Friday, December 5, 2014

Rocket Slime review

A few weeks ago, when I was at Book Off, I was going through their used Gameboy DS games when I came across Soul Eater, Medusa's Conspiracy for 950 yen. I like the Soul Eater manga and anime a lot, but I was a bit hesitant at getting this game based on the back cover art. So, I put off buying it for a while. Later, I came back to sell some books to them and as I was waiting I discovered that the game wasn't on the shelf anymore. In its place was Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime, also 950 yen ($9 USD). Figuring that it might be interesting to play a DQ slime as the main character, I decided to pick it up.

The Japanese title is "Suraimu Morimori Doragon Kuesuto 2: Daisensha to Shippo Dan" (Gutsy Slime Dragon Quest 2: The Big Battle Tank and the Tail Gang), and it was released by Square Enix in 2005 (2006 in the U.S.) As should be expected, the character designs are all based on the original DQ franchise, by Akira Toriyama. The overall artwork is good, and the music is catchy. The good guys are made up of variations of the slime family, while the villains are just the regular monsters lifted from the other games. The story is silly, aimed at kids, but the main battles are difficult enough to challenge most adults.

(Slime Town map, plus some of the rescued villagers.)

Slime (Rocket) is playing in Slime village when they're attacked by enemies in a giant tank intent on taking over the continent. It's Slime's job to rescue the 100 other inhabitants of the village, and defeat the mafia don leader. In some respects, Morimori is very similar to Chocobo's Magic Picture Book, also issued by Square Enix, in 2007. Both games are puzzle-based, with very little combat, both resemble Zelda, and both require that the player rescue a large number of missing friends. For Morimori, that's 100 other slimes that need unlocking.

The game has essentially 2 components - dungeon crawling to locate chests containing imprisoned slimes; and, tank battles. The dungeons have a wide variety of items that can either be used as tank ammo (shells, i-beams, stone statues, shields, swords) or turned into ammo through alchemy. There are 6-7 fields to explore, and when you leave them to return home, a tally screen shows how many of each item you recovered, and how many slimes you've found, which is useful. There are track carts and river rafts that you throw items and enemies on to, which are immediately put into your inventory. If you capture 30 of a particular enemy, they will agree to man one of the three available crew slots in your tank. If you just defeat them, you get a small amount of money, and the occasional random item. Boss battles at the end of each field will also unlock a slime.

(Field map (top), and preparing to start a tank battle (bottom).)

Unlike Chocobo and Zelda, Morimori doesn't provide you with much in the way of tools or weapons. You get one attack - stretching yourself out and launching into the enemy like a rubber band - which gets upgraded so you can blast through large boulders. After hitting something, it will generally bounce, and during this time you can try to catch it to carry around on your head. Carried objects can be thrown at enemies, or they can be tossed on a raft to be added to inventory. You can't use inventory outside of tank battles or alchemy sessions, though. The puzzles are largely limited to figuring out when to use certain cannons in a field, get around one-way passages, and navigating mazes.

Tank battles are the other half of the game. Various mid-stage bosses have their own tanks and there's only one way to take them on. Your tank, the Schleiman, has an upper and lower gun, plus ammo chutes in the rooms in its main body. You're allowed 30 pieces of ammo, which are randomly ejected from the chutes. Just about all of the inventory can be used as ammo, but a lot of it only delivers 1 or 2 points. Which, when you're facing an enemy with 1000 HP is not useful. You can have up to 3 crew members helping you load ammo, patrol against enemy infiltrators, or sabotage the enemy's tank for you. Crew members can be specific rescued slimes, or a representative of any monster species that you captured 30 members of. There are no weapon or armor upgrades for the tank. Specific inventory items that you find later in the game, or synthesize through alchemy, deliver more damage, and you can pay a mechanic to up the tank's HP, but that's it. Because the enemy uses the same ammo that you can, having stronger ammo doesn't really count as "upgrading" as in a regular RPG. What really makes the biggest difference during a battle is your choice of crew members.

(Tank battle. Rocket's tank is on the left, about to be infiltrated by the enemy.)

One nice touch is that certain weapons (swords, shells, arrows) have grade numbers (1-3). Slime can only carry three items at a time to load the guns, but if all three are the same kind of numbered item, it automatically turns into one item of the next grade. That is, picking up three grade 1 arrows creates one grade 2 arrow. Three grade 2's makes one grade 3. It's a fun gimmick, but unless you have a bunch of the same item for your tank, it doesn't happen often, and you're generally better off just throwing everything into the guns when you can to counter what the enemy is shooting at you. What I do like is sneaking into the enemy tank and stealing their ammo. If the enemy only has grade 1 bombs, you can try to make a grade 3, but it's time consuming and one of the enemy's crew members will end up grabbing a grade 2 you've made in the process to shoot at your tank. Then it gets kind of silly.

(About to attack the heart of the enemy's ship.)

The point of the tank battle is to bring the enemy tank's HP down to 0. This causes the doors to the engine core to open. Then, you can to go through the engine's defenses to rubber band attack the ship's heart. Do that and you win. Winning the first time gives you a captured slime, and one piece of good ammo. Stage bosses and mid-stage tanks can be re-fought as often as you like.

When you rescue a specific number of slimes, the village gets repaired back to normal. One of these repairs is the reopening of the tank tournament. You can choose to compete at the C, B, A or S ranks, and get more ammo for your inventory. There is one more rank, which opens after you beat the final boss, that is the hardest battle in the game. As usual, the best items don't become available until after you're finished defeating everyone, but for this game, the idea is to compete against your friends in multi-player mode. For me, going through the hassle of obtaining more of the best ammo or trying to clear the requirements for the last two tank HP upgrades really isn't worth the 20-40 hours needed. As it is, I finished everything I want to play in the game within about 30 hours.

Morimori is a fun game in small doses, but there's no replay value at the end. Recommended if you like Dragon Quest, and if you can get it really cheap, used.

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