Doki Doki Majo Shinpan! Review0
Matt posted in Games on July 26th, 2008
There are a lot of strange Japanese games that we don’t hear about. When something is strange enough to get mentioned in the English speaking world (like Metal Wolf Chaos), there has to be something special about it. A year ago, a game came out in Japan called Doki Doki Majo Shinpan. Doki Doki is the Japanese onomatopoeia for a heart beating, Majo means witch and Shinpan means judgment. The premise of the game is that the player needs to determine whether some young women (and one guy) are witches by “touching” them. Now, when I found out about this game, my curiosity was piqued. How could someone create a game out of a bizarre mechanic? Unfortunately, after it was released, there were videos of some “witch touching” videos and speculation about what it would be like, but not an actual explanation of what the full gameplay is like. So, I decided to find out for myself.
If you are impatient like I am, I’ll cut to the chase. The basic gameplay is as follows. You are introduced to a girl (or guy in one level), you must talk to them quite a lot like an adventure game to determine if they are witch. Then, when you are ready to accuse the potential witch, they don’t go down without a fight. So, there is a short battle before the actual witch touching. Then the next level features another character and so on and so forth.
If you are interested in importing the game, I’ll tell you right now that 95% of the game is Japanese text, so it’s not very import friendly. If you purchase a used copy from someone who beat the game, the touching and the fighting minigames are unlocked for play back at any time. If you are trying to get to that point yourself without understanding of the Japanese language, you’ll have to do a lot of random tapping in order to get to the “good stuff”.
Let me first give a background on the game since I couldn’t find a very good one in English. The protagonist is Akuji, a sophomore in High School who doesn’t really have any interests. An angel, Lulu, unwillingly recruits him as her shimobe (subordinate) because she’s tasked by her angelic boss to find all the witches. The gameplay is divided into chapters. Each chapter has a potential witch target that you have to investigate by walking around and talking to people. You have to go to all sorts of locations around your school and the city to find the right people to talk to. There’s a time of day system, so people only appear at certain times. There is pretty much no animation in the entire game. It’s all told with static images and text. This kind of bothered me, but perhaps that’s the standard for the Japanese style dating games that this seems to take after. Eventually after A LOT of talking, you will have enough information to accuse the potential witch, and you have to prove they are a witch by “touching” them while wearing your magic arm band. The idea is when you raise their heart rate, their secret witch signs become visible. Unfortunately, most witches are not eager to be proven as such, so there’s a battle mode before you try to find the witch sign.
I had mixed feelings about the story and the text that makes up a large portion of the game. Initially, I was really struck by the similarities between its story and characters and the popular anime “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya”. The main character’s reluctance to do anything is similar to Kyon from Haruhi. I don’t know about you, but I laughed my butt off during Haruhi. I really enjoyed the whole normal guy being thrust into an absolutely ridiculous situation and trying to handle it normally. So, things start out rather humorous. Lulu is lazy and bosses around Akuji similar to Haruhi. She also is normally the instigator in terms of any uncomfortable situations. She’s the one who wants to go into women’s locker room, and she’s constant remarking about the young ladies’ chests. Akuji compares her to an old man, which is a pretty good one.
So, as far as the story goes, it got off to a strong start. It was really funny, and I couldn’t wait to find out what happens next. The first witch you are investigating is Maho Akai, the president of the cheerleading team. Lulu has it on heavenly authority that she is a witch. You go through various hijinks and discover that a really young girl turns into Maho! After you discover that Maho is a witch, she battles to prevent your further investigation. (There’s no real explanation as to why she’s a young girl half the time…) The battle uses the touch screen completely. You are given a magic sword that can destroy projectiles as well as damage the witch when he/she is close to the screen. You swing the magic sword by drawing a line on the screen. There is a recharge timer, so you can’t just go crazy scribbling. You can also fire Lulu at the enemy by clicking and holding the cursor on the screen.
