• Doshin Review - Nintendo Gamecube

    From Japan comes yet another unique concept for the Gamecube. Doshin the Giant was possibly the most famous game on the ill-fated 64DD add-on and yet it was a pretty dire effort. Now 4 years on the game has been completely overhauled for the next generation Nintendo system and, thankfully, all of the negatives have been extinguished to create a very positive gaming experience. The basic story of Doshin The Giant is fairly straightforward. You play as Doshin, a big yellow giant designated to oversee the people of Bard Island.

    To begin with you are presented with 4 villages, one for each of the games ethnic colours, Blue, Green, Red and Yellow. The villages start off with just 1 male and 1 female in true Adam and Eve style. You can later create mixed variations by putting a male and female of separate colours on an empty piece of land, but with these 4 villages and a map of land to mess around with the game begins. Your new role as the gigantic yellow happy man is underway! Accompanied by your Japanese speaking on screen guide you can basically do whatever you want, but of course there are is also an overall objective.

    In order to complete Doshin you have 15 monuments to receive from the villagers. Each of the 15 has a variation of Good and Bad, giving 30 monuments in all, plus a Final monument once the first 15 have been created. To earn these monuments you have to help the little people of Bard Island develop their villages. They will shout orders to you using a simple icon system that shows you what they want. The icons are easy to decipher, a direction arrow shows they want the ground either lifted or dropped. A tree is, unsurprisingly, asking for a tree to be placed within the area. A squiggle is a sign of an object needing to be removed as it is obstructing building space. The other icon, a flower, is a sign that the monument is close to being built. If this is requested then Doshin must quickly create and deliver a flower to the spot of the monument's foundations to allow its creation, otherwise a worthless monument will be built instead. To reveal how to create the flower could be seen as a spoiler so for that reason the details shall be skipped.

    All of the requests can be carried out using Doshin's pretty straightforward move set. In a control scheme that works flawlessly with the Gamecube controller, you have the ability to Jump to Flatten Ground, pull ground upwards and do a robotic dance styled hand movement allowing you to either raise or lower the land with ease. Additionally you can pick things up, such as trees, people and animals. A few variations of the control scheme are available, with the only real differences being the ability to press A to pick up and then A to drop rather than holding A the whole time to keep the object firmly grasped.

    While carrying out the tasks for your villagers you can grow bigger by collecting a screen full of either hearts or skulls. Basically by carrying out a good task you will be sent a heart. Conversely doing something bad will award you with skulls. Think along the lines or treading on a villager or ruining a structure. Also when you transform into the Evil Giant Jyashin, the villagers will run scared and fling skulls by the dozens. But more on Jyashin later.

    Growing big has its positives and negatives. On the plus side you can travel quicker and will find it easier to plod from one side of the map to the other. On a more negative note you will trample helpless mortals unless you take great care, and if you are trying to achieve a good monument you don't want to be upsetting the respective village.

    Although it does sound pretty easy to look after the islanders, the game does throw up various problems for the occupants of Bard Island. As with all classic God Simulations, natural disasters will crop up from time to time. These range from Tornados to Volcanoes to Rain Storms and a few other more unique attacks on village life. These problems can be fought off using Doshin's skills but in times of dire need you may need to turn to the dark side. Step forward Jyashin, the hate giant!

    You can turn into Jyashin at any time simply by clicking the left shoulder button. With regard to Disasters, the fact that Kyashin can fly and travel slightly faster than Doshin allows you to get to the scene of the event and snuff it out before a village is ruined. There is a careful strategic balance required though as the villagers could begin to hate you if you fail to clear the disaster and are hanging around as the devil at the same time. Moving on from this scenario, Jyashin also has other uses. He adds 3 new moves in place of 3 of Doshin's. The aforementioned Flying, which is basically a hovering jump. A bash attack whereby he thumps both arms on the floor, destroying anything in his path and lowering the ground. Finally he also has a fireball. This can be used to carve away at mountains, once again destroy things, and to set people on fire. As you can imagine, Jyashin really brings out the sadistic side in the player and rarely becomes dull. It is almost a whole new game as you transform into your evil alter ego and the sky and environment take on a stylish dark red tint, and hardly anyone will fail to get a kick out of destroying their very own creations. At times you will want to wipe an existing village away to make room for a new monument building community, and Jyashin helps a great deal.

    Graphically this game is very sound. Although the character models are fairly plain, with big smiley faces drawn on, the environments are lush and do give off a very tropical feel. The sun and water effects stand out and take note of the underwater camera. It is a very vintage looking island, an artistic direction that works so well. All of the land can be fully viewed using the zoom functions of the control scheme and the outstanding use of the C stick that allows you to place the camera anywhere around a central Doshin. Little details have been added such as birds swooping into the sea to retrieve fish and trees turning brown as they die off. The soundtrack and effects compliment the graphics engine to perfection. Each village has its own tune as you approach it, mostly based around a tribal theme with drums banging and chanting noticeable. The end of day track is particularly impressive in a Hawaiian style and suits the game so very well. The only bad points tend to be a few of the animal effects. The horse stands out like a sore thumb, sounding more like a cat that has been given a rear end injection. The only graphical glitches involve a minor amount of pop up; despite the games decent draw distance. If you take time to notice you will see the details on some buildings just appear out of nowhere. Another annoyance is the way that the island will become so dark near sunset. Although very authentic, it almost makes you feel like waiting for the next day to begin rather than risk treading on everything. All in all though the games visuals and sound work great together and the minor complaints do not detract from that.

    There are a few game modes and extra features worth mentioning. Special boxes can be discovered underneath buildings and they occasionally drop from the sky. These can contain hearts, skulls, plant life and people. Every now and then you might receive a special treat such as a rare breed of Animal. You have a radar at your disposal giving you a full layout of the island and it also alerts you to any major events taking place. The creators of Doshin found time to implement a basic photo album and camera. A photo can be taken during the game using the Z Trigger and this is automatically added to your album. Not a very detailed game mode but its a nice touch. Each photograph takes up 4 blocks of memory, so to make any real use of it you will require storage greater than the Memory Card 59 found packaged with the game as the game itself takes 40 blocks. This might seem harsh but as you can totally redesign the island to however you see fit it almost seems like a bargain. A final feature, although only useful for those with an understanding for Japanese text, is an end of day statistical report. This gives in depth details of each village and of Doshin facts such as the distance covered by the giant during that day. The game doesn't lose any appeal without these stats and the game is fully playable to those with no understanding of the language.

    Overall this game is well worth a look for Japanese importers. A niche genre has been turned into a game that a wider audience should enjoy, and a lot of players will love; yet it still retains enough appeal for hardcore god simulation followers. Obviously some individuals may find the game a bit slow for their tastes, but it is that relaxing feel that helps brings out the charm of the game. This game is a non-linear experience, a unique experience and an enjoyable experience. The only people that shouldn't check this game out are speed junkies.

    Review by Bob Compton