|I love, love, love the inspiration behind this little game. While the execution could be improved in a few areas, the style, simplicity of control, presentation, and innovative gameplay are bewitching, and I can only hope against hope that more along these lines will follow. The manual credits page says "deveroped" by Acquire Corp; I'd always thought they were just a publisher, but I guess they have a wacky in-house design team. The inside of the case cover, as well as at least one intermediate menu screen in the game, refer to something called "Videotope Project Tokyo 2008," but I have no idea what that is.|
The title babelfishes as "It is the raw going 'in habit of the hero.'" I think this refers, sorta, to the role-reversal here, since you're playing the evil wizard lord of a dungeon, arranging your monsters to keep interminable parties of "heroic" adventurers off your purple-cloaked behind. This dungeon-construction theme has been done a number of times before, but it comes out quite a bit differently here.
Babelfishing of interview transcripts on the game's website seems to indicate that the game was initially planned as a PS3 game to be downloadable from the PlayStation Network. There's also a lot of discussion of the "Family Computer" (Famicom, ie NES) and "dot picture," or 8-bit, style of the graphics the game uses. The small, bold sprites look absolutely charming, indeed in a retro NES way. The developers say that they liked this 30-year-old graphic style for its efficiency, simplicity, and "expressive power," and I have to say that I agree. It looks like early prototypes may have been, in fact, 3D characters that look like they were made out of 8-bit-style pixels, but somewhere along the way, perhaps in the conversion to the PSP, the 3D was dropped, and it became simply 2D pixels, thank goodness. The designers also refer to simulation games such as Dyna Brothers (MegaDrive) and Sim Ant, and to the digging in Dig Dug.
You start out with your purple wizard standing at the bottom of a shallow shaft descending from an inn in a quaint little town. You have a certain number of points available for extending the tunnel with your digging utensil, hilariously translated as the "pecker." The ground is composed of square blocks, some of which look mossy, or sparkly. These contain physical or magic energy, which you can release by breaking them with the pecker; when you do so, a creature appears, the type and strength of which depend upon the energy that was in the block.
Now, the really fascinating part of the game begins. The underground mazes you carve have their own ecosystems, based on the physical and magical energy stored in the blocks. The creatures who live on that energy have life cycles; for instance, the basic physical creature, the slime mold, will mindlessly slurp around the tunnels you've made, sometimes bestowing its energy into a lucky block, and then running out of stength and dying, sometimes sucking enough energy out of blocks to molt into a plant form that fertilizes surrounding blocks with more physical energy. Even when it dies before molting, it bestows some energy into neighboring blocks; if it dies out in the open, without walls around to absorb the energy, the energy is lost, which is bad.
Continuing along this this example, if a block absorbs a certain amount of physical energy, it becomes a second level block. Breaking this block releases a skeletal bug. These bugs eat the slime molds, absorbing their power. Once they've got enough power, they cocoon, emerging with wings. Other creatures include lizardmen, who build caves in underground clearings, and mate with other lizardmen (women?) to hatch new lizardmen from eggs they lay in their caves; there are also magical dragons, who love to fry slime molds, and fuzzy cyclops, in both physical and magical varieties, who crawl out of magic-swallowing vortexes in the tunnel floors; the trick to get these is to carve away all the blocks surrounding a level 3 block (the most powerful type) before breaking it. Once these cyclops absorb (or eat) enough level 1 magic creatures (little floating flame creatures), they gain strength, and do a great job of bashing intruding heroes.
You get only a short amount of time to carve out and nurture your dungeon ecosystem before one to three heroes bust in, looking for you. (One small trick: if you finish your dungeon early, move the pecker up to the inn, select the left ("Yes") option that appears, and the heroes will come in early, giving you a time or point bonus or something, supposedly.) You can place yourself anywhere in the tunnels you've carved, then it's go time; the heroes march in and start hacking their way to you. If you've carved out multiple tunnels, the heroes, if there are more than one, will split up; this is vital, because if they hang together, they'll sometimes be nearly unstoppable, particularly when they have a mage with healing spells.
If you still have digging points left, you can continue to manage your tunnels while the heroes are rampaging around, spawning more creatures as blocks reach sufficient power, carving new channels for your creatures to reach the heroes, or even raising deceased heroes from the dead as skeletons who will fight for you.
If a hero reaches you, they truss you up and start dragging you back out to the top exit. You still have a chance to save yourself, if only you can finish that hero off before they make it to the exit, but if they do make it out with you, it's game over. And I mean game over: there's no continue or anything like that in "Story Mode."
And this is one of the game's weaknesses: it's very short, or so I've heard. Apparently once you beat the short Story mode, you can unlock a Super Story mode by a combination of L and R shoulder buttons input on the title screen, or something like that, but I've heard that mode is short as well. It's pretty tough by the fifth stage or so, though. Really the game is designed like an arcade game, to be played quickly for score; the only problem with that is that there's no real high score screen, just a number showing the top score earned, which is really too bad. In theory, I suppose, you could make separate save files for multiple people, which would store their individual high scores, but that doesn't really make up for it.
There's a "Training" mode with about 30 stages. These start out as basic tutorial levels showing you the ropes, but eventually evolve into "Challenge" levels where you have to complete a certain goal, like spawning x number of x creature before time runs out. What I've read on message boards indicates that the completion criteria for some of these levels isn't entirely clear if you can't read Japanese, and I got sort of stuck on one (couldn't figure out how to spawn grey cyclops: you just carve out all the block from around a level 3 *physical* block). I haven't finished them all yet.
Finally, there's a "Vs" mode, and this isn't actually a two-player mode, but an Edit mode, where you can customize heroes to invade a three-stage dungeon challenge. This is kind of neat, but it's a shame that it's limited to three stages, and the six or seven attributes you can assign to the heroes are in kanji, and I've yet to see a translation describing what they signify.
In Story and Vs modes, any unused digging points you have left over at the end of a stage can be used to upgrade your spawned monster types; be sure to upgrade the types that you'll be able to use most effectively, and save some points for additional digging in the next level, if possible.
One other problem with the game is that some of the block types like the stage 3 physical blocks and the stage 2 magical blocks, look very similar; they should have been given more distinctive designs.
So, the game is too short, doesn't store multiple high scores, and it can be hard to read the tiny little blocks. But what's there is damn fun. You can have hundreds of cute little sprite creatures vigorously following their food chains, and the chaos created when heroes barge in and start hacking and blasting their way through is a retro sprite extravaganza that will warm the heart of the most grizzled console gaming veteran.
Oh, also the music is 8-bit style, in fact one of the main themes is very reminiscent of Ghosts 'n Goblins.
By the way, the graphics are so small and intricate that they're going to be very hard to make out in the video I'm attaching here; also, I forgot to turn the sound up for the recording, so it's a bit muted. Sorry about that. I should record one that's zoomed in with the speakers blasting one of these days...
|From http://hg101.classicgaming.gamespy.com/namaikida/namaikida.htm and exodus (thanks for the tip), it appears that the title is based on a saying by the Japanese cartoon character Doraemon, and means something like "For a warrior, you're pretty impudent"; not so different than the odd localized North American title, "Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman!" after all!|| ||