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Playing Catch-Up

PLAYING CATCH-UP

Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime

Jack Sarr

Moving into 2019 I made one gaming promise to myself - that this year I would spare some time to play some games I’ve left behind and have been on my “to-play” list for years. January consisted of a lot of plane travel, and so what better way to pass the time on these flights than to take along my Nintendo DSi and take a trip to the past? I clambered aboard the first plane, ready for a gruelling eight hours of numb-bum, plugged in my earphones and delved into a bright, and much belated adventure.

This is a game that has been on my list for a long time. Released in the US in 2005, the game was welcomed by fans of the Dragon Quest series and praised as being a quirky and mechanically interesting spin-off. Unfortunately for those of us in Europe, the game was never released and was relatively unknown. Only through some obscure forum post, at least a decade later, did I learn of the game’s existence and it quickly became one of my most sought after titles.

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The basic premise of the game is as follows: you play as Rocket, a slime from the city of Boingburg, capital of Slimenia. The Plob have captured all other 100 slimes of Boingburg, and it’s up to the titular Rocket to stretch and “Elasto Blast” his way through the various levels, freeing friends such as Mother Glooperior and Duke Swellington. In between these levels are one on one battle stages between colossal tanks (a tree-like tank named “Chrono Twigger”, for example), and all this crowned with some excellently comical boss stages.

It should be abundantly clear by now that this game is silly. I can’t quite recall playing a game that had me openly chuckling at its jokes like this, let alone one that managed to do so while I’m sat cramped and uncomfortable on a plane. Even saving and quitting the game is funny, as Mother Glooperier sings you a cute little melody, the screen fades to black and reads “Bless you, my slime” (Something that has now become somewhat of a recurring joke in our household.)

The storyline, especially the humour, is a winner then. What about the gameplay? The main mechanic you’ll be using through the game is Rocket’s Elasto Blast. This is the action of stretching and flinging him into enemies or objects, either to destroy them or stack them on his head. Being a Nintendo DS title, I went into the game expecting to be using the touchscreen to fling Rocket around the stages. I was, thankfully, incorrect about this.


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I’m sure someone in the development team must have had this idea, but frankly it was a lot more fun to control Rocket with the face buttons in the long-run - it’s simply more accurate, less cumbersome, and the sense of build-up and momentum in Rocket’s movement is great.

The core gameplay loop revolves around rescuing slimes to unlock more areas of Boingburg, capturing enemies in order to recruit them aboard your gigantic slime tank (the Schleiman Tank), sending items back to town to be used as tank ammo, and then the giant tank battles themselves.

Oh boy, this was a ludicrously addictive cycle! Each venture into the wider world consistently resulted in progress and achievement. Every action felt tangible and rewarded, and the counter of total slimes rescued provided a clear signifier of completion that racked up at a satisfying pace. There aren’t many games that so successfully reward all and any progress, and this one does so excellently. No single action felt like a waste of time, and once I had become familiar with the interconnected mechanics it was very gratifying to plan ahead and set goals for item crafting or recruitment.

In contrast to the slower pace of the exploration, the tank battles are a far more bombastic experience. The top screen of the DS displays both tanks on either end of the battle field, allowing you to see all the projectiles fired between each. On the bottom screen you control Rocket within the rooms of your tank, gathering ammo from various dispensers and firing them from your cannons.

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While at first a number of these tank battles provided great challenge (some of them draining all of my tank’s HP resulting in a nail-biting rush to infiltrate and deliver the final blow before they do) I eventually found an approach that would result in me losing very few of these battles.

This is not to say it was overly easy, however - the game rewards aggression and efficiency in these tank battles. With a well prepared tank and crew, battles can be extremely frantic and tense right up until the final moments.

 
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As a whole, Rocket Slime is a game that sets out to make you smile, a game which persists in constantly triggering those funny little reward-receptors in your brain, and a game which boldly focuses its experience around its charm, wit and stupidity. I was attracted to this game due to its adorable art style, intriguing gameplay and relative obscurity in the UK, and I feel like I’ve stumbled upon one of the best titles I’ve ever owned for the DS. Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime is an (elasto) blast to play, and I hope that any of you in Europe who have not yet had the chance to play it will consider importing an American copy. 

As for the two sequels on the Nintendo 3DS, they never left Japan. Maybe Joe will give us all some Japanese lessons, eh? 

 
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