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Dokapon Journey
Platform: Nintendo DS
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Sting
Genre: Traditional RPG
Format: Cartridge
Release: US 04/14/09



Scorecard
Graphics: 80%
Sound: 78%
Gameplay: 85%
Control: 90%
Story: 55%
Overall: 79%
Reviews Grading Scale
 
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It's all a guessing game on what will be the best strategy.
 
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You could definitely log a lot of hours into this game, if only the money you received was actually real...
 
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The joys of stealing from other players.
 
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Talk about a high roller!
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Kimberley Wallace
Dokapon Journey
04/12/09
Kimberley Wallace

Hell hath no fury like a Dokapon player scorned. I can't help but grin devilishly as I steal a hard-earned million dollar item from another player. After my opponent stole my expensive high damage sword a few turns ago, I was waiting to revel in this moment. Revenge never tasted so sweet. This is what the Dokapon series is all about: a tug of war between you and your opponents, where you are constantly battling to secure the lead position. If this sounds like your type of game, read on to find out how Dokapon Journey for the DS fares.

Before I get more into the review, let me preface it by saying that while Dokapon Journey is not a port of Dokapon Kingdom, it is very similar. For players who are already familiar with the Dokapon series, there seems to be a few minor tweaks, including a wider variety of classes to choose from, but nothing much that separates Dokapon Journey from Dokapon Kingdom. The real deciding factor is whether you want to take Dokapon on the go with the DS.

Gameplay

The heart of the Dokapon series is its fusion of RPG and board game essentials. Thankfully, Dokapon Journey continues to successfully execute the combination in a unique and entertaining fashion. If you want a better of idea of gameplay think Mario Party with a touch of Monopoly and some RPG elements added in, and you essentially have the gist of the Dokapon world. Dokapon Journey, like with most board games, will have you travel across an expansive game board, but this game board is skewed toward the RPG enthusiast. The game board has everything that RPG lovers are accustomed to, such as shops, towns, and dungeons. During your journey, you will fight monsters, collect items, bank money, crawl through dungeons, and liberate towns.

At the start of the game, you will pick your character. You have a choice between eight different classes: fighter, amazon, bandit, spy, mage, witch, paladin, and valkyrie. Each class has two exclusive abilities: a passive ability that randomly activates in battle and an active ability that gives your character a unique skill to use at all times. You can also customize your character as you level up, and distribute stat points to areas as you see fit. Now that you've selected your character, it's time to start the game.

Everything in Dokapon Journey revolves around the spinner, but eventually you'll begin to hate that aspect of the game. I tried many times to see if there was a science to getting the exact amount of spaces that I wanted, but the spinner is random. You essentially have no control over how many spaces you'll move each turn, which can be wearisome because you need to land exactly on a space to reap its benefits. For example, to move from one floor to the next within a dungeon, you need to land precisely on the stairs. If you over spin, you must wait for your next turn and hope to produce the necessary number.

Unfortunately, you could essentially waste a lot of turns and time getting to your desired space. I'm not going to lie, it's frustrating, especially given the slow pace of the game. Luckily, the game does offer a minor solution to this problem: you can buy items usable for a precise amount of spaces. The problem is that these items are sparse throughout the game and also depend on randomly landing on the correct shop where the item is featured. These items are like putting on a Band-Aid that only covers up half the wound.

Every time you don't land on an item space or town, you are forced to fight. Battles are turn-based and you have an array of decisions to make at the start of each fight. Two cards are placed face down in front of you; the card you pick determines who gets the preemptive strike. If you draw the attack card, you must choose between a regular attack, a powerful strike, a magic attack, or you can buy your way out of the battle by offering money.

Don't get too discouraged if you initially select the defend card, because it does not necessarily leave you at a disadvantage. As long as you can predict your opponent's next move correctly and make the right decisions, you could obliterate them. You can defend, which guarantees less damage taken if you are hit with a regular attack. You may choose to counter, which cancels out strike attacks, and instead lets you deliver a mighty blow. You may also decide to guard against a magic attack, which will alter the effectiveness of the magic. Lastly, if you are in no position to play guessing games about your opponent's attack, you can choose to give up and suffer a loss (usually either money or an item). If you chose to give up, you will also lose a couple of turns.

This all sounds pretty basic, right? That's the beauty of Dokapon. Although the game seems quite simple on the surface, it's also a game requiring strategic thinking. This is where Dokapon Journey thrives, since it provides the right amount of challenge, while still being fun. I'll admit, I've never enjoyed leveling up as much as I did in this game. What's even more enjoyable is that every turn presents choices that keep you constantly on your toes thinking about what the best course of action would be. Throughout the game, you'll have a constant decision hanging over you head: Should you hinder your opponent's progress or benefit your own by either leveling up or liberating a town?

Another great part of the gameplay is that it employs the element of surprise. Playing Dokapon Journey will often feel like you're on a rollercoaster with your eyes closed. You can't even begin to anticipate the twists and turns that this game will throw at you. There's also a sense of never feeling completely secure; you may feel comfortable in the lead position, but it never lasts very long. All can be going well and then a bad spin or two could, for example, land you in a random mini-game that will obliterate your bank account. Even if someone is in last place, he or she has the option to join the darkling class, meaning that they forfeit all their assets for some almighty power. And I'm talking real supreme power, since when a player joins the darkling class all of his or her stats are increased three times greater than those of all the other players. Naturally, a darkling player can wreak havoc in the game and stomp your progress with ease.

