Dokapon Kingdom, as a series, always seemed to be judged as the meaner cousin to Mario Party. After all, it’s a competitive board game pitting you against your friends with the ability to ruin them while bettering yourself. It just is more blatant about doing your best to devastate your opponents and, since it has the RPG elements, drags out the “pain” while it happens. The good news is for people like the series, Dokapon Kingdom: Connect continues the tradition and makes it easy to engage in colorful masochistic fun with other players. The bad news is that it is still a slog to get through a single game, feels incredibly mean-spirited, and gets downright difficult to play due to RNG and the way healing is handled.
Every time you start a Dokapon Kingdom: Connect game, the world is in danger. Monsters conquered every town. Everyone’s broke. So much so that the king is offering to make the person who saves the day and makes the most money the new ruler and spouse of the princess. This means going around seven continents saving the way. Or, if you chose other modes, being the first person to kill the most other players, buy an item and bring it to the king, or restore peace to a designated town.
Dokapon Kingdom: Connect tends to follow some of the same patterns, regardless of which mode you choose. Matches start by going through an “opening” area where you get your initial equipment and fight a few foes to get a few levels. (You’ll probably get to level two or even three this way and get a shield and weapon.) You can only get to the “main” kingdom with an exact dice roll, and depending on your placement can get a certain number of additional points to allocate to stats depending on if you’re first, second, third, or fourth.
Once you get to the world map, your motivations are to get as much money as possible. (As Recette from Recettear would say, “Capitalism, ho!”) This is accomplished via your salary, which varies based on how many jobs you acquire, beating enemies, defeating other players if you happen to wind up on the same space and can “duel,” and freeing villages invaded by monsters. You can then collect money for each one, as well as invest in them to make them better. The “big bad” of each region will occasionally place barriers or inflict status ailments on players. Players can also harass each other by doing things like poisoning one another or making it so they can only move one space per turn. It’s frustrating!
As this is also heavily based on classic RPGs, lots of those elements are present. All fights against monsters and other players are turn-based, with people able to attack, defend, counter, give up, and so on. If you fall in battle to another player or a monster, they’ll steal your items and you’ll skip turns until you revive. Each round of a fight takes one turn, so if your opponent is strong, you could spend multiple turns of the game (and thus days of the week) involved in that one bout. Status effects like poison carry over outside of battles and can gradually kill you unless you get the recovery item from an item space or item shop. You’ll also need to spend money on magic or weapons at respective shops to become more powerful. Gaining levels from fights make you stronger, and it’s possible to change classes or gain access to advanced jobs by visiting the castle after hitting level milestones or finding items at certain places.
Since this is a board game with minigame elements as well, you might happen upon events. For example, you could end up playing rock-paper-scissors during one, though you only get money if that NPC beat another player previously. You can also use rock-paper-scissors to attempt to steal from someone else’s town. However, failing declares you “wanted” and unable to access any town for a period of time, with a 50,000 bounty going to whichever player kills you to “punish.”
The thing is, because so much is happening in Dokapon Kingdom: Connect and it can take so long for certain objectives, the pacing is atrocious. The only options that might be “quick” are Shopping Race or Normal if you limit the number of weeks and increase the starting level, but even then you need to build up enough money and manage to reach the proper store to get the item. In the Story, it has more of an RPG feel and of course is a lengthy sort of adventure. But many of the Battle Royale modes and a typical Normal Mode match can take hours to finish. Especially if you have a run of bad luck.
Also, heaven help you if you have to get CPU players involved. Ahead of launch, I needed to take part in solo and multiplayer sessions with some for testing purposes. It feels like the AI is always skewed to favor these competitors. Both managed to get better spins to gain access to the main map sooner, better odds of landing on better items, and generally started off being as antagonistic as possible. Like it feels bad to lose against actual people in Dokapon Kingdom: Connect, but it’s even more soul-crushing when it involves virtual opponents constantly pushing you back down into the pit you’re attempting to crawl out of.
At least mechanically, Dokapon Kingdom: Connect works. Aside from a bug that would occasionally block the details of a player at the end-of-week check-in, it functions well. It looks like an upscaled version of the PS2 and Wii game. The online quality of life adjustments are especially convenient. It autosaves, which works out well as a proper match is going to be at least a two-hour affair or longer. You can have the CPU control someone who left and all carry on if someone disconnects (intentionally or unintentionally). It really ensures that if you are playing with others, you can keep going until somebody wins.
Still, it’s not the easiest game to recommend even if this is the best and easiest to play version. If you want to ruin friendships, Mario Party is the better option. Yes, there will be hurt feelings, but at least everyone will have a good time while it happens. With Dokapon Kingdom: Connect, the pacing and other elements mean it’ll feel like all four people are trudging through a mile-long pit of quicksand in many modes. There’s an audience for this niche game, for sure, but know going in that it is a lot.
Dokapon Kingdom: Connect will come to the Nintendo Switch on May 9, 2023.