Release Date: October 15, 2008
Let's get this out there right off the bat: Dokapon Kingdom is not a single-player game. Yes, it technically offers a single-player mode, but if you buy it for that, you're wasting your time. Dokapon Kingdom may be an RPG, but it's also a party game, and the party game aspects are much stronger than the RPG ones. The true way to play Dokapon Kingdom is with four people in the same room, chatting, having fun and each doing his best to ruin the other guy's chances at success. Dokapon Kingdom is also a bit of a long game, though, and sadly lacks any sort of Internet play, so keep in mind that it is going to take you a bit longer to play than a game of Mario Party. Even a short game can take a few hours, and you'll probably have to make use of the save function and continue another day, especially when you're just starting out and learning the rules. If you're not the kind of gamer who can get three pals over to play the game with regular ease, Dokapon Kingdom is probably going to be a bit lacking for you. If you can gather a group, however, you'll find that Dokapon Kingdom is arguably one of the best party games available on the PS2.
Dokapon Kingdom may be a game that you play with friends, but it is not a game you play to make friends. Most, if not all, of your time in Dokapon Kingdom will be spent screwing over the other players. This can happen in all sorts of ways: You can beat them in battle and humiliate them, altering their character model in embarrassing ways and stealing their quest objects for your own. You can frame other players for robbing from stores, use items to hinder their progress, hunt them down for bounties, or even become a rampaging engine of evil destruction and wreck everyone else on the board. It is technically possible to form alliances or work together on goals, but that isn't really going to happen. Dokapon Kingdom is as ruthlessly cutthroat as any game of Monopoly, particularly because you can actually take a sword or magic spell to the other guy. You're even graded at the end of every week, which can have actual benefits and further encourages you to do everything in your power to humiliate the other guy. It's quite fun, but expect to get more than a few nasty glares from your pals when you suddenly take the lead through a masterful bit of underhanded backstabbery.
The "plot" of Dokapon Kingdom is rather simple, and it mostly exists to provide a basis for the amusing humor and a reason for you and three friends to beat the crap out of each other. The King of Dokapon has offered a hefty sum of money and the hand of his daughter in marriage to any hero who can complete the various tasks he sets forth, and you and up to three other heroes have taken up the call. You begin the game by making a character, who you can customize in terms of gender, color, hair style, eyes, and, of course, class. Each class in the game — made up of classics like warriors, mages and thieves — has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. Warriors are great in combat, but don't really have much outside of it. Mages are kind of puny, but have devastating magic, and thieves, of course, can steal. You begin with a few default classes and can gain new classes as the game progress, allowing you further character customization.
The basic gameplay is an interesting mix of board game and RPG. Each player takes turns rolling the dice and moving along the game board. However, Dokapon Kingdom is fairly nonlinear, even compared to other eccentric titles like Mario Party. You're given a lot of freedom on where to go, and plenty of options beyond simply moving as far as you rolled your die. You can use items, for example, to alter the outcome of your throw. Some items allow you to roll more die, while items like Crystals allow you to move a specific number of spaces instead of relying on random chance, which can be a real life-saver. Learning to manage your items and movement is the key to winning the game, although there is still an element of random chance involved, so even newbies will have the opportunity to take on expert players.
Where you land on the game board can have a number of different effects. There are tons of random spaces, which contain treasures that range from new abilities for your character to magic spells to swords and armor. When you land on these squares, you'll pick the new ability from a roulette, usually containing a few pieces of lackluster equipment and one awesome choice. There are plenty of other spaces to land on as well. You can visit towns and shops, which can be liberated and captured, or stolen from in order to increase your wealth. You can visit the King's castle in order to get missions, which can earn you massive rewards and place you far in the lead. You might even find beggars who desire your hard-earned gold! You'll find plenty of choices, and thanks to the nonlinear paths of the game board, you'll have plenty of opportunity to check them all out.
By far the most important blocks, however, are the game's combat squares, where Dokapon Kingdom kicks into full RPG mode. Land on this and you're thrust into a battle, either against another player or a generic but adorable enemy. Combat is fairly simple. The two characters play a card-choosing mini-game in order to decide who goes first. The attacking player can choose to attack with his or her weapon, use an ability or perform a powerful Strike attack. The defending player can block or try to counter a Strike attack, or even surrender the battle, losing money in the process. The fighters switch off until one loses all of his hit points, or a certain number of turns pass. If enough turns pass without a winner, the battle is "to be continued" and recommences on the next turn. Losing without surrendering means you're out of commission for a few turns, while winning earns you valuable experience points. As in most RPGs, experience equals levels, and you can level up your various stats to make later battles easier. The battles are surprisingly fun. They're a tiny bit unbalanced in places, but not enough to ruin the game, and they're fast and well-paced enough that other players don't get bored with watching.
Dokapon Kingdom is honestly more adorable than a bucket of kittens. Each of the tiny super-deformed character models is bright and cheerful and full of life, from your created characters to the lackwit King of Dokapon to the bizarrely adorable monsters you fight. Everything is just … cute. With that said, the character models are a bit simplistic, and the combat animations could use a bit of work, as they're kind of mechanical and awkward. The sound work is good but nothing special, and most of the voices and music just sort of fades into the background. This works pretty well for Dokapon Kingdom, as the party atmosphere means that most of this is going to be lost in the general conversation between friends.
Dokapon Kingdom is a great party game, especially for RPG fanatics. Closer to competitive card games like Munchkins than what gamers generally think of as a party game, it offers a surprising amount of fun and depth for such a simple-looking package. It's easy to pick up and play, and a friend of mine who couldn't care less about RPGs found himself having a fun time as we raced to complete the king's objectives. Dokapon Kingdom's biggest flaw is simply that it is a party game, and a rather hefty one compared to games like Mario Party. It requires a significant investment of time and energy compared to most party games, and thus is less likely to be something that's brought out when a few friends come over. However, if you can get together a team to play it, you'll have a lot of fun — assuming you don't end up at each other's throats by the end.
More articles about Dokapon Kingdom