A raucously fun game: Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime

The box art for the North American release of Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime.

 

Introduction

Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime is what I would call a hidden gem for the Nintendo DS. I found this game on the discount rack at a Zellers when Zellers was going out of business here in Canada. It was among the Petz and licensed games.

Intrigued by the Dragon Quest brand and promise of an action adventure game in the franchise, I took it. Thankfully, it turns out that I didn’t take hot garbage from that rack (in this case, anyway).

The Rundown

Rocket Slime is an action adventure game set in the Dragon Quest universe. You play as a little blue slime — the classic early monster from most of the main Dragon Quest games. But, you’re not playing as a slime who’s trying to avoid destruction at the hands of a wet-behind-the-ears hero, instead you’re fighting as the hero in your own slime-centric story.

The game opens with the Plob, a gang of all sorts of monsters from the Dragon Quest games run by Platypunks, trying to get their hands on an artifact of great power called the Warrior Flute. In their attempt to find this artifact they destroy the capital of the country of Slimenia with a powerful tank, and capture all of its citizens save for you. So, it’s your job to go around the game’s various settings solving puzzles, fighting monsters, and freeing your fellow slimes.

Controls

The game’s controls are pretty simple. There aren’t any complicated combos, and the only actions you need to remember on the field are that “A” jumps and hovers, while “B” throws things that you have stacked on your head. But, to get things on your head in the first place, you’ll need to “elastoblast” things.

This special attack is easy to pull off: just hold down “A” and then press the direction that you want to fire off in on the D-Pad.

If any of those moves sound complex, don’t sweat it. You’ll be jumping, throwing, and elasto-blasting so much in this game that using them quickly becomes natural and nearly instinctive.

Though part of these control’s instinctive feel comes from the game’s featuring areas that are all designed in largely the same way.

General Design

This game features seven areas, and each includes a certain puzzling element that you’ll need to solve to fill in the map and to save every slime you can. But, within each area, these elements are more often repeated and made slightly more challenging rather than being rearranged or innovated on to build on the initial challenges found in each area.

A Favourite Feature: Tank Battles

Adding a welcome element of variety to the game are tank battles.

These fights are kind of like Dragon Quest-style puns on classic mech battles. They’re fairly ridiculous real-time battles in which you fire all manner of items (from rocks to chests, to swords, to meteors) from an upper and a lower cannon on your tank while your enemy does the same.

But, as part of these battles being real-time, the ammo you and your enemy fire have to make it through the air between your two tanks before they can do any damage. So you can block incoming fire with your own ammo, just as your opponent can with theirs.

During this fight, you also have to bring the ammo from dispenser chutes found around the inside of your tank to the cannons to load them up. As such, you need to watch your opponent’s fire to look for chances to block or intercept incoming attacks as well as openings for your own barrages. This extra need for tactics makes tank battles much more interesting than Rocket Slime‘s regular combat.

These special event fights also require a bit of forethought and planning as your tank can only carry 30 pre-loaded pieces of ammo which are cycled through over the course of each tank battle. Also, after a certain point in the game, you can bring a few of your fellow slimes on board as crew members who can perform various actions.

As icing on this incredibly destructive cake, once your opponent’s tank is out of HP you need to rush in and destroy its engine. Of course, you do this by breaking into the engine room and hitting the heart-shaped core with an elasto-blast.

Sound

Like most Dragon Quest games before and after it, Rocket Slime‘s music is excellent.

That said, though, there isn’t a new track for each area, or even for each boss. But, with a kind of retro charm, the songs that are repeated throughout the game are put together in such a way that they never become grating.

So long as you’re okay with things that are “charming.”

Overall Aesthetic

A huge part of Rocket Slime‘s aesthetic is a kind of wide-eyed wonder and happy-go-lucky sense of humour that really comes across in the upbeat nature of the music and the goofy voice sampling that’s sprinkled into a few tracks. Not to mention the puns — once again true to the Dragon Quest franchise.

In fact, almost every character’s name in the game is a pun involving a slime-like quality and a title or cultural reference. Just about every item also has a pun in its description or a kind of bright British proper-ness that works uncannily well with the music.

Gameplay and Replayability

The main part of Rocket Slime (the game proper, if you will) isn’t very long.

I clocked 15 and 1/2 hours finishing this game, likely because I went and rescued every slime and dabbled a little bit in the game’s tank battle coliseum. I can’t say that I’ll be replaying this game any time soon, but it’s definitely the sort of game that you can pick up and play through a chunk of a little mindlessly. Then there are other parts where you need to pay a little more attention so you can figure out how to reach the next slime or rare item that you can craft into new items with the game’s alchemy system.

Because of this mix of mindlessness and awareness, I think that Rocket Slime is a fair bit more replayable than most action adventure games. The fact that much of the game requires you to explore to find new routes and to collect all the slimes really builds up the sense that these areas hold secrets even when the area map’s been completely filled in.

In fact, if I had to compare how I feel about Rocket Slime‘s replayability to another game’s, I’d compare it to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

Rocket Slime doesn’t have as many secrets in it or any equipment to collect like A Link to the Past does, but both games offer a world in which exploration is rewarded and mindlessly stomping a bunch of enemies can easily lead into a sudden surge of interest in puzzling through how to get through a screen or how to get to a slime or item. In that way, it’s a game that’s well balanced between the kind of game you can play while listening to a podcast or watching something streaming and one that demands your attention.

And I think it’s this balanced quality of Rocket Slime‘s gameplay that makes it easy to play for fairly lengthy sessions without getting sick of it. Though another reason for that is that the game is mostly quite easy.

In classic Zelda fashion, you can max out your health at two rows of eight hearts. But only during the final boss did I come anywhere close to getting through even one row of health. Rocket Slime is definitely a very easy game when it comes to combat and health management. If you’ve played games before, you’re probably not going to see the game over screen. At least during the regular game — some of the later tank battles flattened me either because of the enemy tank’s HP or its firepower.

Conclusion

Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime‘s charming presentation, well-balanced (though not very varied) music, fun exploration-based levels, and sometimes surprisingly challenging tank battles make it a game that I think is worth finding. And, if you already have a copy, I think it’s worth keeping.

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About NSCZach

A writer who translates Beowulf (and other things), freelances, reads voraciously, and plays adventure video games/J-RPGs.
This entry was posted in DS, review, video games and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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