Skip to main content

Princess Peach: Showtime! gives an icon the spotlight she deserves

Princess Peach figure skates in Princess Peach: Showtime!

Throughout her illustrious career as gaming royalty, Princess Peach has been a jack-of-all-trades. She’s tossed turnips, driven karts, smashed tennis balls, and knocked the snot out of Solid Snake. Despite that impressive résumé, she’s rarely had the chance to be a leading lady outside of 2005’s Super Princess Peach. It was a polarizing release that failed to lock down the heroine’s identity. What could Peach be if she wasn’t attached to Mario?

Nearly four decades after her debut, Nintendo is finally looking to answer that question with Princess Peach: Showtime! The new Switch release is a family-friendly platformer where Peach gets sucked into a magical theater under attack from a sorceress named Grape. She must restore a series of plays back to normal, but how’s a hero who has rarely had the chance to go it alone supposed to fight back? The character’s identity crisis turns out to be a hidden skill.

Ahead of its launch, I played an hour of Princess Peach: Showtime! that showed off five of her gameplay-changing costumes. From what I’ve seen so far, the Switch exclusive is shaping up to be an endearing solo adventure that doesn’t try to put the heroine in a box. Instead, its Kirby-like gameplay makes a grand statement about the character: Peach can be anything she wants to be.

Power up

The bulk of my demo would find me in the first floor of the theater, where I could pop into one of four levels. Each one represents the first chapter of a stage play that’s been foiled by Grape and her mask-wearing goons. In the same vein as titles like Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Nintendo plays with an arts and crafts aesthetic here. The bite-sized levels are filled with cardboard set pieces, as if she’s stepping into a series of high school theater productions. Charming visual details sell that idea. When Peach has to hide in grass, she holds two little twigs above her head like a stage prop.

When each level begins, her power is limited. She can use a ribbon to attack foes, find hidden collectibles in each level, or send encouragement to the big-nosed munchkins that inhabit the theater. The twist, though, is that she finds a specific power in each level that will help her save the day. Those abilities are completely different from one another too.

Princess Peach hides underwater in Princess Peach: Showtime!

In my first level, I’d have to stealthily avoid guards until I got a ninja outfit. That allowed me to jump up walls, dash into enemies with my kunai, and press myself against a wall to camouflage myself. That would make for a stealth traversal level where I had to get behind guards and take them out quietly. Another level would turn her into a cowgirl, where I’d use my lasso to toss barrels at enemies in a saloon battle and even partake in an Old West horse chase.

The most involved segment came when Peach transformed into a sword fighter with a rapier. That level was significantly more action-packed, as I sliced through foes and dodged their attacks at the right moment to trigger a Bayonetta-like, slow-motion parry (with a very generous timing window). It would end in a tense boss battle that had me slicing through cardboard vines to weaken a plant and dodging yellow circles at the right time to launch a counter attack.

Other powers change up the gameplay even more. An ice-themed level had me performing a figure skating routine by jumping and spinning at the right moments. The most radically different section happened when I became Patisserie Peach. There, I was placed on a timer as I completed button-timing minigames to make cookies and frosted cakes by following a specified pattern. Both almost felt more like Mario Party minigames adapted out into full levels.

Princess Peach decorates a cake in Princess Peach: Showtime!

Nothing that I tried was too complicated or challenging. It seems like Nintendo is going for an uncomplicated release here that takes the ability gameplay of the Kirby series and makes it even more straightforward. Players aren’t switching between costumes in levels to solve puzzles. There are a few hidden collectibles and secret bonus stages triggered by striking a pose in a specified spot, but it’s all light platforming fare.

That’s not meant as a knock; Nintendo clearly knows its audience here. Princess Peach Showtime! feels more aimed at young kids than usual, which feels like the right call considering what an important moment it could be for gender representation in games. It’s important for kids to see Peach in a starring role apart from Mario, one where she can be anything she wants. It makes no distinction between being a “boy’s” or “girl’s” game. She gets to parry sword strikes and bake cakes in the same breath. It’s the Barbie concept adapted into Nintendo game design.

I hope that idea resonates with kids — and there’s a good chance it might. Based on what I’ve played so far, Princess Peach: Showtime! feels like a good-natured start to a solo series in the same vein as the original Luigi’s Mansion. It makes a long-overdue case for Peach as a capable heroine that never really needed saving at all; she just needed time to show what she could do.

Princess Peach: Showtime! launches on March 22 for Nintendo Switch.

Editors' Recommendations

Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
The most iconic meme game is coming to Nintendo Switch Online this month
Portrait of Cats made popular by the "All your base belong to us meme," from Zero Wing.

Nintendo Switch Online's Expansion Pack tier membership just got some legendary Sega Genesis games for its final June 2022 update. One of those titles happens to be Zero Wing: a game many have seen without even knowing, thanks to the very iconic, "All your base are belong to us," meme.

SEGA Genesis - June 2022 Game Updates - Nintendo Switch Online

Read more
Kirby and the Forgotten Land gives the pink puffball a release date and a gun
Kirby fishes with a waddle dee in Kirby and the Forgotten Lands.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land got its first official reveal in September 2021 during a Nintendo Direct. Now, the latest announcement for the game reveals that the pink puffball's return to 3D adventuring will land on Nintendo Switch consoles on March 25, and with new powers and cooperative gameplay to boot.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land - Copy Abilities and Co-op - Nintendo Switch

Read more
Switch Online + Expansion Pack’s pricing gives the service too much credit
Playing games via Nintendo Switch Online.

I don't pay for online services anymore. Not frequently, anyways, since almost all of my online gaming is done on my PC. If I'm getting a new co-op game or multiplayer shooter, it's exclusively going to end up in my Steam library, because I don't have to shell out a single extra cent to properly play the game.

But I can still at least acknowledge that some online services are worth the $60 they charge each year. Xbox Gold gives players free games, and so does PlayStation+. Nintendo Switch Online, on the other hand, has never felt worth the $20, and now Nintendo's asking players for $50 for the service's upgraded version, Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack. I'm not sure if the company has been listening to its users for the past three years.

Read more