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Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime Review

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Developer: Square-Enix Publisher: Square-Enix
Release Date: September 19, 2006 Also On: None

Last November’s Dragon Quest VIII initiated the series’ return to Western shores and flew off of store shelves, offering dozens upon dozens of hours of traditional RPG gameplay and a Final Fantasy XII demo disc to boot. With that game’s popularity, it’s no surprise to me that SquareEnix has stuck around in 2006 to offer American gamers two spin-offs of their Dragon Quest/Dragon Warrior series. The first of these two spin-offs, with the latter Dragon Quest Swords coming to the Wii in November, is Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime. This is a DS game that captures familiar Zelda-like gameplay with its own cutesy charm and intuitive control style, and it does all of this very well, rounding off one of the best DS carts to come out in 2006.

As its name implies, Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime puts you in the…er…goo of a slime, one of the Dragon Quest series’ most iconic monsters. Rather than serve as experience fodder as they have in previous Dragon Quest games, the slimes in this game are friendly and peaceful as they go about their slimy lives in Slimenia. One day, the Plob, an evil gang of monsters, wreaks havoc on Slimenia and captures all of the slimes. Rocket, the slime you’ll take control of, remains untouched. It’s up to you and your bouncy virtual avatar to save the slimes and stop the Plob. The story, while not totally original or inventive in itself, gives way to cute dialogue, funny cut-scenes, and more slime puns than you could ever imagine. In short, the story isn’t the greatest but the comedy that stands above it does more than a fair amount of entertaining, and it would be a sin for me to ruin any of the humor for you.

Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime plays a lot like the classic 2D Legend of Zelda games. I’ll just get that out of the way as quickly as possible. Don’t expect a 2D epiphany while playing through this one–anyone who’s touched one of those older games will be familiar with how Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime works. It would be a travesty to write it off as a copycat game, though, and it’s not–Rocket Slime introduces a lot of intuitive and innovative things to the mix. While you don’t use the stylus or touch screen at all, Rocket Slime has a handling perk–you only use the directional pad to move Rocket, and you’ll interact with and attack things in the environment with the A button. Holding down the A button in combination with pressing a direction on the d-pad will elastically stretch out your slime, and letting go of the button will send him “Elasto Blasting” forward, knocking anything in his path into the air. By Elasto Blasting, you can “catch” objects or enemies and throw them around with the B button. This simple mechanic is what 60% of Rocket Slime consists of.

It’s this simple control that will ease gamers into the gameplay, but the design of the game goes much further. Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime, like the Legend of Zelda games before it, has simple control mechanics but a level design that will sometimes have you scratching your head and trying hard to figure out just what to do next. You’ll interact with objects in the environment, and you’ll do things like go underground through water wells and fire cannons to proceed through the environment. Anything that is found (objects, items, enemies) can also be thrown onto rail cars that are located throughout each level. This is useful for tank battles, and before I lose track and go on a tangent, I must discuss this second gameplay feature. Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime takes a bite out of Advance Wars’ book and combines dual-screen battles with its adventure portions. These battles, initiated at certain times and locations throughout the game, are a lot of fun and are the more involving parts of Rocket Slime’s gameplay. The items found throughout the world are used as ammunition, and you’ll defend your Schlieman tank from other creatively-designed (and hilariously named) enemy tanks. These portions of the game can be very intense, as you’ll fire off ammo in real-time by doing what Rocket does best–Elasto Blasting into objects, carrying them to your cannons, and throwing them into the cannons. Once the enemy tank is weakened, Rocket can travel over to the enemy tank and sabotage its engines to end the battle. These tank battles are almost always exciting, they’re always fun, and they’re my favorite part of the game. They’ve even got their own fully-featured multiplayer mode, as Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime supports the Nintendo DS multiple game card multiplayer functions.

The tank battles get much deeper about halfway through the game when you start finding bigger, more powerful items that serve as ammo; not to mention you can upgrade your tank’s health meter to make it sturdier in those long-winded conflicts. Besides the ammo and health upgrades, you can actually recruit friendly slimes that have specific in-battle strengths and weaknesses. For example, Hooly, one of your slime friends, will fire himself at incoming projectiles, knocking them out of the air. Other characters will run around throughout the Schlieman tank, collecting ammo and firing away at enemies. Some characters even play a defensive role and protect the tank from intruding Plob monsters. All of these abilities are controlled by AI, but it’s a great feature nonetheless, and adds a lot of depth and strategy to the already-exciting tank battles.

Visually, Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime is, again, very similar to Legend of Zelda games. It has its own charm, though–it’s very bright and colorful, and everything, even the Plob, looks bouncy and happy. In fact, I’d say this is one of the most ridiculously cutesy and happy games I’ve ever found myself being gripped by. The sprites are big, bright, and perfectly animated. Visually, you couldn’t ask for more from a top-down 2D adventure game. The sound is appropriate, with cutesy music that never gets annoying. The tank battle music is fitting to the gameplay, and in hand is more reminiscent of Advance Wars.

Overall, Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime doesn’t go unscathed. Though there is a lot of depth to be found in the tank battle system, and the game has an undeniable pick-up-and-play feel to it, Rocket Slime ends shortly around the dozen-hour mark. The lack of WiFi multiplayer and downloadable play hurts, but Rocket Slime does have a multiplayer mode that is loaded with features like playable tanks, characters, and settings. All-in-all, for anything bad I could say about Rocket Slime, I could say about ten good things about it. As if Rocket Slime needed another piece of proof, that’s a sign of a good, fun game; one of the better handheld titles this year. If your DS has been dormant since New Super Mario Bros. and Tetris DS stole the show earlier this year, Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime will definitely satiate your appetite for handheld gaming until Final Fantasy III attacks this November and Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass sets sail next spring.

Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 8.5
Gameplay: 10
Creativity: 9.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 7
Final: 9
Written by Cliff Review Guide