Life is a journey; it doesn’t matter where you end up, just the experience you gain through the path you took. Dokapon Journey throws this saying out the window. Who cares what you did throughout most of the game. The important part is winning — which is evident in how quickly tides turn in this DS RPG/board game.
To paraphrase the guys at Penny Arcade in describing the game: think of Monopoly, except you can die horrible deaths where you lose all that you hold dear. When dying at the hands of an enemy, not only do you get sent back to wherever your “base” is, but you also either lose all your money, or something in your inventory like an item or equipment.
Dokapon Journey lets you create RPG-like characters such as the standard warrior and mage. I picked a more exotic sounding class for my first character: an amazon. I set up my opponents as warriors and mages, but classes didn’t seem to make much of a difference — it all came down to how much HP people had. My AI opponents, whom I set to normal difficulty, were easily kicking the ass of monsters that I was cowering from. After about the fourth time an AI opponent killed me in one hit, I gave up adding points to other stats and concentrated solely on HP whenever I leveled up.
Even though all the fighting and money-stealing started getting monotonous in story-mode, I still found myself looking forward to exploring farther and farther from the castle because I wanted to see new enemies. The graphics in Dokapon Journey show bright, colorful, and detailed sprites. The game really does look like a kid’s board game come to life.
The game supports local multiplayer on one cart and I wished that I had more people to play it with. Maybe it’s a good thing I don’t though, because who knows if my friends would stay my friends after I beat them down for all of their money in the game. The meat of the game is playing with others because even though the AI players are a tough challenge, it’s no comparison to playing with real life people.
Unlike the typical RPG, progression isn’t additive. Just because I was doing well in the beginning of the game doesn’t mean that I’m on the path to winning. Having way too much money made me a target to my opponents and in one lucky strike, any of them could just take away everything from me and send me back to nothing to wait for my turn to come up. Think of it as the blue turtle shell in Mario Kart.
When I first read of the game, I was excited to play such a strange concept: a board game crossed with a role playing game. Dokapon Journey delivers on that idea, but without a convenient group of friends with DS’s to play the game with, it’s easy to get bored. It just wasn’t satisfying playing by myself and enduring the constant beatings by the brutal AI.