Most party games are so awful that you could fill a book with all their shortcomings. Since print is dead, Atlus opted for making a game to show DS owners how incredible the genre should be. Dokapon Journey is a party game that sets itself apart by introducing turn based RPG elements. Movement is done on an open board, however there is no minigame at the end of each turn where everyone battles it out. Instead you defeat other players with a well planned strategy.
The goal is to overcome as many monsters as you can before the other players beat you to it. Doing so earns you experience points and loot, and just like in real life the one with the most money in the end wins. Some monsters have taken over towns, and beating them leads to your ownership of the town. You get a reward for saving them, and they are also added to your assets and provide you cash through taxes.
Battle follows the basic RPG layout. At the start of the turn you blindly choose to attack or defend. When attacking, you can do a basic attack, the more powerful strike, use magic, or use a skill determined by the character you chose initially. When on the defensive, you can defend, counter a strike, use protective magic, or give up.
The goal when attacking is to have as effective of a turn as possible, and when defending you want to anticipate the attackers move to minimize or block its affect. There will be plenty of stressful battles leaving you wishing you’d only had the foresight to choose more wisely.
Like all party games, playing against others is the best alternative. You are encouraged to fight dirty on your way to the top, and there are plenty of ways to screw over your opponents. In head to head battles against a friend, winning is extremely satisfying. You are given a slew of options upon victory, including taking the loser’s money, property, or even changing their name to a demeaning word of your choosing.
Atlus found many ways to significantly speed up gameplay so that you spend much more time playing and less watching others take their turn. There are several beneficial inclusions like adjustable text scroll speed, minimization of what you have to watch during the CPU’s turn, and showing all possible spaces you can land after you spin the wheel.
Unfortunately Dokapon Journey could have been a lot better graphically. It looks like a Gameboy Advance game at best. The top screen could have been used better when navigating the kingdom, too. It would have been a great place to put a quickly accessible map showing you towns you own and where important things are located.
Nonetheless the gameplay is addicting, making Dokapon Journey a DS game worth owning. The simple RPG turn based play blends perfectly into the board game party elements for an experience unlike any other. It’s great portable fun, especially when shared with friends.