Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Videogame Classics - Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime

Which game has been monopolizing all my time on Nintendo DS? For the last couple weeks, it's been Rocket Slime. Or, to use the full title, Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime. Whew, what a long name. Let's just stick with Rocket Slime.

There's been a bit of attention paid to this little gem of a game around its time of release, but all mention of it has disappeared since. I'm assuming this has more to do with the hype-heavy nature of videogame sites and weblogs, a curse that I wish could somehow be overcome. When will you children learn to stop drooling around like dogs, jumping at the endlesss hype HYPE, HYPE!! of everything? You're always obsessing about the toys that are still in the future, forgetting about what's already available today. Sigh. You're being played for suckers by corporations.

Anyway, the whole point of my little rant is to remind you that there's a great DS title called Rocket Slime that deserves your attention. Essentially, there are two facets to this game. The first part is an overhead action-adventure, similar in style to Zelda, as your hero, the little blue slime from the Dragon Quest series, searches about for his missing friends. He also can capture enemies roaming about, and collect numerous items from fruit to bombs to giant, 1,000-ton anvils.

There's a point to all this endless collecting, and that's the game's second part - tank battles. This is really the hook to the game, and it's a terrific idea. At one point in the game, you uncover a lost slime tank, which looks like a castle on treads. You'll encounter numerous foes to battle against, with some pretty freaky tank designs and endlessly cheesy puns like "Carrot Top," "Fort Night," and "Chrono Twigger."

In each tank, there are two or three main rooms: the bridge, which contains two cannons, and the lower levels, which spits out weapons at a steady pace. You have to grab those weapons, and then throw them into one of the two cannons - one aimed straight, one aimed at an angle. Both tanks try to weaken the other, eventually eliminating all its hit points. After that happens, you invade their tank, and destroy their heart-shaped engine.

Now, this all sounds pretty simple, and it may seem tough to understand a tank battle with only two guns can be compelling. Well, it comes back to all that collecting in the walking stages. Those items can be used as ammo, and have their own quirks and uses. Later on, you free a talking pot which allows you to mix and match items for more powerful ones, via recipe cards (yes, another DS game with recipes).

Also, while you begin your first tank battles flying solo (which makes for some hectic fighting, scrambling to get weapons and fire them before being hit yourself), you can sign up a crew of four, and assign them various duties. My current team, which works perfectly for me, is to have a big slime for loading one cannon, another slime for sabotage and espionage (stealing the other guy's items), and a walking baby statue for loading the second cannon. Once things get heated up, I sneak over to the other tank, break down the main door (you can also fire yourself out of a cannon, but most likely you'll be hit in midair and sent packing) and start destroying all the enemies' computers. Eventually, their weapons chutes are destroyed, the damage starts raining down (since they can't knock my shots out of the sky anymore), and I make a quick run to their heart.

Again, this becomes fairly easy once you get the hang of it, and that's my only real complaint with Rocket Slime. It's a collosal cakewalk. In fact, I'll promise you that it's physically impossible to ever die in this game. In the main walking portion of the game, you take such small damage, and build your hearts up so quickly, that nothing ever really stops you, or even slows you down. The tank battles, also, great fun, but so extrordinarily easy that you could phone them in. You could probably train your pets to win at this game. They could forget everything you taught them, and still come away with hardly a scratch.

That's just rediculous. It seems to me that Rocket Slime is packaged as a kiddie game, with the heavy collecting a tribute to the whole Pokemon fad. But there's so much about the game to like, from the brilliantly animated slimes (100 in total), the large and varied locations, and those terrific tank battles, that it's hard to ever feel rough about anything. It's just the latest in the long steak of quirky, slightly weird, fun games for DS.

According to my save file, I've currently rescued 95 out of the 100 total slimes, and spend 20 hours playing the game. By the time I've completed it, played through all the extras, collected enough enemy animals to obtain gold statues for all, and obtained all the recipes, I'll probably have racked up another 10 hours of game-time. That's not a bad achievement for a handheld game.

This last month, I picked up five DS titles - Cooking Mama, Nintendogs, Lost in Blue, Trace Memory, and Rocket Slime. Aside from the occasional bout with Cooking Mama, Rocket Slime has been permanently lodged in the machine. Heck, I finally found a copy of the rare Trauma Center, but what would be the point of buying it now? When would I find the time to even bother with it? Just give me my Rocket Slime and my Terrence McKenna podcasts, thank you very much.

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