Release Date: October 15, 2008
"Oh, you b**ch!"
"Goddamn it. I'm going to kill you for that!"
"So, two magicians and a warrior go into a bar, and then their molecules are disassembled."
"Haha, my roshambo is strong!
"They're apparently in a bad Bruce Lee movie now." (comment about the characters' lips not matching their words)
"Most of these quotes are not appropriate for WorthPlaying!"
"What's a Jesta?"
"He's so f***ed."
"This needs more Naga laugh."
"It's your fault for making him pink!"
"And then Alex was abducted and probed."
That's what it sounds like when you get three people in a room to play Dokapon Kingdom, one of the latest efforts from Atlus Software to establish that, when it comes to truly screwy games in the U.S., they are the publisher to beat. Dokapon Kingdom succeeds admirably. This friendship-destroying party title manages to combine a game session length of Civilization IV, the silly factor of Mario Party, and just about every existing role-playing game trope into something ... just plain strange, really, but also quite fun ? as long as you stay with short bursts of play.
This party RPG actually has a story. The seven-continent kingdom of Dokapon is a nice place, and the denizens really love their money. Unfortunately, the monsters also love money, so they're taking over every last town in Dokapon to steal it. You play a team of adventurers whose jobs consist of saving the towns and getting as much money as possible. Whoever is the richest gets the hand of the lovely Princess Penny in marriage, and thus becomes the next king or queen. That's about it, although different events start varying things over time in a typical send-up of traditional RPG structures.
After character creation (class, gender, face, voice and color), players are dropped onto a world map that resembles a board game, and play begins. A player's turn typically consists of two phases: using an item and then moving a spinner-decided number of spaces. Once you land on a space, something happens related to it, such as getting a random piece of equipment, fighting a monster, or some random event occurring.
Combat consists of three steps. First, the attacking player finds out if he attacks first or second by selecting one of two cards. Whoever attacks first selects one of up to four attack actions, and the defender gets to choose his reaction (one defense action will offer an optimal response to one attack action). Then the other player must do the same. If the fight isn't settled yet, you must wait until your next turn for another similar exchange. The simplicity and sheer luck of the system renders a basic risk-taking exercise; the biggest attack has the worst consequences if your opponent uses the correct counter, and since you don't know what he selected until after both players are locked in, it becomes a measure of a careful guess.
Not all combat is done in the player-versus-monster format. Sometimes, you have to roshambo instead, which is rock-paper-scissors; this is specifically done to make attacking shops or towns a risky prospect that no amount of grinding can get you past. The decent monetary awards of succeeding are countered by not being allowed to enter any town for a week and having a bounty on your head for the same amount of time. (Naturally, a lucky streak at roshambo can result in a significant advantage.)
The gameplay in Dokapon Kingdom for the Wii is pretty simplistic: roshambo and fight your way to the top, all while taking over towns to collect tax income. The title isn't just about a race to the top. After all, who hasn't wanted to see an Olympic gold medal won by one guy tripping another? Naturally, that means screwing over your enemies, err, friends with gusto. Immediately, you get access to spells that can do things like prevent them from moving around the board, or mess them up in mid-fight. Random events can also face you with far greater opportunities to do far worse to the oh-so-cute avatars of your buddies, especially those who start getting a major lead. Get too far ahead, and you may be facing the game-wrecking Darkling job in the hands of a highly vengeful buddy. Half of the game is luck, and the other half is about knowing how far to push it.
Really, that's about all there is to the game: lots of random things put together in sensible patterns, so that your decisions do end up affecting your luck. It's hard to describe how fun this can be, especially with the assistance of the silly presentation and adorably cute character designs, full of exaggerated, RPG-authentic motions and charming style. Atlus supplements this with their usual high caliber of translations, surprisingly avoiding modern-reference humor in favor of getting more traditional laughs from basic theme mockery and goofy graphics for absolutely everything. The game's design is meant to encourage less appropriate humor from your fellow RPG-enjoying friends/players.
This is only supplemented by Dokapon Kingdom's quality of art design. Graphics are cute, expressive, and lose nothing by being on the Wii (and PS2) instead of the higher-definition consoles. About the only thing one could ask for the graphics is that people's mouths should be open for the duration of their sentences, even though it may not actually match up exactly. Otherwise, things just follow up; little angels, or demons, or even chibi-Death pick up your fallen, depositing a nicely colored coffin at the castle for your resurrection, and everyone follows iconic design styles that capture the point of a character perfectly (On the other hand, that UFO is a bit anachronistic, as is the assassin robot, but ….)
Even the game's soundscape keeps up with the style, offering up simple, catchy orchestral-styled music that would fit any 32-bit generation RPG pretty well. The voice acting is intentionally hammy and it's done well; the king of Dokapon is the one who feels like a large ham, not his voice actor. From little "ni haos to the king's rather long speeches or the occasional speaking role for a monster, the voices add to the experience and, occasionally, the hilarity. Player-characters, in particular, get some rather interesting lines at times, made all the more funny by extremely whacked-out voice actors and certain motions that the characters make while voicing the script.
Ultimately, Dokapon Kingdom for the Wii is a typical party game; luck, luck, pushing luck, and pondering the nature of luck. If you're just playing it alone or with friends, you've missed the point. You need to be messing around with Dokapon Kingdom to see what kinds of laughs you can get, and ideally, how much real-world violence is attained when your friend horrifically screws over your other friend in a single, perfectly timed motion. The goal of the game isn't to get the most money, so much as it is to inspire the most violent reactions from your friends. There's a very good reason why this has been called, "The Friendship-Destroying Game". Friendships that survive repeated sessions of Dokapon Kingdom are ones that are meant to last. Isn't $40 worth finding that out for yourself?
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