Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Doraemon Nobita no Dorabian Night

Hudson Soft

This isn't a good game, but it really, really should be. It offers the sort of stage variety one likes to find in a cartoony platformer, as it features disparate environments that include prehistoric jungles, dusky graveyards, and Arabian palaces. Large sprites roam these areas (which look all the nicer when parallax is present), so the visuals are better than adequate (though some of the enemy sketches are quite crude).

You can explore the decent-looking lands to build up your stock of weapons (which will ultimately include a stun gun, lock-on bombs, and a behemoth-shrinking wand) and items (such as a propeller-topped cap that grants you the ability to fly for brief periods). Some trinkets even allow you to unearth secrets held by conquered stages (which you will be given plenty of opportunities to return to). Make a successful march to a world's end and you'll battle a boss (of course), with two tough guys making lasting impressions: a horned knight whose bolts you must deflect with your trusty mantle and a crazy-large bastard at the journey's conclusion.

Along the way, you can take a few breaks and play mini-games for bonus lives and power. This is strictly Gameboy-quality stuff, but hey, there's nothing wrong with offering some simple forms of entertainment here and there.

There are even some comedic "sketches" to relay the story and endow the game with extra personality.

This is all good. Unfortunately, Dorabian Night actually kind of sucks. It's extremely slow and easy and tedious--a flat-out bore, in the end. The pace is set at lackadaisical right at the start, and matters become monotonous when you're stuck waiting for the usual floating platforms to arrive and provide slow conveyance to the next dull strip. Hell, even a task as simple as stepping through a doorway seems to take the slow-footed protagonist an eternity. While you may occasionally find interesting things to do (such as riding a dinosaur--a slow-walking one, but still...), you'll spend most of your time engaged in tired, tedious routines like hopping repeatedly to avoid quicksand's deadly clutches, tiptoeing along in fear of pop-up spikes and falling chandeliers, and utilizing springboards or trampolines to ascend to high places (where you'll often find little but duplicates of items already in tow). It's worn-out material; the game is essentially an outdated slide show that proceeds at a crawl.

The enemies don't help its cause. They can be split into two groups, the first of which consists of small goofs who float about in slow, wavy patterns, basically begging to be picked off. Then there are the larger dopes; they're far too slow and stupid to ever cause any sort of harm, but they can take lots and lots of hits, forcing you to come to frequent stops and slowing things down even further. It all really drags after a while. And while the two bosses mentioned earlier are fun to confront, their peers are easy-to-crush jokes.

I guess this goes to show that designers can put all the nice ideas in the world into a platformer, but if they neglect to make it exciting in some way, their efforts will simply go for naught. It's very sad and a bit baffling that Dorabian Night ended up this way, but that's just how it is.

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