Dokapon Kingdom
Platform: PlayStation 2
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Sting
Genre: Traditional RPG
Format: DVD-ROM
Released: US 10/14/08
Japan 11/22/07
Official Website: English Site

Graphics: 70%
Sound: 75%
Gameplay: 86%
Control: 90%
Story: 60%
Overall: 80%
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Around and around the spinner goes.
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Why steal of course!
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Losing is ugly.
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Robot assassins galore.
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Dennis Rubinshteyn
Dokapon Kingdom
Dennis Rubinshteyn

RPGs are nice and all, but they are not the only activity I like. Another activity I enjoy is board gaming, which Iíve increasingly been getting active at, going to hobby shops to play with other people. What happens when you mix two interests of mine? You get Dokapon Kingdom, an RPG/board game hybrid created by Sting. Making hybrids of different genres tend to be hit or miss, but Dokapon Kingdom managed to make this hybrid succeed.

Despite a so-called story mode, there isnít much of a story to tell. One day monsters began to roam the peaceful kingdom of Dokapon, hijacking all the towns, and stealing the kingís wealth. Since the king canít collect taxes from the people, he cannot fulfill his lust for gold. In an act of desperation, he calls out to adventurers to get rid of the monsters. By doing so, they will not only be able to wed his daughter, princess Penny, but also have all of Dokapon kingdom.

The story is split into chapters and in each chapter, you basically slay a series of monsters and then do a quest. The quests are given to you by the king, and some are a little weird such as collecting five trinkets for the king so he can redecorate his bathroom. The main problem with these quests is that you have very little direction to work with, and they can take a lot longer than necessary to complete due to the slow nature of the game. When any adventurer completes a quest, he or she is greatly rewarded and the story continues. At least there is some bit of story, but lack of interaction and little direction hinder it.

The graphics have some charm to them. They are colorful and very vibrant, and there are a lot of cute, unique character models. From a technical standpoint, however, it looks like an early PS2 title. Production value looks cheap, and despite some praise for the character designs themselves, several of them are quite blocky. Itís also a shame that there is a bit of palate swapping in the enemies too. It does not look like a game that pushes the console, so more variety with the monster design couldíve easily been done. Itís like I said in Baroque: Sting proved to be proficient in 2D graphics, but theyíre weak in the 3D front.

The music wonít stand the test of time, but like some aspects of the graphics, it has some charm. The music is done in an orchestral style, and the melodies are upbeat and cheerful, well suiting the lighthearted adventure tone. Dramatic songs are virtually non-existent, and the soundtrack is meant to keep the player in high spirits from start to finish. There is some voice acting, but like Mario Party, adventurers and NPCs just say one or two words at various moments. The voices match their characters, but itís nothing special, and there is little variety in what they say.

There are three gaming modes you can play in Dokapon Kingdom. The major and longest one is story mode, and the other two modes are normal and battle royale. In normal mode, you set up how long the game lasts, and at the end of the game, whichever adventurer has the most money wins. Battle Royale is where you complete certain objectives such as getting a certain item first or killing a rival adventurer x number of times. These two modes are meant to be quick fun. After selecting which mode to play, you choose how many opponents you want. You can play with up to three friends, three CPUs or a mix of both. Afterwards, you choose your character model, put some tweaks on the design, and then choose your starting class. Last but not least, you determine turn order for the entire game.

The gameplay is primarily like a board game, but has some RPG elements tacked on. In the board, there are several different spaces. Landing on a chest space enables you to play a roulette to get an item, gold space to get a random amount of gold, and several other spaces that can supply you. If you land on an empty space though, you fight.

The fighting mechanics are simple. First you choose between two cards to determine turn order. If first, you go into an attack phase, and there are different buttons you can press to either attack, strike, use magic or use your ability. If the battle resumes or youíre last, thereís the defense phase. You can choose to defend, counter, use a special guard or run away. Counters only work against strikes and deliver heavy damage, and if you decide to give up and run away, you lose a few turns. You gain experience and gold if you win a battle, sometimes an item too. If you lose, you lose most of your gold or items, and you wind up in the beginning of the board, unable to take action for a few turns. If you win, the battle stops and you resume fighting next turn. The combat is a little luck heavy, but itís simple and solid.

