to maintain. Splash screens and slow-mo shots championed big cinematic moments that carried the same pomp and celebration as a Smash Bros. victory, and the way the level unfolded and evolved felt genuinely clever. I’m not much of a theater kid but it’s truly inspiring to see how much mileage Nintendo is getting out of this stage play concept and I can’t wait to see how it “plays” out for the rest of the game. That pun was not intended but I’m keeping it here.

Moving on, the Ninja Peach transformation stage was just as cool for totally different reasons. While Swordfighter was grounded and combat-focused, Ninja Peach alternated between fast-paced Metroid-style wall jumps, Titanfall-style wall running, and quiet, cautious stealth sections. Peach can blend into grass and thatched walls to pounce on enemies or dip beneath the surface of a pond with a bamboo breathing tube and take them out from below, nabbing a sparkle gem in the process. Speaking of sparkle gems, you’ll collect a bunch as you play and I suspect that’s where Showtime’s replayability will kick in, since it’s not totally obvious how some of them get unlocked. They’re not mandatory, but in a normal level playthrough where I assumed I’d been pretty diligent about getting them all I still ended up missing a bunch – which made me immediately want to get back in there to find them. Without countdown timers and other typical platform game annoyances to worry about, replaying levels for completionist purposes should be fun and breezy. Ninja Peach’s stage culminated in a big, very cool autoscrolling set piece on the top of a giant tsunami, although missing a gem during one of these and having to replay it could prove frustrating to younger gamers. But hey, that’s what parents are for.

Ninja Peach alternated between fast-paced Metroid-style wall jumps, Titanfall-style wall running, and quiet, cautious stealth sections.

Meanwhile, the Patissiere Peach stage acted as the biggest departure of the bunch I played, moving away from traditional side-scrolling levels or combat into something that could be comfortably dropped into a Mario Party minigame collection. Here the pace slowed down to something more relaxed – but still challenging – as I was tasked with stacking carts with cookies and decorating gigantic cakes with specific icing designs while a Parisian chef’s hat-sporting Peach carrying a giant piping bag attempted to appease a bakery full of judging coworkers. This level gave me a hunch that while Nintendo will get a lot of mileage out of each transformation, some of them may be smaller and more task-focused instead of your typical “get the the goal at the end”-style stage.

Next up was Cowgirl Peach, who played like Castlevania’s Simon Belmont meets Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles. Cowgirl Peach’s lasso focused on longer-ranged, occasionally puzzle-based combat that involved grabbing barrels and launching them at enemies between some platforming and lengthy horseback chase sequences. Hey, how big is this theater anyway? This level fit the stage play feeling perfectly since hastily painted wooden prop towns held up by stilts are a staple in wild west-based theater shows and films and was once again a great backdrop for Nintendo to tuck a bunch of clever ideas, charm, and personality into. Again, I think that’s where Showtime will really shine: giving kids a quick but gratifying interactive adventure through a specific world, complete with specific outfits, enemies, and challenges in the amount of time it would take them to watch an episode of Bluey.

Peach’s Figure Skater transformation basically screamed “Hey, does your child like the hit film Frozen?”

Speaking of stuff a kid in your life might be hooked on despite the ever-increasing Disney Plus subscription costs, Peach’s Figure Skater transformation basically screamed “Hey, does your child like the hit film Frozen?” right down to the string instrument-heavy winter motif and sparkly blue Elsa dress, albeit mercifully without the annoying songs threatening to ruin your Spotify algorithm. This section moved fast and largely centered around nailing the right button presses over alternating icons projected onto the ice, and despite my growing contempt for all things Frozen, I really dug how snappy it controlled. After all, you can’t really take on the whole theater concept without doing at least one wintery Christmas-inspired level, and since Showtime’s whole vibe feels fairly low stakes and chill, it’s consistently fun to see how much mileage Nintendo is getting out of a specific theme.

Based on what I’ve played, Princess Peach: Showtime is wholly its own thing, decoupled from the traditional Mario game entirely, and throughout my time with it I found myself really impressed with how different and special each stage looked and felt. More importantly, I didn’t find myself asking questions like “where is Mario?” or “when is Bowser going to show up?” because I didn’t need them to be there for this game to work despite Peach being inextricably connected to those characters for decades. I’m excited to see the rest of her unique transformations, or if some of my favorites like Swordfighter and Ninja Peach will get additional levels. Or, uh, second acts. Pun intended. Showtime is definitely for the younger crowd, but so are many of the best Nintendo games, and as an older Nintendo fan currently raising a younger Nintendo fan at home, I’m hoping the final game can keep up the momentum throughout its entire experience, because I really love what it’s doing so far.



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