Princess Peach: Showtime! proves that Peach is one of the best characters in Nintendo’s roster

Constantly surprising and charming to its core, Princess Peach: Showtime! is a great entry point to the medium for new gamers

One thing I didn’t expect to be doing in a game this year was using a bamboo shoot to breathe underwater while sneaking past guards as Ninja Peach. And I definitely didn’t expect her to attempt to blend into the background by just holding up fake grass. But that’s the beauty of Princess Peach: Showtime! — you never know what you’re going to get, and it’s all incredibly charming.

In my roughly fifteen hours with the game, I was constantly surprised by the subtle touches that the developers brought to the stages and Peach as a character. Whether you’re decorating a cake, fighting off an alien invasion, or wrangling robbers as a cowgirl, variety is the game’s greatest strength.

Peach strikes out on her own adventure

The setup is simple: Peach attends a show at the theatre and its patrons are unceremoniously taken hostage by a mysterious villain known as Grape and her Sour Bunch minions. With the help of her new friend, Stella, Peach will need to use the power of the ribbon to transform into various roles to bring peace to the theatre. In a sequence that mashes together the magical girl aesthetic of Cardcaptor Sakura, the music of Zelda, and the dynamic posing of Super Smash Bros, Peach transforms into different heroes, all with their own powers.

Each floor of the theatre is home to four different stages. And each of those stages require different roles. Sometimes they’re action-oriented, tasking Peach with galloping on horseback and leaping across bridges, while others are more subdued, such as Detective Peach. At only 15 to 20 minutes per stage, you’ll be able to experience many different styles of play in a single session — or you can play through a single stage as a quick pick-me-up.

The quality of the stages varies, with Ninja Peach and Detective Peach being particular standouts, but they all have their appeal. While I wish certain stages, such as Patissiere Peach, took their roles a bit further, I understand why the developers chose to streamline the mechanics. For example, baking as Patissiere Peach boils down to mashing the A button until your batter looks like a rainbow. And that’s it. But the straightforward nature of these activities makes it a perfect entry point for less experienced gamers.

Perfect for new gamers

One thing that I’ve realized over the last few years is that finding an entry point into gaming is a challenge. My mom has been around video games from the time I was little, but she wasn’t interested in trying one herself until I got her to play Mario Kart 8: Deluxe on the Switch. Now she has her own Switch and hundreds of hours in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. But even those games, ones that seem like perfect introductions to the world of gaming, come with obstacles. Whether it’s simple things like knowing that you can run instead of just walking, or that you can sell multiple items at one time, video games have their own language that can be frustrating for new players.

Princess Peach: Showtime! feels like the perfect game to get an aspiring gamer into the hobby. Each stage offers new gameplay mechanics, but limits the amount of actions you need to perform simultaneously. The stages are long enough to give you the opportunity to get the hang of how to use your new abilities, but never overstay their welcome. And if you’re having a tough time, such as with the lasers during the Dashing Thief Peach stage, you can use an item to give you an additional three hearts.

For more experienced players, the lack of difficulty might be disappointing, but that’s not to say there isn’t any challenge in the game. After clearing each floor, there are bonus stages that put your skills with a ribbon role to the test. And of course, collecting all of the Balloona on each stage will definitely require you to comb each stage carefully. Even though I never lost all of my hearts — or found my brain being taxed by a stage — the variety of activities kept me looking forward to what came next regardless of skill level.

The performance isn’t perfect

But there are some issues that are worth addressing, with the biggest being the performance. Multiple times during my playthrough, the frame rate dropped significantly, causing a disconnect between my inputs and the actions on screen. The stuttering became especially apparent when the camera shifted horizontally while performing an action. It’s not constant, but it was enough of a problem that I felt the need to call it out here.

There also appear to be some issues with the audio. The game has a pleasing soundtrack, and Peach’s voice actor does a phenomenal job — more on that shortly — but some effects sound like they are being heavily compressed. The most noticeable of these is the jump action. Considering how often you jump in the game, it can become grating on the ears quickly when the associated sound effect sounds like it’s being played through a tin can.

Aside from those issues though, the game has been a delight, as long as you go in with the right expectations. You aren’t going to find the challenge of a mainline Mario game, nor the expansive world of a Zelda here. Instead, Peach gets her own adventure that’s closer to something like Kirby and the Forgotten Land. And that’s a good thing. It’s both inviting and exciting. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I got to know Peach beyond her role as the Princess of the Toadstool Kingdom.

Peach’s debut is one to remember

Peach isn’t a silent protagonist here; she’s filled with personality. We see her transform, both literally and figuratively, to match every situation. Sometimes she’s stern, sometimes she’s playful, but she’s always uniquely Peach. And sometimes that’s a princess who loves pink. I’ve never felt more attached to her character, and that’s in large part thanks to her voice actor. This take on the character still feels in line with who she has been over the years, but it’s also far more natural and conversational.

And I haven’t even mentioned one of the best aspects! The collectible outfits! I love customization in games, especially when it comes to changing outfits. There are plenty of unique costumes for both Peach and Stella that you’ll need to either find, purchase (using the in-game currency), or earn by completing challenges. It’s a great reward system that lets players show off their own style.

If you’re looking for a game that’s great for pick-up-and-play sessions, endlessly charming, and welcoming to players of all skill levels, Princess Peach: Showtime! is a great experience. It doesn’t have the challenge of a mainline Mario game, but it’s not supposed to. This is Peach’s own adventure — and she’s the star of the show.

Princess Peach: Showtime! release on Nintendo Switch on March 22nd for $79.96.

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Image credit: Nintendo

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