When Castlevania: Symphony of the Night came out in 1997, I read a review of it in one of the major game mags. The reviewer speculated that we might well be looking at the last hurrah of the traditional 2-d sidescroller. It seemed a pretty reasonable guess at the time, but of course prophecy is a slippery business. As it turns out there's room in modern gaming for both 3-d and 2-d; high-budget projects and quirky, cult classics. The latest round of the console wars has been about nothing, if not diversification.
This diversity has also included a certain retrofication, a return to classic gameplay for many titles. One of the new old kinds of game I've been hearing about lately is the "ultra-hard platformer". This is a reference to the days when games were not only simple, they were also really, really hard. Hard like Super Mario Bros 2 without warping (I'm referring to the real Super Mario Bros 2, originally not released outside of Japan because of its difficulty), or like trying to get all the way through Double Dragon with only three lives. No endless continues, and no saved games.
If you describe Prinny 2 as a really difficult platformer, you'll have done a reasonably decent job of summing up the gameplay. From Japanese company Nippon Ichi, brought stateside by NIS America, this Disgaea spin-off is so difficult you get a stock of 999 prinnies (not lives, actual individual prinnies) to get you through the game, in addition to the option of saving in-between levels. On normal difficulty, a prinny can only take three hits before he dies. On hard mode, a single hit is death. It very much hearkens back to the days of precision gaming, where you would play a level over and over, trying to get through that one section that haunted your dreams.
However, it would be a disservice to describe Prinny 2 as a straightforward resurrection of one of those games of yore. The developers have done a good job of focusing on the best aspects of this kind of game, which appeals to the obsessive-compulsive in all of us, while striving to keep it from becoming frustrating or boring, as some of those classic games often were.
Unnecessary repetition and unnecessary waiting are the traditional bugbears of this genre, and the developers have taken pains to eliminate them. Checkpoints throughout each level allow you to focus on one section at a time, sparing you from having to go through them again after successful completion. When you do die, you're returned to the last checkpoint within seconds, allowing virtually continuous play, no matter how many tries a section may take.