There’s always a game that slips through the cracks. These days with social media, Youtube, and Reddit, it’s hard for games to escape notice. But back in the PS2 days, many obscure titles came out to little or no fanfare, even from popular publishers. Going on eBay now, you’ll see titles like Rule of Rose, Chulip, and even Mister Mosquito fetching surprising prices because they’re no longer easy to find and videos about them have increased demand.
One of the more obscure titles out there that this happened to is Dokapon Kingdom. Originally released in Japan in 2007 by Sting Entertainment (makers of many other sleeper titles like Yggdra Union and Riviera), Dokapon Kingdom is basically a Mario Party clone. In the main game, 1-4 players can play characters who travel across Dokapon Kingdom fighting monsters in order to make the realm safe again, gain riches, and ultimately, win the hand of the king’s daughter. Now, you’d think that this was pretty misogynistic, but you can also play as a female adventurer. Sadly, you’d still be right as the king offers to marry you instead if that’s your choice. Regardless, win the game with the most money when all the enemies are defeated and you get yourself a kingdom!
This isn’t a complex game by any means. In Dokapon Kingdom, you spin a standard 6 slot spinner in order to find out how far you can move. Wherever you can reach with the number you roll is how far you can move and the game even conveniently highlights the potential options. Land on an empty spot and you fight a random enemy. Land on a monster and you’ll fight them. But this isn’t a normal Mario Party-style game either. There’s a distinctive RPG flavor to the gameplay and as you fight enemies, you level up and gain gold, allowing you to upgrade your character’s weapons, armor, spells, and items. These upgrades are necessary to survive in Dokapon Kingdom, a challenge at the best of times.
While there are a ton of different types of random encounters, shops, and assorted weirdness alike alien abductions in Dokapon Kingdom, that doesn’t mean the game is particularly complex. Aside from picking where you’re going, you can use items to either mess with other players and NPCs or strengthen your character in some way. You can also use items to move a set number of spaces, heal, and for a few other handy activities. Don’t ignore your items; you’ll definitely be in trouble if you do!
What’s special about Dokopon is that you can attack your friends. You can steal their stuff, swipe their money, and even change their in-game name to Mr. Poopy or something equally ridiculous if you want. Simply land on the same space as another player (assuming it’s not a store or something) and you can fight them. Win, and they are at your mercy, leading to some interesting and particularly aggressive couch co-op back on the PS2. Now, Dokapon Kingdom Connect, a new port of the original release from Idea Factory, lets you go online and play against random people as well as offering couch co-op. There’s nothing more satisfying than watching your opponent beg for mercy when you’ve utterly crushed them in combat and providing that smug satisfaction is something Dokapon does extremely well.
It should be noted at this point that while this is entirely designed to be a family game or a social game, you absolutely can play Dokapon by yourself. It’s probably going to seem like the computer is cheating but you can do it. In single player mode, you can determine the number and skill of the computer players as well, making things easier or much, much harder, but to be fair, this is a game designed primarily for you to mess with your friends and rack up the most cash at the same time. There are some other gameplay modes as well.
Normal Mode is probably the preferred mode for players. It’s a shorter experience where you can set the number of weeks (don’t worry, not in real time) to play and whoever has the fattest stack of cash at the end wins. This allows you to play a short and vicious version of the game as opposed to the long and repetitive Story Mode. There’s also a Battle Royale mode available which has a Town Race where you race to liberate a town, a Kill Race where you try to obliterate other players, and a Shopping Race which is basically a short scavenger hunt. Normal Mode is solid, but the Battle Royale modes are more just for a bit of light entertainment to shake things up so the gameplay doesn’t get stale.
Speaking of the gameplay and stale, Dokapon is a game from the PS2. And when we say a game from the PS2, what we’re really saying is that this is basically a direct port with some HD cleanup. The user interface is dated, the explanation of basic information is negligible, and the majority of gameplay is learning by trial and error. The original game at least came with a manual, but for the Switch version, you’ll just have to figure out how everything works on your own. That’s moderately irritating in a game where 2/3 of the time you’re just waiting for the computer to slowly take its turn or your friends to hurry the heck up and make a decision already. Having movement based on randomized numbers isn’t great either, as you’re basically at the mercy of an algorithm.
What’s worse, when you start tinkering with the background structure of the game, you’ll quickly find that there’s nothing random at all about Dokapon Kingdom Connect. Don’t believe me? Try saving the game, reloading your save, and spinning the roulette wheel again. Turns out that you’ll get the same number every single time. The algorithm decides what you’re going to get when it’s your turn, not when you spin the roulette wheel and the randomization is atrocious because of it. That’s definitely not a great system and the fact that you can detect it so easily is borderline shameful.
There are definitely some upgrades that could have been done to improve Dokapon Kingdom Connect but sadly, no one seems to have bothered. On the upside, you can eliminate combat sequences for the AI to speed things up in single player modes and you can also choose acceleration from the menu to double the speed of the game and preserve some of your time and sanity. The pacing of Dokapon Kingdom is glacial and you’re definitely going to want to put the pedal down a bit and zip through, especially on Story Mode!
Now, you’ve probably figured out by now that Dokapon Kingdom isn’t much to look at either. Sure, it looks nice and clean in HD and all, but there are no upgrades to the visuals otherwise and they’re remarkably dated and cutesy. Even character palette options are surprisingly limited. It’s a bit disappointing to be honest. The sound isn’t much better, with cutesy earworm songs constantly jingling in your ears. At least you can turn voices and CPU chatter off! That’s a blessing because Dokapon Kingdom Connect looks and sounds like the 15 year old PS2 game it is.
Ultimately, if you want a party game that isn’t Mario Party, Dokapon Kingdom has some direct conflict that can be fun at times, a variety of modes, and some neat ideas. Sadly, they’re packaged in a dated reminder of days gone by and the mechanics haven’t aged as well as one might hope. The main Story Mode takes a solid 35 or 40 hours or so too, so you’re going to be at it a long time. For a game like this, that’s a surprising amount of gameplay spread out over multiple continents full of monsters, but the gameplay is also a bit less compelling than it should be, even for a light tongue-in-cheek party game like this one. At $50, that’s a bit of a pricey proposition, but this has been a game that’s been unavailable for over a decade and the prices for used PS2 copies are noticeably more expensive than a Switch copy that genuinely looks nicer on screen, even if it doesn’t come with a physical manual. Regardless, for an oddball, obscure party game, Dokapon Kingdom Connect has some fun elements and some clever ideas and if that’s your sort of thing, it’s not a bad game. It’s certainly not for everyone, but if you want to spin the wheel and take your chances, Dokapon Kingdom Connect with be there with the moves, on and offline!
This review is based on a digital copy of Dokapon Kingdom Connect provided by the publisher. It was played on a Nintendo Switch in both docked and undocked modes and played equally well on both. Dokapon Kingdom Connect is a Switch exclusive.