Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime - Staff Review  

Slimey, yet Satisfying
by Elliot Guisinger

12-17 Hours


Rating definitions 

   What is a day in the life of a slime? Such is a question that perhaps few have considered, but is answered to the fullest extent in Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime. Since the first Dragon Quest, hundreds of millions of slimes have been slaughtered mercilessly at the hands of heroes looking to save the world. But are slimes really the enemy? What if all along, these slimes were merely on quests of their own to save their own worlds? According to Rocket Slime, this could very well be the case. In the distant island nation of Slimenia, a young slime named Rocket falls into a grand adventure of rescue, tanks, and heroism. And he has a load of fun doing it.

   The story begins on an ill-fated, yet otherwise normal, day in the slime nation of Slimenia. The capital city, Boingburg, is having a usual, peaceful day. But this all changes suddenly when a group of menacing monsters, called the Plob, attack Boingburg seemingly unprovoked. Not only is havoc wreaked across the city, but every last one of the city's 100 citizens is kidnapped--that is every last one, except Rocket. And so the future of Boingburg and its inhabitants comes to rest on the shoulders of the most unlikely hero of all. The premise of Rocket Slime is very simple: rescue the 100 slimes that have been kidnapped from Slimenia and destroy the Plob.

   Rocket is able to do this a number of ways. His main way of interacting with the world is with his patented elastoblast. This technique is exactly how it sounds. Rocket stretches himself out and slingshots himself forward.  This is how Rocket attacks enemies, opens chests, picks up items, and destroys objects. Although it's a simple technique, it's not without its flaws. Because the elastoblast requires the player to stretch Rocket out for a period of time before use, though at the minimum it's a very short period, the gameplay can be a bit cumbersome. In the heat of battle, for example, a player's reflexes will be faster than Rocket can perform an elastoblast, resulting in an occasional misfire. There is a trade off, however. The elastoblast sacrifices accuracy for brute strength; though hitting a specific target may not be the technique's forte, it will have no problem barreling through a whole group of enemies and knocking them all out of commission. Only when Rocket collects a Slime Knight is battle much more fluid thanks to the added ability to swipe a sword at will. Sadly, those times are few and far between.

Gotta clean up
Slimenia"Gotta clean up Slimenia"

   When an elastoblast is used on an enemy or object, it is thrown straight up into the air for Rocket to catch. He can hold up to three items/enemies/rescued slimes at a time. He then sends them back to Slimenia by tossing them onto moving carts that carry them back to safety. Often times, if Rocket blasts into multiple enemies or items at once, he'll find himself collecting the wrong ones and having to sort through to pick up the ones he wants. A minor inconvenience, but an inconvenience nonetheless, especially since other enemies and NPCs in the game can pick up objects by simply walking up and picking them up hassle-free.

   Of course, if that were all there was to Rocket Slime, the game would have received a far lower score. Indeed, an interesting mechanic called the Tank Battle not only saves this game from a walk of shame, but also catapults it to the forerunner for most fun and original DS RPG ever. No, seriously. As one might guess, a Tank Battle is a battle between two giant tanks: one belonging to Rocket, the other to a member of the dastardly Plob. Rocket fires at his foe by loading different types of ammunition, collected throughout the game, with varying degrees of strength and effect into one of two cannons. The object is to have the launched item hit the enemy's tank and take away its HP, but if two items from opposing tanks hit each other, they will cancel each other out, adding a high degree of strategy to the mix. Once an enemy tank's HP reaches zero, Rocket must infiltrate and destroy its core to seal the victory. Rocket can also recruit up to three additional team members selected from rescued slimes and captured monsters, each with unique AI settings set by the player. Team members can do anything from helping launch ammunition to healing the tank, or infiltrating the enemy tank. Timing, strategy, speed, and luck all play huge roles in the outcome of these battles. Describing Tank Battles using only black and white text doesn't do justice to the amount of fun to be had; they can be quite intense. Indeed, there's nothing else quite like them.

   Rocket Slime makes great use of the DS's two screens. All of the action takes place on the bottom screen, with a map of the area appearing on the top. In tank battles, the top screen is used to present a scaled-back view of the fight, showing the ammunition as it flies across the field, allowing players to strategize and plan their battles more actively. All of the action, such as loading the ammo and infiltrating the enemy tank, is done on the bottom screen. The organization of the menu that appear on the top screen when accessed is very intuitive with easy shoulder-button access to information such as slimes saved, items collected, and monsters captured. There is, however, very limited use of the touch screen.

   It's no secret that the game's developers focused much more on gameplay and mechanics than they did story. Though the storyline is practically nonexistent, the game moves along very fluidly. The slimes that Rocket rescues all have unusual personalities that add an enjoyable sense of humor to the game through a phenomenal localization treatment. The Plob can also be funny as they try to present themselves as a force to be feared, only to fail. It's refreshing to play a game that can provide a unique new RPG experience without taking itself too seriously. The game knows what it is and it doesn't try to be anything more or less.

Crazy, exciting tank
battleCrazy, exciting tank battle

   Another fun factor that veterans of Dragon Quest will appreciate is the references to other games in the series. In one instance, there is an allusion to Dragon Quest Swords, a game to be released next year for the Nintendo Wii. It's never too early to start advertising. Also prevalent throughout Rocket Slime are all the little quirks that any Dragon Quest fan should be familiar with. From the opening fanfare music to the save game theme and the sleeping theme, most of them are in there. They are subtle, but any veteran of the series will know they are playing a Dragon Quest game.

   Visually, Rocket Slime does not disappoint. The game sports colorful 2D graphics with a bright, cute, and very appropriate color palette. Every one of the many enemy tanks has its own unique design and title logo. The sprite animations are fluid and clean, and the Tank Battle effects are nice and flashy. The only visual problem encountered was the occasional flickering of Rocket's tank upon the defeat of his opponent's tank. Also, much credit is due to Mr. Toriyama for finding a way to design 100 slimes and making them all look unique in their own way. A daunting task, to be sure, and it was done quite well.

   Though the audio department doesn't quite stack up as well as the visual department, it is not without merit. It does earn a lot of points from nostalgia. Many themes and sound effects are taken straight from the other DQ games, and it's still very cool to hear. Aside from that, though, the music doesn't have much variety. There are too few original tunes used too often. Though the tunes aren't bad, in fact they can be quite catchy, it would have been nice to have a little more variety.

   One area that may put off the hardcore gamer is the difficulty level. Rocket Slime is fairly easy up until the final few tank battles, which do up the ante quite a bit. The game is also relatively short, with the average gamer able to complete it in around 12 hours. However, bonus content such as a Tank Battle arena, where players can test their mettle in a series of increasingly difficult Tank Battles, adds considerably to the difficulty and length of the game. If that still won't cut it, there's always the option of taking on a friend or three in the multiplayer mode.

   Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime is a game unlike any other. Though some individual aspects of the title can be considered a bit mediocre, the entire package as a whole is nothing short of superb, with addictive original gameplay receiving the bulk of the merit. Gamers will have a hard time having more fun with their DS this year. DQ veterans and newcomers alike will find a lot to enjoy in this little gem. To put it bluntly, it's just so much fun. With great visuals, engrossing and unique gameplay mechanics, and good old-fashioned Dragon Quest fun, Rocket Slime is easily a winner, and it comes highly recommended. At the very least, players will come away with a new RPG experience that won't soon be forgotten.

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