Review by Pluvius

Reviewed: 08/14/06 | Updated: 08/31/07

This review is for the Japanese version of a game that was melted down into its core components for America.

If there's one thing Japanophiles love to complain about, it's how their favorite forms of media are officially translated. Often these complaints are questionable; you'll hear about how badly-acted the dub of a particular anime is compared to the original, for instance, usually from people who don't really know if the original voice acting is superior since they have no practical knowledge of Japanese or how natives actually speak it. They assume that the original is better simply because it "sounds nice." (I wouldn't be surprised if there are some cases in which the Japanese think that an original American show is better-acted than its dub for the opposite reasons.) An example of this sort of translation dissatisfaction in gaming is Final Fantasy VI, which some people say was ruined by its translator, Ted Woolsey. This is despite the fact that he really did the best job he could under the restrictions he was stuck with, and the only actual error of substance was the "dragons in the Veldt" thing.

However, there are certainly a number of cases where criticism is justified. For whatever reason, sometimes a developer doesn't want to put effort into translation (remember Zero Wing?), and sometimes big, important chunks of the original work are removed. Such is the case with Magical Doropie, released as The Krion Conquest in America. Apparently Vic Tokai originally intended to release it as Francesca's Wand and give it a full, straight translation (as straight as Nintendo would allow, anyway). Instead, probably because the company was going out of the video-game business, it took the easy way out--everything plot-related except for the intro sequence (which in fairness was perfectly accurately translated) was excised, and the ending was replaced with something truly insulting--a simple credits scroll, with the graphics from the final battle left on the screen carelessly. So many years later, a good samaritan decided to do a real translation of the game and now here we are.

The gameplay and in-game graphics of Magical Doropie were actually left largely intact, with only one minor Nintendo-unfriendly quirk (a hexagram that announces the end of each normal round) sanitized. It becomes very obvious once you enter the game that it is an unconcealed rip-off of the Mega Man series. The graphics are very similar (and thus are quite good), a number of the enemies are highly reminiscent of classic MM foes, and the main character has a few different types of things she can do with her staff, including conjuring up a broom that she can use to fly around. The major differences in the last item are that she starts with all of her powers, none of them require weapon energy, and one of them drains life when used.

Magical Doropie is entirely linear and boasts four stages each containing three rounds and a boss, plus a fifth stage that consists totally of the final series of bosses. Gameplay is highly varied; one stage requires extensive and precise use of the broom while another is mostly underwater and requires Doropie to get air at regular intervals. The bosses aren't all that special, on the other hand; they're not very hard to beat and most of them are best defeated with the normal weapon. The other weapons, in fact, don't get that much use at all despite the aforementioned variety in stages. The ice weapon is mostly useless since you can't use frozen enemies as platforms, the shield weapon is mostly useless since it only throws out an immobile shield in front of you, and the "hit everything on-screen for big damage" weapon saps almost half of your life. The only remaining weapon is the ball weapon, which shoots diagonally, bounces off walls, and is useful mainly for certain bosses.

Magical Doropie looks pretty short due to the small number of levels, but it more than makes up for that with its difficulty. Not only are the mechanics of the game about as difficult as those of your average Mega Man (lots of things flying around, big enemies which require lots of hits to destroy, death-defying jumps, etc.), but you only have ten hit points, and you are offered no mid-round checkpoints to start at when you die. (Even worse, The Krion Conquest has no ability to continue once all of your lives are lost! Magical Doropie fortunately allows you to start at the beginning of the current stage in this event.)

As for the big difference between the original game and the American release, the story of Magical Doropie is very Japanese. Not in a way that would've offended Nintendo of America; it's just idiosyncratic. In 1999, the Akudama Empire begins to take over the world with tons of robots, so a ninja-type named Kagemaru steals a staff containing the only hope for Earth--a cute witch named Doropie. As we learn later, the leader of the Badguy Empire (seriously, that's how it translates) is a sorceress who terrorized the spirit world and was banished by Doropie to the human world for her crimes. Doropie is forced to release the villain from her seal to save Kagemaru's life, but the witch of course manages to defeat her again, once and for all. It's then that the story suddenly takes a pro-environment slant by suggesting that the empress was awakened by heavy human development and only wanted to take over the world in order to stop the raping of the earth. (Doropie tells her that that's still not a nice thing to do, obviously.) All of this is portrayed in Ninja-Gaidenesque cutscenes that are really the most interesting parts of this game, with very colorful graphics that tell the story nicely.

And so we are shown that there are sometimes cases in which not only is a game badly-localized, but we really have no way of knowing it unless we've actually seen or heard about the original work. Many of the people who actually played The Krion Conquest probably assumed that it had no plot to begin with and was just a quickly-made cash-in on the Mega-Man craze at the time. While it was definitely a cash-in, though, there was more to Magical Doropie than that. That's why fan-translation groups are so helpful to gamers like me; they sometimes discover that the games that we take for granted are truly inferior to their counterparts on the other side of the pond. (See also Contra, which had an intro and small between-level cutscenes in the Japanese version.) Despite being a Mega-Man clone, Magical Doropie really deserved a better shake than it got in the West, and now thanks to emulators and the community of fans that care about these old games, maybe someday it will get more credit.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

Product Release: Magical Kids Doropie (JP, 12/14/90)

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