Sorry, but our Mario is in another castle!
Super Princess Peach is the absurd scenario we've been waiting for; Mario has been kidnapped by Bowser and the Princess must rescue him! That's half the fun, telling people what this game is even about. Actually, make that a third. The fun of the game can be divided into three equal segments of absurdity, gameplay, and basking in the cuteness.
It looks and plays just like the best of Mario games, with, of course, some key differences. The Princess is armed with an, erm, umbrella, and has four special abilities based on emotions. Using the emotions only requires a touch of the lower screen and a bit of emotion meter. If Peach is happy, she can spin and float (up to secret areas, for instance); if she's sad, she can spray tears everywhere and scurry around quickly; if she is angry, she can burn enemies and crush anything beneath her; if she is laughing, she can regain life. Her umbrella, not much unlike Yoshi, possesses a variety of abilities and also craves the flesh of the living. She can lift and toss enemies with it, or the umbrella can consume them to fill the emotion meter. The umbrella eats things. Sad way to end a Goomba career. More abilities become available as they are bought from Toad's store (available at any time between levels) or as they are found in-game. For example, pay enough coin and the umbrella can fire energy shots, or progress far enough and find the doodad that lets the umbrella turn into a submarine.
There is no supply of extra lives in Super Princess Peach. If the Princess loses all three of her hearts (which are taken away in half-heart increments when she is hurt), well, time to start the level over again. That's about it. Granted, most Mario games allow infinite continues, so it's not really a big deal, but I was always thinking about looking for extra lives or getting them by stomping huge chains of enemies. It's a bit of a downer that there are only really Toads and unlockable goodies to look for.. Phooey, no big fat rewards for awesome showcases of elite skills. There are three Toads (or, rather, Kinopios, this being the Japanese version) in each level. They're a little out of the way, usually, but not too hard to find. Just be advised that all of them must be found before the final battle with Bowser, so don't ignore them.
The game isn't too hard to initially beat, and doesn't even seem near the average difficulty of a Mario game until at least the fifth world. Lucky for us, though, some new, harder levels open up after finishing the game. And, although most of the game isn't very hard, there are many, many different enemies from the Mario universe, a great deal of which have not been seen outside of Super Mario Bros 3 or Super Mario World. I mean, Torpedo Ted is in there! And those green dudes from SMB3 that barf up spiked balls and throw them at you! You'll know 'em when you see 'em. Unless you're, like, twelve. Seeing these guys again is a great dose of nostalgia.
As for goodies, there are puzzles and mini-games galore. There's a stylus-incorporating minigame before each boss battle (a good place to earn some coins), a variety of Toad mini-games that can be collected, a music test that's unlocked one-song-at-a-time (and the music is some of the best that Mario games have to offer), and puzzles (you know, the old fashioned kind with 'pieces'). Grabbing all of these and playing around with them is a great way to waste time for a few minutes, Wario Ware-style. In fact, without the mini-games, like the one where you furiously stab Boos in the face with the stylus, this game would be entirely possible on the GBA or anything else. They're not bad or anything, but it's pretty obvious they were tacked on make Super Princess Peach a touchy-feely game that you could only find on the DS. It's true, though, that the core game could easily be put on the SNES.
Super Princess Peach is cute, delightfully absurd, and a true-blue Mario game, but still a bit easy. It's probably worth fifty clams to a hardcore Mario fan, but maybe a bit iffy for someone looking for a challenge. I consider myself pretty hardcore, though, and I still had plenty of fun with it. The easiness is really the only thing that should dissuade a purchase, but it's not so easy it's terrible (like, uh, Yoshi's Story, ahahah, remember that one?). Weigh that in your head a little bit, and then buy it from Lik-Sang anyway.