Have you found yourself enraged at the end of a Mario Party title? Have you had a round that ended in the lowest amount of stars yet you won the most mini games? Do you love vintage JRPGs like Y’s, Dragon’s Quest or Final Fantasy? Do you miss the exploration, and random battles of the series’ earlier mega hits? Fans of Nintendo’s party board game series’, and fans of RPGs will love, and hate this highly overlooked gem.
PROS: Turn based battle system. RPG classes, and Mario Party-esque items.
CONS: The week-long grudges resulting from the underhanded actions during gameplay.
WEIRD RESEMBLANCES: The king looks suspiciously like the Thundercats’ Snarf.
The game was originally on the Playstation 2, and was ported to the Nintendo Wii this past generation. Dokapon Kingdom is an odd combination. One part of it is a board game in the vein of Nintendo’s Mario Party series. The game takes place on a huge board that goes throughout many lands, and kingdoms. Players spin a dial, which like the dice in Mario Party, determines the number of spaces you can move. Some of the spaces allow you to get magic items, weapons, or gold. Other spaces are shops allowing you to spend gold on items, or weapons that you rarely find on item spaces. There are also town spaces that players can own, and profit from. This gives the game a welcome element from Monopoly.
From here however things begin to veer into the other part of Dokapon Kingdom, a Role Playing Game. It has elements in common with a lot of the earliest JRPGs, and even some WRPGs. Players can choose a class at the beginning of the game. Thieves, which have a higher propensity to take items from other players, or NPC enemies. Warriors, which have a better set of stats for doing melee damages against players or NPC enemies. Then there are Magicians. Magicians will be better at casting spells, and ranged attacks. As the game progresses, other classes will open up, allowing players to decide if they want to switch or continue with their current character.
There are three modes in Dokapon Kingdom. Up to four people can play in either one. The first mode is the Story mode. Story mode sends players on missions throughout the board game, trying to find very specific items, or reach certain events, and getting back to the king. This is in addition to the normal board game objectives like commanding towns, finding items, and leveling up your characters. The story mode can last months of in-game time. Playing this mode is truly going to appeal to you if you are a big fan of RPGs. It favors a lot of exploration, and choices. That isn’t to say the other modes won’t, but this mode will also give you more of the lore of Dokapon Kingdom. Because this mode is so long, you and your friends will want to save often, and will probably spend several scheduled play sessions trying to finish it.
When I say scheduled play sessions I really mean scheduled. The game will require you to set aside a good 20 or more hours to complete depending on how you or your friends choose to play it. You can also go through this mode on your own, but as you play it, you’ll see the game is suited more to a multiplayer experience. This leads into the second mode.
In Party mode, players can decide how many weeks the game will last. So rather than having to play through the entire storyline, the game can be limited to a number of weeks. In this mode, players can also decide what level to start their characters on. Higher levels will give players more weapons, spells, items, and stats to begin with. This can be a lot of fun because clearing the earlier towns goes by very quickly. This lets even the most novice players feel like they’re able to progress through the game, and see what it’s like to have a leveled up character.
The goal of either mode is to be the player with the most money at the end of the game. The game structure will have you trying to level up by landing on random spaces to fight lower level enemies. Then eventually taking on town spaces. Town spaces are usually held by a boss. Defeating the boss allows the player to own the town which gives the player the ability to upgrade the town. Upgrading the town rewards the owning player with more money. The player can also collect money from his or her competition who land on the space. Players who land on the space can try to get out of owing money by playing Rock, Paper, Scissors against the NPC Mayor. If they lose however then all of the town, and shop spaces are locked for a number of turns as the kingdoms put a bounty on that player. Players can also try to rob stores with a Rock, Paper, Scissors game, with the same result if they lose.
As you go through the game in either mode, leveling up your characters, and getting to newer areas the Mario Party aspect begins to pour back in. Players can attack not only NPCs in towns with items, but each other as well. They can booby trap spaces or cast spells on other players. They can send NPC characters to sabotage other players. They can even battle other players by landing on the same space. Sometimes NPC’s show up to sell you an item, challenge you to a mini game, or hurt one of your opponents for you.