Story

The Dokapon series may get praise for its unique gameplay, but unfortunately that innovative formula doesn't carry over to the story. Dokapon Journey does not feature a cohesive plot but rather has a bunch of irrelevant scenes shown intermittently throughout the game. The scenes are rather trite and lackluster, which is disappointing considering the game's quirk. I was expecting an equally eccentric plot and was let down by a story that was not only dry, but felt incomplete.

The story is rather straightforward: monsters have invaded the kingdom. Not only are the poor townspeople being held captive, but the monsters are also confiscating the town's money. This obviously causes the economy to take a nose dive and the king's capital is in limbo. It's one thing to mess with the towns, but it's another thing to mess with the king's extravagant lifestyle. Enraged and desperate for his assets to flourish again, the king decides to hire you and other adventurers to liberate the towns. As a way to motivate you and the other competitors, he offers his kingdom and his daughter Penny's hand in marriage as a reward.

All the game modes feature this same scenario, although the eight chapter story mode delves a little deeper into the premise. Each new chapter not only marks progress in the story, but also incorporates a new quest. The quests offer such handsome rewards that they can ultimately change the leader board entirely. If you want to win in the story mode, you'll have to excel in a variety of areas. You'll have to liberate towns, fight monsters and other players, and ultimately obtain the most money. On the surface, the story mode will feel like it offers the best value because it features a combination of various challenges. Alas, it was the least fun I had with the game.

I don't expect much from a board game in terms of story, but the story mode requires too much work with little reward. The natural reward for completing tasks in story mode should be cutscenes to keep my zest alive, right? Instead, I was treated to a practically non-existent story, which also lacked cohesion. The quests began to overshadow the main story, which presented a big problem since the quests generally don't tie into the story. When I finally got to the last chapter, the game decided to revisit the story it had abandoned for the majority of its duration.

Those arbitrary quests that constantly interrupt the story could have redeemed themselves if they were at least fun. Sadly, this is not the case. The quests are more tedious and frustrating than enjoyable. The problem is that you feel forced to complete the quests because the rewards are so extravagant, but at the same time, they are rather insipid and take too long to complete.

This all may seem like a letdown to some, but keep in mind that Dokapon Kingdom also had a similarly stale story mode. Dokapon fans should be happy that Dokapon Journey offers far more entertaining "greed" and "battle" modes that are much more entertaining than before. In greed mode, the player who banks the most money wins; simple as that. Battle mode is especially notable because it allows you to focus on one of three specific objectives. You can choose a collect-a-thon, where your success is determined by bringing orbs back to the castle. Another worthy choice is a liberation race, where you focus on freeing townspeople from monsters. For those of you who have a score to settle with other players, I have two words for you: death match. In death match, your goal is to unleash your wrath on players. Whoever has the most KO's at the end is named the winner. These modes are fantastic for those who don't want to spend a lot of time on a match.

Of course, I saved the best for last: the multiplayer mode. Let's face it, this game is not meant to be played purely as a single player game. Multiplayer is what I feel the Dokapon series is all about, in spite of the game's "The friendship-destroying RPG" tagline. There's no denying the sinister laugh that comes out of you when you steal another player's hard earned treasures, especially when it's someone you know. To add insult to injury, if you defeat a player, the game offers an option to change that player's name. It's obviously not as fun to change the computer's name to something demeaning as it is to give your friends funny names.

Graphics

Overall, the game looks pretty decent on the DS. Illuminated landscapes will light up your DS screen as you travel across the board. My only complaint about the landscapes would be that the dungeons and forests lack detail. In the dungeons, each floor looks the same without much to separate one floor from the next.

Although the scenery didn't always capture my eye, I was happy with the character portraits. They not only have a cute appeal, but also have a little diversity. The portraits also change depending on your interactions. For instance, if your player is excited over winning a quest, he or she will smile. There's nothing mind blowing about the graphics, but I'd say they fit well into the game.

Sound

At first, I really enjoyed the music. It instantaneously put me in the Dokapon mode. From the trumpets playing triumphantly, reminding that the kingdom may one day be mine, to the intense battle music that pumped adrenaline through my veins, the music was successful. The problem with the music was that I listened to these same melodies for a long period of time without any variation. Naturally, after some time, they just became irritating to the extent that it was almost mandatory to turn down the volume or mute it all together. For example, though the boss theme was a welcome change from the regular battle theme, every town's boss still had the same music.

Control

Dokapon Journey featured one of the better menu systems I've seen for a DS game. It's apparent that they kept in mind that people will be playing this game on the go, and that there may be long breaks in between. You can always check the menu to see what your next objective is. The menu also is a lifesaver for quests because some of them initially give vague directions. As long as you check the menu, you are instantly pointed in the right direction. As an extra bonus, the menu navigation is also relatively easy to utilize.

Conclusion

Overall, Dokapon Journey is a refreshing game. I had my fun with it and think it's great to pit players against each other for a goal. If Sting decides to make a larger franchise out of the series, they are going to have to think of new ways to keep it fresh. I can definitely see people getting bored with the game after a while. But all in all, Dokapon Journey is an enjoyable and quirky tactical game that's bound to stir up some heated gameplay. Get your evil on!



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© 2009 Atlus, Sting. All rights reserved.


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