I think of myself as someone who is totally up on the role-playing releases, especially the more obscure ones. But, I'll be honest: I had never heard of Dokapon Kingdom. The Wii version showed up in my review queue (it's also available for the PlayStation 2) and I popped it in.
Much to my surprise, many hours later, I found myself still playing. Not bad for a game I've never heard of before, huh? It got me thinking how rare it is these days to appoach a new game without already having heard some hype or pitch for it. I came into Dokapon Kingdom with no knowledge, but now I'm ready to pitch it to you. I'll say this right off: Dokapon Kingdom was a nice surprise.
Dokapon Kingdom (Wii [reviewed], PS2)This Sting-developed and Atlus-published game is a bit difficult to summarize or categorize. More than anything, I'd guess you'd call it a party game. It's cute, colorful, and will remind some of the Mario Party titles. If I had to try to lay it out, I'd say it is a weird blend of party game, board game and role-playing game. Confused? I was as first, too.
Developed by Sting
Published by Atlus
Released October 14th, 2008
This game's story is stupid... and I mean that in the best way. You, a citizen of the Kingdom of Dokapon, live under a money-obsessed king. And we're talking seriously obsessed: his dog's name is Cash. He's normally a happy king, but recently monsters have take over this kingdom's towns, and he can no longer collect taxes to obtain his beloved money. His solution? He calls upon the heroes of Dokapon to come and compete amongst each other. The one that frees up the most cash flow and territories wins the hand of the king's daughter, Princess Penny.
See? I told you it was stupid. But the game is so fun that you won't care about the story.
In other party games, you spin, move your spaces, and end up doing something silly in a minigame of some sort. The problem is that these minigames have definitely run their course, especially on the Wii. Sting's solution was to throw you right into a simple role-playing game battle when you land on key spots on the game board instead of these minigames.
Before you ask, yes -- they're turned based. But it's really simple and fun. In the Wii version, before a battle starts, a card flip minigame starts. You have a 50-50 chance of being the attacker. After that, a basic mapping of the d-pad of the Wii Remote (or Classic Controller or GameCube controller) will be displayed on the screen: right for attack, left for charge, and up or down for special moves. You'll attack, your enemy might defend or counter, and then they'll get a chance to go at you. Your d-pad will then be mapped for defense. And that's your turn. If you succeed without losing your hit points, you win items and money. You gain levels and put points into your stats. Standard RPG stuff. And then it's the next person's turn. You rinse, lather, and repeat until someone completes the board with the most cash flow.
If you die... well, you don't want to die. But, if you do, you're placed back at the beginning of the board in a coffin, where you're held for a couple of turns. The other players continue to make money while you sit and watch. In some instances, a fat angel will come along and offer to revive you for money. But that would decrease your total count, which could put you even more behind in the game.
It's not just battling on these game boards. Some spaces contain random power-ups. A roulette wheel will spin, and you'll obtain the item or power-up it lands on. There are also item, spell, and weapon shops you can land on and shop at. A key element of the game is spaces that represent entrances into the many towns of Dokapon. Unfortunately, most are blocked by larger monsters, like RPG sub-bosses. You'll need to move around the board to build your strength, collect better items, and finally get strong enough to take on these town-blocking monsters. When you do, the town can start making money, which means you'll make money. The more towns you free, the better chance you have at coming out on top.
Dokapon Kingdom comes alive as a multiplayer game. You and up to three friends can go head-to-head. You'll each make your own custom character, selecting from either a wizard, thief, or warrior class. Then you'll go at it on the game board, fighting monsters and each other for the most money. Let's say you're a thief: if you pass by one of the other characters, you can steal their items. A wizard can cast spells from a far, causing other players grief. A warrior is going to beat down monsters with ease. On top of all of this, the game manages to throw in random encounters with characters that can help you out by powering you up or hindering your opponents. All in all, it's a nice mix of RPG skill and random elements that make playing this game with friends a blast.
There are also single-player modes included in DK. A standard mode lets you create game and your opponents and play through a board. The story mode is a bit more entertaining, but the computer-controlled opponent is unbelievably difficult to beat. I found myself reloading save files constantly, yelling at the television screen. I will say that the computer has the advantage as far as luck goes, and in a luck-based game, you'll feel it. It's still fun, but not near as fun as playing this with other human beings.
My only real complaint is that there is no online multiplayer option. This would have ben a fantastic online experience. I imagine money-based leaderboards and screaming over headsets for the theft of towns and items. Of course, being a Wii and PS2 game, this isn't as easy to facilitate as it would be on the Xbox 360 or PS3. Let's hope for an online-enabled sequel.
Again, Dokapon Kingdom was a nice surprise. It's a party game with an role-playing twist, but it's still surprisingly easy to pick up and play. In fact, the only thing difficult about this title is putting it down. It's funny that this waggle-free Wii title makes for one of the best party games available for the system.
Score: 8 Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)
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