The third mode is a mode called Battle Royale. It has three variants. The first is Kill Race. In this one the king will give a limit of kills, and players will have to keep battling each other throughout the board game until someone hits the kill limit. The second is called Shopping Race. This just transplants one of the missions from the main modes . The player who can land on the shop space, and buy the item the king wants, and get back to the castle to deliver it first wins. The final one is a Town Liberation Race. This mode assigns a random town on the board. The first player to get to the town, and defeat the boss there wins.
Dokapon Kingdom has a simple, but challenging battle system. It starts out with a card draw. Players can decide which card they want, which determines which player or NPC will start the battle. When the battle starts the attacking player can choose to try to attack directly, use an air attack, or try to steal an item or gold. A defending player can try to block an attack, evade an attack, or give up. Depending on what items you’ve used, or how high you’ve leveled certain attributes of your character class your odds of victory will change. The turn based battles are a lot of fun. The exaggerated attacks look cool, and the various enemy designs are great. Sometimes you will also be surprised when a seemingly innocuous bad guy clowns you.
Visually, the game isn’t a technical marvel when compared to the many JRPGs of the PS2 era. But it’s still bright, and colorful to look at. There isn’t any slowdown to speak of, and in all of the time put in I never ran into a crash or a freeze. The audio is a little limited, and you’ll probably tire of the same three or four tracks. But that is a fairly minor complaint when compared to how good everything else seems to be. One could complain about the battle system’s partial randomness or the fact it boils down to three main options, but that also helps it maintain the right challenge for a party game. Besides this, factoring in some of the items, and spells you can place before a battle mixes it up.
The Mario Party aspect really begins to show its head when you attack a player fighting a boss with an item. Or when you cast a blistered foot on someone, forcing them to only spin a 1. Or when you poison someone, draining their health between turns. Killing another player also lets you do some nasty things to them. You can change their name, draw on their face, or make them wear an embarrassing helmet. Or you can take their money or towns. Dying in this game isn’t permanent either. But it will impede your progress as it forces you to lose a certain number of turns. When you do get back into the action you will either start at the beginning or at the last shrine space you visited. You can also try to use hotel spaces to regain some strength, or go back to the beginning of the game to heal. Shrines are also a great place to heal.
While at the beginning space you can also customize your character with new haircuts, items, and even change classes. Some of the newer classes include Clerics, Spell-swords, and Alchemists which are spins on the Magician class. There are also Ninja, and Monk classes which beef up the Warrior class. There is also an Acrobat class. This one is sort of weird. But very entertaining. The new classes show up when you’ve leveled up to a certain point, along with meeting certain conditions. This is also where you will want to bring certain items to the king for bonuses, and where you will probably head when you lose a battle against a friend.
The game does feature mini games too, although they are on designated spaces rather than automatically happening on turn cycles. Winning these can result in a lot of money or special equipment so you may want to try your hand at them.
You might ask yourself what you can do when the game is nearing its end, and you’re in distant last. In this case you can take a page out of Star Wars, and become a Sith Demon Lord. I’m not kidding, there is a space that lets you make a deal with this world’s Emperor Palpatine equivalent. It takes all of your money, and items in exchange for dark powers. Powers that can do everything from putting bosses back on towns, costing your friends millions. To fighting them ranged with spells. To changing spaces to detrimental ones. Of course eventually these powers wear off after a certain number of turns. But it’s a desperation move players on the losing end can utilize to level the playing field again.
At the end of every week the game will show a flow chart of each players progress, or regression. At the end of the game the king will congratulate the best player, and give the worst performer a mildly potty mouthed reward. A more story driven ending is in place for those who choose to play through the story mode. But either way Dokapon Kingdom is a game that will make you, and your friends laugh together, cry together, and possibly attempt to kill each other. Whether you love playing games like Final Fantasy, and Ultima. Or you love playing Mario Party, and Just Dance with your friends. Dokapon Kingdom proves that you can converge seemingly distant genres into a fun, and competitive middle ground.
If you can find an affordable copy for your PS2, or you happen to stumble upon an uncommon copy in the slowly fading Wii section of your game store pick it up. Those who don’t normally play RPGs may need a little time to get up to speed. But it’s still nothing so complicated it requires a dungeon master’s guide. It’s worth the many late night skirmishes with your favorite friends, and your favorite beers.
Final Score: 9 out of 10.