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Reviewed for Nintendo Wii; but also available for the Sony Playstation 2
To the untrained eye, Dokapon Kingdom for the Nintendo Wii and the Sony Playstation 2 is nothing more than yet another Mario Party clone with dated graphics and some tacked-on RPG elements. However, it would be a fatal mistake to simply dismiss it as such, because quite seriously this decidedly niche Atlus-published title is one of the best party games in years.
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Graphics & Sound
It is true that the game doesn’t really look or sound like anything special. The graphics feature cute chibi-style characters that don’t exactly push the limits of a modern gaming console’s hardware, and the game boards look like they could’ve easily come out of one of the Nintendo 64 or GameCube Mario Party titles. The English-language voice acting is pretty good, especially during story sequences, although the post-battle victory cries could have used a little more variety. Music and sound effects are barely noticeable, not good enough to warrant special mention but by no means poor enough to detract from the overall product.
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Gameplay & Controls
No, the game isn’t particularly flashy, but it has nonetheless garnered almost universal praise. The reason for this is the amazing depth and the immense fun-factor present in Dokapon Kingdom. As mentioned above, the game is essentially a unique hybrid of a board game and a multiplayer roleplaying game. Even that is a bit of an oversimplification, however. The game allows up to four players to battle it out while trying to help a kingdom that has been overrun by monsters in a lengthy story mode, or they can choose to play a shorter game without all the baggage of an overarching plot.
Players can choose one of three initially available character classes (more are unlockable), then spin a spinner to move. Depending what kind of space they land on, players can receive bonuses, fight turn-based battles against monsters or other players, acquire weapons or armor, find items, earn money, and so on. Players can level up and hit the shops to improve their equipment, just like in other RPGs, and eventually they can even liberate towns and collect tax money from them. There are also various random event spaces and minigames to further spice things up. Plus, like any good board game, the players are also competing against each other, which means that they will sometimes go head-to-head in combat, with the winner earning the right to take loot from or play a prank on the unfortunate victim. It’s all delightfully chaotic.
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To fully explain the beauty of a game like Dokapon Kingdom requires the use of an anecdote. You see, while playing a game against my nephews, one of them engaged me in a battle. It was a tough fight, but he pulled it out. I was beaten, but the worst was yet to come. Not content with just besting his uncle in combat, it came time to doll out some humiliation. From the several options offered by the game, he chose to draw on my character’s face rather than change my name or steal any of my possessions. After being forced to wait a few turns until my character revived, I sought him out for a rematch, looking to regain some of my lost dignity. Once again, though, I was left feeling the sting of defeat. This time he passed on humiliating me and decided instead to steal all of my hard-earned gold. The result was a ton of good-natured smack talking, another vow for vengeance and a boatload of belly laughs. No wonder Atlus humorously refers to this as “the friendship destroying game."
It is just unbelievable how much depth there is to this game. Players can improve the towns they capture. They can undertake various quests for the townspeople. They can help out the king of the land, or even give him something he likes as a presents. For that matter, they can even don a disguise, use the local temple to send him an item he doesn’t like and then blame it on another player. They can set traps for one another, rob cities or shops, swindle the tax money from another person’s village, or even change their hairstyles! Every time you think the game might be starting to get a little repetitive, a little tedious, you find some exciting new wrinkle that fires you up about playing the game all over again. It’s a good thing, too, considering the fact that, at least in story mode, this is one long game. Fortunately, you can save after each week of gameplay time (every seven turns), because this is definitely not the kind of video game you can finish all in one sitting.
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Dokapon Kingdom (Wii, PS2)
- ESRB Rating: E10+ for Everyone 10 & Up
- Publisher: Atlus
- Official Website: http://www.atlus.com/dokapon/
- Rating: Buy It New (90/100)
There’s other way to say it: Dokapon Kingdom is a great game. There are some caveats, however. It is definitely way better in multiplayer, because it just isn’t half as much fun to mess with a computer opponent as it is to punk out real life people. It also is a game that requires a large investment of time, unlike most party games (like Mario Party) that can be completed in a single sitting. Some RPG fans probably won’t like the randomness of things, even though that’s a good percentage of the fun. Not to mention the fact that Ultimately, though, I imagine those complaints will be few and far between, and that most people will see Dokapon Kingdom for what it is -- a party game of rare quality.