After you defeat Maho in battle, she is stunned, and Akuji puts on his magic armband in order to do the touching investigation. Now, perhaps because I didn’t read the instruction manual or my understanding of the tutorial was incomplete, I never really “got” the trick to the touching minigame. You have 4 options – touch, look, blow and smile. Touching and looking are both accomplished by touching an area on the character. With blowing, you use the cursor to select the location and then you have to blow into the DS microphone with the appropriate timing. There is a reticle that goes from large to small and wraps around again. You want to blow when the reticle is smallest. You can also wink at the character, which just requires selecting the little icon at the bottom of the screen and waiting like 10 seconds to see how the character reacts. If the character likes whatever you are doing, a little heart will come up from the spot. If they are indifferent, the heart dissolves. If they don’t like it, then it has a little heart will appear and break. You have to do things they like in order to get them excited and raise their heart beat. You can tell how you are doing by the color of the background. As they get more excited, the background will turn closer to pink. If you do things they don’t like, it will turn closer to blue. When you get them excited (and the background is pink) their witch birthmark thingy magically appears and you win when you touch it. If it turns blue, you have to try again.
I’m not sure I ever figured out the correct technique to please the women. It seemed like a lot of trial error, but also some randomness. If I found something they liked, I’d do more of that, but pretty quickly it wouldn’t work anymore, so I’d try other stuff until I stumbled on something else they liked. I’d be interested to read an FAQ about exactly what the trick is, but throughout the game, I remained confused of the ways of women (just like in real life). Also, I use the term women loosely because most of the characters are 12-15, but I don’t like to think about that…
As well, I found the whole “witch touching” aspect of the game kind of unnerving. Besides the witches being below the US age of consent, they often say things like “yamate”, which means stop. Sometimes they say positive things as well, but the fact that they aren’t really lining up to be “witch judged”, made the whole touching minigame uncomfortable for me. One might argue that it’s all in good fun, but it seems to be treading a line that I’d prefer not to cross even in a virtual simulation with cartoon characters.
Contrary to what some may believe, the game isn’t really a pornographic game and usually, the women don’t always respond well if you “touch” them where you probably shouldn’t be. (I was able to get some animated boob jiggle for Maho, but she didn’t respond well to it, and I lost the game. However it seems like some of the later characters don’t mind touching in that area but also don’t jiggle.) It is rated CERO C, which is 15 and up in Japan, so certainly there are games with far more adult content than this, but I wonder what it’d be rated should it be localized. In an interesting choice, the main character Akuji doesn’t seem very interested in women – or anything for that matter, but Lulu seems very interested in the young men and women, which is kind of odd. That could be a deliberate choice in order to make the game player feels less like they are being perverse and more that they are an observer being dragged along for the ride (which he/she is probably enjoying regardless). If the main character is begrudgingly checking witches, perhaps that makes it more acceptable in the mind of the gamer.
After you prove that someone is a witch, you recruit to help in your heavenly quest to find more witches. They have to sign a contract that they’ll work for the angel. After you’ve recruited Maho, you investigate Maria Ave or (Ave Maria the way her name is written in Japanese) who is the class president and is very interested in witchcraft. Akuji doesn’t think she’s a witch, but Lulu is convinced. Maria Ave is trying to convince you as well that she is indeed a witch. When you enter battle mode, you can use the special powers of the other witches you’ve captured, so when combating Maria, Maho is selectable and her attacks have different powers. (You access them by clicking on the screen similar to how you use Lulu) During the fight sequence Maria threw Erlenmeyer flasks at you instead of using magical powers, so Akuji continues to doubt her supernatural abilities. His spider-sense turns out to be correct. However, Lulu has Maria sign the witch contract like Maho anyway because she’s afraid she’ll get in trouble by investigating a regular person.
Up until this point, I was really enjoying the story. I thought it was really funny, and I was excited to see how the rest of the game played out. However, the game took a turn for the worse. It seems like they had the good writing at the beginning, and then they ran out of time and just put in filler to make the game a reasonable length. The next character was Renge Oda, a game otaku (game freak). She is constantly playing video games. In order to ingratiate yourself with her, you have to buy her a copy of Athena on the NES. Athena is of course a classic SNK game. (Coincidentally, Doki Doki Majo Shinpan is published by SNK…) When she finds out Akuji isn’t interested in video games, she lends you a Neo Geo Pocket and is hoping she can make it popular again by having you carry it around. (SNK also made the Neo Geo consoles) You have to convince her that she’s a witch because she doesn’t believe you and is only interested in video games.
