Sunday, November 7, 2010

DoReMi Fantasy: Milon no DokiDoki Daibouken (SFC) Review

AKA DoReMi Fantasy: Milon's DokiDoki Adventure [Localized Nomenclature]
1996 Hudson Soft

This review was requested by Kingbuilder. I remember the first time I ever heard of this game. Back in 2008, I downloaded less titles on the Wii Virtual Console than I had the previous year. In fact, during that summer, I only downloaded two games, and this game was one of them. Truth be told, I was a little hesitant in downloading this game at first. From what I saw in the screenshots, it looked good, but I noticed the Japanese language, which drove me off at first; another reason I was hesitant was because I found out that this was the follow-up to Milon's Secret Castle on the NES (at the time I didn't feel highly for the 8-bit original). I read Dazza's review of it on NintendoLife [VC-Reviews before the merger on April Fool's Day of '09] and Corbie Dillard's review on his [currently dormant] SUPER-NES site. Both reviews praised it so well, and it really gave me a good impression, but I still was a bit unsure. Then on Corbie's site I clicked on his YouTube page (sneswiz) and watched his Top 10 Super Famicom games you don't own...but should! video. At 3:27-3:51 in the video, I saw it; DoReMi Fantasy was at number 2, and those several seconds of gameplay footage were enough to convince me to give it a shot, 'cause it looked like it was so much fun to play. Downloading this game on the Virtual Console was one of the best gaming decisions I ever made, as I was left with a permanently good first impression since that day, and it was very well worth the 900 Wii Points (it was never released outside of Japan back then).

On the island of Fantasia, the land of Piccolo was filled with joy and laughter, as well as music. However, it doesn't last, for one day, while Milon was playing with his friends, the dark shapeshifting wizard Amon steals the fairy Aelis and has put a curse on the five instruments of Piccolo. The cure for the instruments lies in collecting five musical stars, and the instrument must be played in order for the curse to be lifted completely. Problem is: Amon had scattered them throughout the land, and recuperating the instruments won't be a piece of cake, as they've been stolen. So, it is up to Milon to save Piccolo and put an end to Amon's evil plan once and for all. You, as Milon, will have to traverse through a lush forest exposition, a world filled with treats, a church-like enviornment, and so much more. The atmosphere is one of the game's many strongest points, as it is really well-done and gives you a sense of being in the game world. I strongly feel that the Japanese language during the cutscenes gives you an out of this world feeling; had it been translated on the VC (personally, I'm rather glad it wasn't), then that feeling just wouldn't exist.

This game is a sidescrolling platformer, and it has some of the most (if not the most) responsive play control I've experienced in a 2D retro platformer. Milon is so versatile and responsive. How high or low you jump depends on how hard or light you press the button, and you attack enemies with your bubble blower. By collecting enough bubble icons, you will have the abilitiy to shoot up to three bubbles at a time and have a bigger range. You can jump on top of the enemies to turn them into temporary platforms, but to do away with them for good, you have to encase them in bubbles and push the bubbles away. If you hold down the Y button long enough and let go, then you'll amass a swirl of bubbles around you. Your health is consisted of differently colored clothing; green meaning high health, blue meaning middle health, and red meaning low health. If you get hit while you're wearing red, you lose a life. Throughout the game, there are items that will help you out. For example, if you fall offscreen and you have the bubble gum in your inventory, then you'll be saved from death by blowing your bubble gum; and if you hold down the jump button in the air while you have the Pegasus boots, then you'll slowly float down (if you lose a life, you lose the boots until you obtain them again). At the end of each world, you have to face a boss, and after defeating a boss you move on to the next world. From the second world on, you have to collect five musical stars, because they are a part of the key to lift the curse from the instrument. Missing just one musical star means you cannot pass the cottage portion of the world until you find it. After the cottage portion comes the fortress stage, in which you have to find a key in a maze-like area in order to enter the boss stage. Lifting the curse from the instruments not only renders Piccolo safer little by little, but it also leads to learning new abilities. That's right: Milon learns new techniques throughout the game that will help him throughout his adventure, and it's really cool, as they are all very useful. One of the tricks is blowing bubbles towards sparkling stars to create platforms, or creating a staircase out of musical notes, just to name a couple. Collecting a hundred musical notes earns you a life. The stages can be revisited at any time, save for the boss one; and if you wish to leave the stage you've already been in, just press Select while holding still. The game is rather linear, but if you feel like revisiting a past world, pressing the L shoulder button on the map screen should do the trick, and to go to the next world press the R shoulder button on the map screen. In order to prevent the majority of the stages from becoming straightforward, Hudson Soft decided to add a fake exit. The stage is truly beaten when you reach the post that has the word "Goal" on it, but should you reach a post that has Japanese lettering or symbols on it, then you know you took the wrong direction. If you take the fake exit, then you can't progress, meaning you have to play that stage until you find the true exit. There are also a couple of stages where you ride on a board.

