A key art for Princess Peach: Showtime on Nintendo Switch

Review: Princess Peach: Showtime (Nintendo Switch)

This game had me at "Cowgirl Peach"

8 mins read

Princess Peach must be a difficult character to work with now. Originally she was the archetypal damsel in distress, which made for a convenient single-line narrative to power Super Mario Bros., but that trope hasn’t done so well over time. Where Princess Zelda has been relatively easy to empower without undermining Link’s role as the series hero, as both are positioned as critical cogs with their own roles to play in their epic fantasy, if Peach can deal with Bowser herself there’s no further need for Mario at all in her stories. Princess Peach: Showtime is a nice solution to this and a Mario-free redefinition of Peach, without needing to change the fundamentals of her character.

Peach is a highly feminine character, complete with big, elegant dress and delicate mannerisms. You can’t mess with that without actually undermining her, so Nintendo’s found a clever way to allow her to be an action hero while still also remaining that same princess. Peach is a magical girl now. In each stage of Showtime she’ll come across a shining patch of land. By stepping onto that, she’ll adopt a costume and, with that, a persona. Pastry Chef Peach was to be expected. She “baked a cake” for Mario all those years ago as a way of enticing him to her castle for a date, remember? Figure Skating Peach is also unsurprising, we all assumed that Peach was an excellent ice skater as a result of her being an unemployed member of the 1%, and therefore a person with a lot of time for challenging hobbies like ice skating.

But other costumes and transformations come out of left field a little. Mermaid Peach, Ninja Peach, Sword Fighter Peach and… Cowgirl Peach? We finally get to see and play with more thoughtful and/or action sides to our princess, and I’ll not lie, I rather like seeing Peach dressed up like she’s a country music singer, hat and all.

Princess Peach Showtime screenshot

The broad range of different takes on Peach is further explained by the setting of this adventure – it all takes place in a theatre (a place a princess like Peach would indeed spend a lot of time) – and each of the levels is presented as a play on the stage that Peach gets involved with. Now she’s not so much a “multifaceted hero” but rather an actor with a very broad range. Some of the levels are more combat-orientated than others. When Peach is a Ninja she needs to stealth around. When she’s the Pastry Chef she doesn’t fight at all, but rather decorates cakes. When she’s the Figure Skater, she needs to perform tricks in time with the music.

These aren’t really discrete “mini-games” in the same way that we might think of as in, say, a WarioWare or Mario Party game, but rather just the typical seamless variety that Nintendo is well known for sticking into its platformers. And for the most part, all of this is still a platformer. It’s just also an enormously clever way for Nintendo to play around with identities for Peach and, potentially, build on some of these in future games ahead.

As you can probably guess, this is a game that has been developed with all ages firmly in mind. This means most of the levels are quite simple. Even the combat-heavy ones, like when Peach adopts the Sword Fighting persona, give the players plenty of time to make their parries and defeat the enemies. No one’s going to chalk this up as a “Dark Souls clone.” With that being said, there’s a lot here for adults to enjoy too. The level design and variety between costuming is Nintendo at its whimsical best, and the humour that’s packed in is surprisingly adult at times. It’s often said that the best kids’ entertainment will also amuse adults, who are often forced to sit through it with the kids, and the overall experience is better for everyone if everyone’s having a good time. The runaway success of Australia’s Bluey, for example, is heavily thanks to the droll Australian humour that will make just about everyone laugh. Parents will enjoy playing Princess Peach: Showtime alongside their kids for similar reasons.

A screenshot of Princess Peach Showtime

There is also some additional challenges for completionists, with plenty of treasures to track down in each level, and not every one of those treasures will be found through the normal course of completing a level. More than a few times I had to scour and experiment pretty heavily to fully complete a level. The fact that levels are relatively short made it easier to want to jump back in and find everything. The rewards aren’t really worth it – just some gallery items, but it’s fun to putter about the levels anyway.

Really my only criticism of Peach: Showtime is that the rewards for playing are just not there. There is a costume shop, but it only allows you to buy different patterns for Peach’s dress. This makes sense because, again, the magical girl stuff as been baked into the game as a consequence of Peach: The Performer, and outside of those performances she’s still the princess character. But still. I would have liked to have permanently changed Peach into Cowgirl Peach…

I went into Princess Peach: Showtime expecting Nintendo-quality filler. A game to pad out the year’s release schedule without being a particularly memorable effort by the company. Instead, we get a wonderful, playful and clever little game that allowed Nintendo to make Peach a multifaceted hero without needing to subvert all those years spent building this incredibly valuable character. This feels like it could be the start of another very valuable property for the company.

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Matt S. is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of DDNet. He's been writing about games for over 20 years, including a book, but is perhaps best-known for being the high priest of the Church of Hatsune Miku.

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