Dokuro from Game Arts and Gungho Online Entertainment America has a charming chalk art style, but before making inviting worlds Dokuro director and Game Arts’ Deputy General Manager Noriaki Kazama was part of Team Ninja.
"Previously, I used to make rather gory games," Kazama said while speaking to Siliconera. "I had a baby and started visiting bookstores where I picked up these children’s books and I was very inspired by the art style." Kazama showed me two books with whimsical images of animals quite different from Ninja Gaiden Sigma which he worked on earlier in his career. "Within Game Arts, they had a contest on who had the best game concept and somebody from the sound department suggested the game concept where a knight carries a princess. It’s a pretty orthodox game concept so we thought it would be more interesting of one of the enemy characters became the protagonist and that’s how the game was created."
Dokuro begins with a Princess trapped in a tower. You, a lowly skeleton guard, has a change of heart and frees her. While the Princess can walk out of her cell, she needs your help to navigate through traps so she can escape. Being an action puzzle game, players have to clear a path for the Princess by defeating other monsters, pulling switches to create platforms, and using magic chalk to create water or string.
I think Dokuro has a bit of Team Ninja spirit in it. Not the graphics, of course, but in the tight controls. Dokuro is responsive and when you over jump you can sense the timing right away. I noticed this when I played some of the challenge levels, stages where you don’t have to worry about escorting the Princess. The stage Kazama showed me was a race to the top of a tower. I had to leap from one floating platform to another while a spiked wall rolled up the screen. Touching the spikes would kill Dokuro, so jumps had to be precise and more importantly fast. Dokuro also has boss battles and the first one is a bit of a brainteaser. I guess I shouldn’t spoil the "solution," but you need reflexes and wit to defeat the jumping monster.
Wait, wasn’t Dokuro about a knight carrying a princess? Yeah, you can still do that, but only after drinking a potion which temporarily transforms Dokuro into a dashing hero.
"But Kazama-san, Dokuro can’t carry the Princess, so does that mean guys that aren’t dashing can’t carry beautiful women," I said teasing Kazama a little bit. Kazama laughed and replied, "Yeah, that wasn’t intentional. It just happened to be that way!"
"At the idea contest we had within the company, the catch phrase for the idea was ‘Have You Saved a Princess lately?’ It’s a basic idea in terms of video games, but we thought you know we haven’t saved a Princess lately. So, it was sort of fresh as an idea," reminisced Kazama.
Dokuro comes out for PlayStation Vita as a digital download in October.