It gets even less interesting as the game progresses. The next character really didn’t have much characterization. Or at least not any that makes sense. You are introduced to Ayame Midoh, who is a volunteer at the local shrine. She’s very quiet and shy. You catch her reading some sort of romance novel, and she’s really embarrassed. Later Renge drags you to a maid café, and it just so happens Ayame is a maid there! Unfortunately, I didn’t really get the characterization for Ayame. She’s shy but she works at a maid café? She’s a witch but she works at a temple? It seems like the whole point of a dating style game is to get interested in the characters and I guess pretend you are dating them? I haven’t played any other dating games, so perhaps I’m don’t understand the point of the dating games… I did try playing Cambrian QTs after reading about it on the Escapist, but I didn’t get very far due to the large amount of rather uninteresting text that divided the Seaman like creature raising (and this creature later turns into the girl you date), but I think this is what they are like. (I also got the translated version of Bloody Bride, the vampire dating game, but I haven’t really played it.)
One funny thing during the course of the game is that Akuji encounters the ridiculously busty school nurse who of course wears a very skimpy outfit. Usually when she encounters Akuji, she asks him very suggestive questions. For example, she asks, “soft or hard?” Akuji is flustered, but after you respond she reveals she’s really asking about preparing school lunches or something like that. The joke got old before I reached the end of the game though.
Anyway, next up is a young boy named Yuma who the band of heroes thinks is a U.M.A., which I guess means Unidentified Mysterious Animal. I think the fact that he was named Yuma would be funnier had I known what a U.M.A. was, but it was just confusing otherwise. Anyway, I think he fell off a building in his monster form or something because he’s injured for the rest of the game. In one of the few “unique” gameplay opportunities, you get to wipe drops of sweat off his injured body. I’m kind of confused as to why they included a dude as one of the characters and even more confused why they custom coded a sweat wiping minigame, but maybe it was for all the ladies who played this game!?!? There is very little that doesn’t follow the formula I outlined earlier, so it seems odd that they’d spend the extra development time on the male character.
The next character is Merry Watabiki who always wears a bunny suit. She even wears her bunny suit in the pool. The gang thinks they’ll be able to catch her without a bunny suit after swimming since she leaves her wet bunny suit out to dry. It turns out she has a second bunny suit. Anyway, the dating sim style stuff for her is pretty dull. The only thing funny is that she is really nice to Akuji and really mean to all of his special lady friends. Here’s a spoiler, but I don’t expect any of you to play the game, so you won’t mind me ruining this little tidbit. The big reveal of why she wears a bunny suit is because she’s trying to find a special guy, so she’s trying to be special to attract a guy. That’s pretty anticlimactic for how many long and boring dialog boxes you have to read. The entire level is pretty dull.
Finally, the climax of the game is when you test the busty school nurse, whose name is Eve Christmas, or Christmas Eve the way names are written in Japan. As it turns out, she’s not a witch, but rather an angel. It also turns out that the librarian, Noel Christmas, is her sister in disguise. Noel transforms from a conservative librarian into a half naked busty blonde angel before your very eyes! I use the term transform loosely since there is no animation. Noel actually was the angel that sent Lulu to gather up witches to steal their powers to… Well, I’m not really sure. I think it was something about taking away free will in order to force everyone to be good, but I wasn’t really paying much attention at this point. The school gets teleported to some sort of limbo dimension, and you have to click through many, many tedious and uninteresting conversations while trying to free the gang from their predicament. With the help of Eve, you are able to corner the renegade angel and defeat her in a fight. This fight was SUPER hard. It took me quite a while to defeat her. Perhaps that’s because there was so few fights (only one per character) that I never got a chance to learn whatever the hell the technique was supposed to be. Or perhaps they expected the novelty of the game to wear off by this point, so they didn’t really take the time to balance it.
After defeating her, I’m a little fuzzy on the details, but it seemed that the only way to tell if her plot was a good idea or bad idea was with angel judgment, which is amazingly similar to the regular witch judgment. I guess on angels the test does a different thing and tells the intention in her heart… or something… Anyway, you save the world through the power of witch, angel and U.M.A. touching prowess and everyone lives happily ever after. That is until Doki Doki Majo Shinpan! 2 Duo comes out at the end of the month. Interestingly, it is rated Cero D, which is equivalent to Mature in the US, so perhaps it will be more along the lines of what people were expecting when they heard about a “witch touching” game.
All in all, the game is not really worth playing unless you really REALLY want to molest underage anime girls on with your DS touch screen. Despite not really being into the molestation aspect of the game, I was digging the story at first, but it became long and tedious especially because it’s not in English, so I can’t speed read through it. As well, there was no FAQ to help me through the parts of the game where I was stuck trying to figure out who I had to talk to at which point during the day. I think this should be put in the category of a game I played, so you don’t have to. Curse my curiosity!