Any gamer who’s ever played any of the entries in the long running Dragon Quest series should be well acquainted with the little blue water drop looking creature called the “slime.” In those games it’s the first enemy that players confront and also the easiest to defeat. The fact that they attack and ultimately perish with a big goofy smile on their faces has become a bit of a running joke in some gaming circles. That smiling little drop is given the chance to take center stage in Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime for the Nintendo DS. The results are bright, playful and surprisingly engaging.
Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime begins in the city of Boingburg, the capital of Slimenia. A young blue slime named Rocket is playing with some of his friends when suddenly the city is attacked by a gang known as the Plob. The attack leaves the city in shambles and every single slime except for Rocket is abducted. This leaves the blue slime with no choice but to set out and rescue all 100 missing residents of Boingburg. Along the way Rocket finds himself having to more than just confront the various minions of the Plobfather. The Plob have at their disposal huge tanks and it isn’t long before Rocket takes control of one as well. This means that along with exploring the landscape to find his fellow countrymen the plucky slime has to engage in tactical combat in tank battles.
The action of the game is broken up into two main categories: exploration type adventure and the tank battles. The exploration is fairly straight forward. Rocket never acquires new skills to battle his foes, his only attack is basically a dash move where he rams into enemies. However there is a fairly decent number of varied enemies and the various areas are quite well designed as well. The game is always very linear but it never feels tedious as the player explores all the various places in the game. A fairly big part of the game is collection. Rocket has to collect the missing slimes but he also has the opportunity to send almost anything he comes across back to Boingburg for later use. This ability to send things back to town is not limited to items, it applies to enemies as well. This not only serves a purpose for the tank battles but also gives the player another option for defeating foes. If Rocket is in an area where the train back to town runs through he can throw his enemies onto carts and they are taken back to town, which is often easier than trying to defeat them outright.
The tank battles are at once wonderfully simple and surprisingly deep. There are several aspects of strategy involved in any given battle. Firstly whenever Rocket goes back to town he can adjust what items he’s using as ammunition and what allies he has helping him man the tank. Different ammunition may do more damage or deflect enemy fire or even heal the tank. As for the allies in the tank they can have various abilities as well. They may be able to move and load the cannons faster or they may keep enemies from infiltrating the tank or they may even go over to the enemy tank and steal their ammo. Once the player has their tank decked out the way they want it the actual battle has aspects that are just randomized enough to keep the player on their toes and keep the battle from ever being boring. Players can load ammo into one of two cannons (aiming high or low) but it’s not just about who fires faster. Ammo fired from the enemy tank can be blocked by ammo fired from the player’s tank so it’s constantly a tug of war to both deflect enemy fire and get shots through to enemy tank.
The pacing of the game is spot on. Tank battles seem to come at just the right times to break up the exploration and there’s usually enough time in between each tank battle for the player to upgrade their tank just a little more before the next one. Tweeking out the tank can easily become a bit of an addiction, especially when players acquire recipes that allow them to mix items they have to create more powerful ammo. There’s also an optional tank tournament within the game and even a multiplayer feature where two gamers can pit their tanks against one another in a head to head battle.
The look and sound of Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime is all very bright and vibrant. The graphics aren’t above and beyond anything that’s been done before but they are never dull to look at. The slimes themselves, and even most of the enemies border on adorable, which really is part of the charm of the game. The music and sound effects manage to be light and cheery without becoming irritating (which is what usually happens with games aimed at younger players.) Controls are tight, responsive and very easy to get the hang of.
If there’s anything working against Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime it’s that it’s basically the gaming equivalent of cotton candy. Light, fluffy, and gone very quickly. Most gamers will be able to wrap up the game in probably under 10 hours, and even completists shouldn’t need more than 15 to uncover every last thing it has to offer. Given that the game is meant for a younger gamer the shorter length makes sense, and honestly given the fairly simple game-play it might have gotten dull if it lasted much longer. However one doesn’t have to be in grade school to enjoy this charming little game, and it’s worth playing for almost any gamer of any age or skill level.