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Important Importables Review: Dokuro for Vita

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Title: Dokuro
Price: $29.99
System(s): PS Vita
Release Date: July 5, 2012
Publisher (Developer): GungHo (Game Arts)
ESRB Rating: N/A, Cero A for All Ages
Pros: Unique art style, catch soundtrack, cute premise, challenging puzzles and levels, good use of touch screen and touchpad and when you load the game you can choose which level you start on. You can collect coins hidden in each level. After a certain point, Dokuro can take more than one hit and still survive. The game also autosaves. It’s already translated into English.
Cons: A hint feature for more difficult puzzles would have been nice. You can’t return to the castle map to play out of order at any time, and must return to the main menu first.
Overall Score: 9.5/10

This just figures. I mean really. Two weeks after I order and import Dokuro, Game Arts and GungHo’s adorably difficult, 2D platformer from Japan, a North American release that will surely be cheaper is announced. Am I bitter?

Nope.

Okay, I was initially, before Dokuro arrived, but that’s gone now. See, that’s because Dokuro is an absolutely fantastic game. It’s well worth the $30 I paid to import it,, as it manages to be funny, dramatic, endearing, frustrating, thought-provoking and worth every penny. Dokuro is a gem and deserves a worldwide release.

Guide a princess through a Dark Lord’s castle to stop a marriage

Dark Lords have a standard modus operandi. They find helpless princesses, capture them and then either ransom or marry them. There’s really no deviation from the pattern, and that’s how Dokuro begins. The heartless Dark Lord and his minions go to a castle town, abduct the Princess and bring her to the Dark Lord’s fortress.

Except while the Dark Lord is heartless, one of his minions isn’t. A tiny skeleton named Dokuro, who has a habit of being ignored by everyone, is in the Dark Lord’s chamber. He hears about the plans for the Dark Lord to marry the Princess, sees the special formula that makes anyone instantly stronger and witnesses the poor Princess crying over her fate.

Dokuro starts to leave, figuring that’s just how things go, but once he gets outside the chamber he starts questioning his loyalties. Before he knows it, the Princess means more to him than the Dark Lord. He sets her free and decides to escort her through the Dark Lord’s fortress to safety.

Jumping, bashing, pushing, drawing and tapping your way to freedom.

The basic premise of Dokuro is pretty simple. Players help Dokuro get the Princess from point A to point B across 10 levels in each area. The Princess can only move forward on a level surface and will continue moving forward so long as there isn’t an empty gap, blockade or the floor rises or falls. It’s up to Dokuro to move ahead and push aside obstacles, bridge gaps, fight enemies and trigger devices by pushing, pulling, attacking or using one of his magic chalks to influence the environment. Dokuro can also take a magic potion to transform into a human Hero form, which can carry the Princess and use stronger attacks.

The ability to switch forms is executed quite well, and in such a manner that it’s essential to constantly move from one to the other. Dokuro’s standard form is faster, smaller and more agile. It’s good for moving around the environment and arranging things. The Hero form is stronger, which means he’s best for defeating enemies that the Dokuro form couldn’t damage. The Hero form can also lift the Princess, though when he does his jumping power is sapped. The main Dokuro form is the one you’re most often using though, as the Hero form can only be used for brief spurts, but both are quite handy and it’s an interesting concept to include. Implementing it is remarkably easy too, as you just have to double-tap the front or rear touchscreen or touchpad to transform.

As I mentioned earlier, Dokuro also has magic chalk that is used in some puzzles to complete objectives. White chalk can repair ropes and tie things together. Red chalk can conduct fire and act as a fuse. Blue chalk is, of course, aligned with ice. The red and blue chalk are used more than the white, but each comes up sporatically throughout levels and are used via drawing on the touch screen. I have to say, it also works perfectly as I never had Dokuro fail to recognize and or accept any line I had drawn.

Aside from the general challenges, there are also occasional boss fights. These tend to be the last stage in every other area. They also involve quite a bit of thought and form-swapping. For example, the first boss is a big, burly jumper, but he won’t start jumping right away. You have to make Dokuro transform into the hero to whittle the boss’ health down a bit. Then he’ll start dropping, making boxes fall from the ceiling. That’s when you turn back to Dokuro and drag the spiked box into the boss’ landing zone. After the boss lands on it, he’s damaged and stunned. That’s when the Hero appears again to do some fast attacks. Rinse, repeat and you’re done! The same thing happens for every boss, though the strategies to win are always different.

Finally, I want to point out how beautiful Dokuro is. It’s simplistic, but absolutely gorgeous. The uncomplicated melodies in the background fit perfectly with the stark visuals and it all combines together for quite a pretty game. It’s impressive and the minimialistic style really enhances the story and adventure. In fact, it’s so pretty that I’ve even taken some screenshots of story segments and the end-of-level save points to use as wallpapers for my Vita.

Dokuro is a stylish and heart-warming tale well worth your time and money.

Dokuro is an absolutely charming game. It’s an absolutely unique adventure with perfect presentation and controls and a definite win for PS Vita owners everywhere. It’s one of those games that leaves you smiling as you play, even though some later levels are so challenging that you could easily spend upwards of 15 minutes trying to figure out how to safely escort the Princess from one side to another. It’s a perfect example of the kind of games the PS Vita should be getting, games that look fantastic, play well and make you want to keep playing well after the main campaign is done, even though there’s no new content unlocked.

COMING NEXT TIME: Important Importables wll offer a checklist to help you determine how to pick out import games that would be easy to play and understand.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Last week Important Importables went through the Hatoful Boyfriend: Holiday Star demo.

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