The board itself is huge, and there are a lot of places to go. In story mode, several regions are restricted, but one by one, you can access them as the story progresses. There are dungeons too which are laid out the same way as the main area, but on a smaller scale. The dungeons are used for story purposes or to snag some goodies for your adventurer. On the boards, there are also towns and shops you can visit.

Initially, towns are held captive by monsters. When you defeat the monster holding the town, you liberate it. Liberating towns increases the amount of gold you can get as well as the value your adventurer has. In a town, you can invest gold to increase the townís value and rest for free. As for shops, there are three different types to visit. Weapon, item and magic shops, all of which are self-explanatory about what they sell and different regions and dungeons sell different goods. You can attempt to rob a store through a mini-game of rock-paper-scissors. If you win, you get their stuff, but if you donít, you get a bounty on your head.

There is also a class system and initially, you only have warrior, magician and thief to choose from. You can unlock more when you reach the max level of your class, level six, and there are many classes to play as. You can change your characterís class using the king in the castle for free. The classes themselves differ in stats and inventory space, but their abilities rarely differ. Magic can be bought and almost everyone can learn the same special ability as well. Some unique aspects to each class are their own passive abilities which randomly trigger, and equipping certain types of weapons give the class a 30% attack boost.

The game runs by week and at the end of each week, it goes to a statistics breakdown. Adventurers get paid a salary depending on their class level and how many they mastered, and the game tallies the amount of gold you have and the overall worth of all the towns and castles you liberated. All of this simply determines your rank in the scoreboards, simply meant for some competitive fun.

Beneath its cute exterior lies an evil and deep strategic portion to the game. The game heavily emphasizes screwing over other adventurers, and there are many ways to do so. You can steal an item, get an adventurer killed while theyíre in the middle of a battle, place obstacles, inflict status effects and much more. This makes the competition fierce and also displays the beauty of playing this game with friends. Friendships might be strained by ruining their characters ingame, but youíre bound to get some laughs out of it. If youíre playing alone, the CPU, even on the lowest difficulty, will pull no punches to torment you, and somehow manages to have a high success rate of doing so while you have more difficulty striking back.

If you land on the same space as another playerís adventurer, you can fight them. The victor is able to either steal the otherís money or items, torment him with a status effect, or pull a prank on him such as changing their character name to something degrading. You can also spare the adventurer, but that's honestly no fun.

There are random aspects that occur in the game. When you step on an empty space, you may get something other than a fight. There are various NPCs that can offer their services to you, such as a merchant selling rare goods, some girl dressed in a teddy bear challenging you to rock-paper-scissors and a lot more. The random moments can spice up the game, and can give benefit to you while crippling your opponents. Even a player who is lagging behind everyone else can have a chance to snag first place. Sometimes a shady character shows up and gives you a contract. Using the contract, you can be summoned to a special place where, for the exchange of all your items (except equipment), gold and towns you have obtained, you can temporarily obtain ultimate power: the darkling class.

The darkling is the strongest class in the game, with all stats three times greater than any other class, but it only lasts for fourteen turns once the contract is used. A darkling plays a little differently than the others. In the beginning of a darklingís turn, you randomly spin for dark points. Dark points are like MP, and with them, you can use various darkling abilities. Some of the abilities include summoning monsters in other adventurersí towns, inflicting status effects, closing shops for the rest of the darklingís duration, and even making a special tile to cause whoever steps on it to fight the darkling. The class also gains experience differently by either placing monsters in town or killing off other adventures. Itís the type of class that is meant to give a fallen player an edge and ruin everyone else. It fits well with the gameís emphasis on taking down your opponent by any means.

I had some skepticism on how this RPG/board game hybrid would work out, but it turned out to be better than the sum of its parts. Itís a game that is meant to be played with friends, but single players can have some enjoyment too. It does have dated aesthetics and is occasionally frustrating, but itís definitely unique and gamers should try it at some point for something different.


© 2008 Atlus. All rights reserved.

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