game Cover
game HuCard
©Taito Corp. 1990
Release : 1990-05-31 (¥5800)
Hucard (3 Mbits) TP02010
Action / Puzzle game
Don Doko Don is a cute platform game by Taito and conversion of the arcade game of the same name originally released in 1989. The kingdom of Marry Land is in sadness and sorrow - the beloved princess has been kidnaped by a mysterious king cow. She is now imprisoned in the dreaded Dragon castle and two courageous dwarves (Bob and Jim) decide to leave their native forest and to embark on a journey to save the young damsel. In a way similar to other classics at the time (such as Bubble Bobble), each level is single-screen in size and is filled with hordes of relentless monsters. The goal of the game is clean and simple - players must defeat all the enemies in sight within a time limit in order to move to the next level. And in Don Doko Don, they use large mallets to smash them flat before sending them bouncing around the screen. Alternately, stunned enemies can also be carried around and thrown against walls or other enemies. But the critters are tougher than they look and regain consciousness after a short period of time, and the dwarves must hurry and finish them off before they get a chance to jolt awake. Defeated enemies drop all kind of valuable items that the player can collect for extra rewards (some items randomly appear during gameplay). Although most of them are fruits that award bonus points, some upgrade the player in various ways, such as speed-ups (blue potion), throwable blue hammers, crushing grey hammers and other items that kill all monsters in one blow, make stars rain from the sky or increase the player's power level (Red Potions or P icons). This is another very important aspect to Don Doko Don - each dwarf comes with a power level (displayed at the bottom of the screen) that represents how many enemies can be disposed at once. When full, the power level flashes and indicates that the player can throw enemies through anything, even walls! This level however decreases each time the player receives a hit from a projectile or collects a rotten (spotted) fruit. Don Doko Don consists of five different themed worlds (made out of ten sub-stages each) and also features a two-simultaneous player mode.
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Don Doko Don - Arcade Don Doko Don was originally released in the arcades in 1989 (picture on the right) and was ported to the Famicom (1990), the PC Engine (1990) and was also later included in the Taito Legends 2 compilation released in 2006 (Playstation 2, XBox and PC). A sequel, simply called Don Doko Don 2, was exclusively released for the Famicom system in 1992. However, the game follows a different formula than its predecessor and is a side-scroller at heart. Although Don Doko Don is an old and seemingly forgotten franchise, the bearded dwarves made a few cameo appearances in several Taito games, such as Bubble Symphony (Arcade,1994 and Sega Saturn,1997) and Pop'n Pop (Arcade,1997, Playstation,1999 and Game Boy Color,2001).

This port of Don Doko Don is really faithful to the original arcade game, and the differences are minor. Firstly, some visual effects (such as zoom or sprite distortion and rotation) were obviously omitted - for instance some levels appear with basic zoom effects and some bosses (such as the pumpkin boss) use excellent rotation effects. Finally, when players complete the arcade game, the princess mentions that the king is still missing. This part is also present in the PC Engine version, however the way to find him is slightly different. In the arcade game, the player must hit and break an hidden crystal in the first level, collect a key and unlock a magic door to access a Secret Room. There, another crystal releases a second key, and a new hidden door that leads to a Password Room where the player can enter a special code to access the Reverse Rounds (it seems that this code is given away after collecting four crystals throughout the game, all hidden inside different Secret Rooms). In The PC Engine version, the Secret Rooms were apparently omitted and the first magic door leads directly to the Password Room (see the 'Secrets' section below). Finally, the end credits list all the enemies in the arcade game whereas the PC Engine version only features a staff roll.

Game Staff (Copied from the end credits) :

S. Kawakami

Y. Takasu

Y. Watanabe
K. Dekune
K. Sasaki
S. Tajima
K. Onsen
M. Mizuno
T. Narita

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Don Doko Don manual
Click on picture to enlarge

Don Doko Don - Reverse rounds Reverse Rounds:
When you complete the game, the princess says that the king is missing and gives you a code. To use it, start the game and, in the first level, jump to the highest platform and swing your hammer while jumping (you have to stand in the middle of the platform). The outline of a spherical crystal should appear - keep hitting it until the crystal breaks into pieces. This action releases a key that opens a magic door. Open the door to access a special hidden room - there, eight jars with four different signs appear and you have fifty seconds to enter the password the princess gave you (namely Spade, Heart, Diamond, Club, Club, Spade, Heart and Diamond). This gives access to fifty new (rearranged and harder) levels called the 'Reverse Rounds'. As a side note, these levels have a new final boss - once the dragon is vanquished, the evil king cow appears and must be defeated! Additionally, this epic final battle unlocks the true ending of the game.

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Don Doko Don is an excellent conversion and a really fun game overall. It starts out as a fairly harmless action/platform game - you're not sure what to do at first and it takes a couple of minutes to learn the game's inner mechanics and controls... but it quickly becomes extremely fun to toss enemies against walls and turn them into bananas and other colorful fruits. All of this accompanied by a catchy soundtrack and excellent graphics. But I have to give a special mention to Don Doko Don's level design. Each area is punctuated by its own unique features - icy platforms, falling rocks, rotating windmills - and some are really nice and very unusual, such as the crystal blocks in later stages that you can destroy with your mallet, and which stack up as they fall. The two-player mode is the icing on the cake and is a great addition to an already fine game. All in all, Don Doko Don doesn't have as many hidden secrets and appealling gameplay as other Taito games from the era (such as the classic Bubble Bobble), but it is without a question an excellent game and an incredibly faithful port.

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