In many of the stages you may find certain doors. Some may lead to secret rooms, while others lead to bonus rooms. This game has three different bonus rooms. The first one involves you shooting at toy ducks in the style of Duck Hunt, except that you control the crosshairs with the Control Pad. In the second one you have to pay attention to how many toy ducks fly straight without changing directions once (saucers do not count), and you have to guess the correct amount, otherwise it's over. In the final one, three objects will fly behind the curtains, and you have to guess which three flew by correctly. The first one is the easiest, as you barely have any chance of missing a toy duck at all; however, how high or low the score you get for each duck depends on which side of the screen you shot it at. The second one starts out easy because there's only a few ducks in there, but the longer you survive it, the more cluttered and complicated the screen will get from being filled with ducks and/or saucers, which may possibly drive you off guard and make you guess wrong. In the third one, you have to pay close attention, because the longer you stay, the faster the objects will fly, and to make things more challenging, the curtain will close up little by little. You can take as long as you want to guess on the second and third bonuses, but don't take too long, otherwise you'll forget. All these bonuses are a good way of getting a life (or clothing if you don't last long), and they're quite fun if you wish to take a break from the platforming action. You cannot choose these bonus games, as they will automatically be chosen for you.
The game's background music is another one of its strongest points. What you'll hear most of the time is ambient music, and it is absolutely marvelous and high on atmosphere. The introductory scene doesn't have any words, but the way the music plays at that moment works so well that there's no need for words at all. The music that plays in the forest, the church, the snow, the volcano, and pretty much everywhere else is some of the most atmospheric music I've ever heard in a video game. The fortress music is appropriately creepy and ambient at the same time. The various boss themes in the game are also nice to hear. Again I'd like to reiterate how much atmosphere the ambient music brings when playing the game, but it doesn't work as much when heard out of context. The sound effects work well, too, as they are neither louder nor softer than the ambient music itself. The way the bubble sounds when it's being blown is really cool, and I love the sound of the musical star being collected. It's also really fun to collect several musical notes consecutively, because I like hearing the jingle alter just slightly. The sound effect that plays when you jump on top of the enemies is cute, and the game's various types of platforms have different sounds (the sound for when you jump on top of cookies and tambourines come to mind) sound awesome. When composers are zoomed in on, you'll see them play the instruments, which sound fairly accurate.
The visuals are exceptionally well-done. They comprise of pastel-toned colors, like you'd see in games with similar visual styles like Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose! and Secret of Mana, and it's the best example of this visual style. The foregrounds and backgrounds of each world are really colorful and show off a bit of detail. The colors were chosen perfectly, and they are very pleasing to the eyes. Each world shows a lot of variety, and there is a lot of visual eye candy. One example being the wine glass pyramid that slowly fills itself with wine from the top, and another being the Northern lights in the snow stages that slowly change colors. It's very amazing to see these things happening in a video game. The way the inside of the volcano glows constantly really gives off the impression that you are in a volcano, and the color layering effects are topnotch. It's games like these that prove that you don't need a lot of Mode 7 graphics to make impressive visuals (even though one of the bosses uses it). Milon has very intricately detailed animation, and he's got a lot of variety in that department. His jumping, walking, running, climbing, and swimming animations are all excellent; he's also got animations for when he's being blown, fighting the current, is in a trance, is in a bubble, is literally frozen, lands on spikes, falls down from high heights, and when he's on fire. His animations are really nice to watch, and he's also got different animations for when you view him in the map screen. There are also a variety of enemies in each world, and seeing them in their squished animation is cute. Some enemies comprise of snow yeti, anthropomorphic candles, ghosts adorning witch hats, G-clef notes, and even tanuki dogs; the thing they have in common is how absolutely lighthearted they are. The bosses are huge and detailed, and are really fun bosses to fight (and look at). This game's introductory scene is shown through anime, and when you see the composers zoomed in playing the instruments (individually, of course), man is that awesome. This game has a very anime feel to it, and it's really great to boot.

This game is easy, for the most part, but the gradual type of easy. The more you progress, the slightly harder it'll get, but not hard enough to be difficult. Sometimes the musical stars can easily be found, while other times they're hidden so well that you'll have to investigate thoroughly to find it. You'll also have to investigate the fortresses carefully in order to find the key to the boss. That's not to say that the game is entirely easy, as there are a few portions that can be a bit challenging. Some bosses are easy, while others can be hard until you memorize their pattern. The final boss Amon can be quite difficult unless you're prepared for his attacks. It's always best to wear the blue or green outfit, for if you wear red, then you'll have to try to survive until you find the extra set of clothing. You have an unlimited amount of continues, and passwords (one four-number set) are shown in the game over screen should you need them. The thing about using the passwords is that they bring you to the beginning of that world, so I advise against it. However, this game is about the length of James Cameron's Avatar or Titanic if you've experienced it enough, as it can be beaten in one sitting. The bonus games can be really exhilirating, especially when they become so hard the longer you play them. This game has a real easy-going nature to it that I absolutely enjoy. There are even a few self-scrolling stages.
I have beaten this game seven or eight times already, and I still think it's one of the best games ever made. Very easy visuals for the eyes, a very atmospheric and ambient soundtrack, and some of the most responsive play control ever result in a very enjoyable video game experience. It's also fun to learn new tricks throughout each world. It's got so much charm, and the lighthearted anime feel of it all is very sweet. It's easy, but I don't mind that so much, as the game has so much to offer. The bonus games are a nice diversion, and the variety of the whole game is really fantastic. I find it amusing how Milon's hair is shaped like the letter "m", and the enemies are cute. The bosses are really fun to fight; it took a few playthroughs before I could defeat Amon with no sweat. Cameo appearances from White Bomberman, Black Bomberman and the snowman from Star Parodier were really good surprises. It's a shame that this game wasn't released in the West the first time around, as it is so much fun. I have a few theories as to why it wasn't released, but I think I'll just save those for later. This game was brought to the Virtual Console untranslated, which displeased some while others (like myself) were okay with it. I don't really mind that the game has Japanese dialogue; you don't have to know that language to realize that Amon is up to no good and Milon has to defeat him in order to save Piccolo. Without the Japanese language, I feel that this game would lack some of its atmosphere. This game quickly became one of my favorites, and is one that I wholeheartedly recommend for those that are interested in DoReMi Fantasy.

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