Duck-billed morons versus slimes!
Like most long-lived series, Dragon Quest has its fair share of spin-offs. One such game is Slime Morimori Dragon Quest, a Japan-only GBA game released in 2003 that featured the iconic blue Slime as a hero in his own adventure game. The original game's charming appeal shines through in Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime, Slime Morimori's localized sequel for Nintendo DS.
The premise is simple but endearing. Seemingly out of nowhere, the tiny kingdom of Slimenia is ambushed by a gang of platypus ruffians known as the Platipori, or simply the Plob (get it?), and their multi-story tanks. Their aim is to swipe Boingburg's legendary Warrior Flute, going as far as to capture the peaceful Slimenians and shove them into chests, but, young Rocket (who was "borrowing" the Warrior Flute from the royal family) manages to elude them.
As Rocket, you must explore the surrounding areas to hunt down the Plob and rescue other slimes from tanks and chests. The game is presented in the classic overhead adventure perspective and follows the genre's general conventions. Being a son of the royal guard's captain, Rocket is no slouch (as slimes go). He can stretch himself out and fling himself forward like a rubber band with an elasto-blast to smack baddies and objects. Knocking characters or items usually flings them into the air, allowing Rocket to catch and carry all sorts of things. Rocket can carry up to three things at a time, which can be thrown at baddies or brought back to town either in person or by throwing goods on carts headed to town via the Trans-Slimenian Railway. The half-dozen or so areas and Boingburg are accessible through a simple map, and each of the areas are fairly small, so while there is variety, exploration in Rocket Slime is very linear. In fact, the areas are more akin to the dungeons, with puzzles to solve and side-rooms to brave.
Rocket Slime features two types of bosses: the ubiquitous boss-in-a-room battles and tank battles. A short ways into the game, Rocket will uncover the legendary tank of Slimenia, the Schleiman, summoned by the Warrior Flute. The tank battle scheme is an entertaining mix of strategy and adventuring. The player controls Rocket within the Schleiman and must collect ammo that falls out of his tank's ducts. This ammo is (usually) thrown into one of two cannons—one aimed directly at the enemy tank and the other with a more arched trajectory. The enemy tank has a very similar setup. As a result, shots from the warring tanks collide, making projectiles both offensive and defensive munitions. Once the enemy tank's hit points have been depleted, you must infiltrate it and destroy its engine core. Of course, the same goes for your tank if it is breached. Later in the game Rocket can recruit up to three computer-controlled Slimenians to help man—er, slime—the Schleiman. Each slime has his or her own special abilities. For example, some can infiltrate the enemy tank to cause commotion or steal ammo, while others specialize in loading the cannons or healing.
Rocket actually obtains his ammo when adventuring, as most items schlepped back to town can be used as cannon fodder. Items vary in velocity and inflicted damage, and some, like the giant shield, are purely defensive. Larger, more durable items can also absorb collisions from some enemy ammo. Only the attack value is displayed in the item menu, so players must experiment when the item description is not clear enough. Rocket can also create more powerful ammo from (large quantities of) lesser goods by using alchemy. While ingredients are easy enough to scrounge, accumulating supplies merely to better-arm the Schleiman can be dull.
Fortunately, the potentially irksome collection factor is mitigated by the game's low difficulty. Players of all ages can appreciate the tank battles, but Rocket Slime is definitely targeted at younger, less experienced gamers with its primary colors and not-so-evil baddies. Gamers with a Zelda (or similar) game under their belt will breeze through the standard boss battles and, while the later tank battles provide challenge, the enemy's AI will usually leave itself vulnerable once your tank is in critical condition. You can therefore scrape by without clamoring for alchemic ingredients.
Players will also enjoy the game's abundance of lighthearted puns. From Ducktor Cid the former Plob member to Mother Gooperior at the church, just about every critter's name is a joke or at least amusing. Square Enix also had fun with the themed tanks—for example, a wood-themed enemy tank is named "Chrono Twigger," complete with the classic game's stylized logo font. Talking with the reformed Plob members Rocket has sent back to town is also fun. However, I feel compelled to note that between these "conversions," Slimenia's church, and the Plob's frequent use of Yiddish words, I couldn't help but infer certain religious sentiments, however unintentional they may be.
All-in-all, Rocket Slime is an excellent introduction to the world of adventure games and a decent romp for Dragon Quest fans looking for a farce. The tank battles are unexpectedly fun and should be a blast with friends in multiplayer. While relatively short and easy, Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime's quality makes it an excellent DS gift this holiday season.