Many Nintendo 64 owners have complained that since the launch of the system, nothing has compared to Miyamoto's bright and shining star, Super Mario 64. Japanese developer Enoch must have been listening, because it has released Doraemon's Nobita and the Three Spirit Stones. By all accounts Doraemon can be compared to Mario...it just suffers by the comparison. Based on the beloved Japanese anime/manga character Doraemon, a blue, earless, robotic cat from the future, this is one of the most blatant clones that the industry has ever seen.
The story revolves around a trio of extremely powerful and sacred crystals that have been broken into pieces and scattered across the land. As Doraemon (or any one of his four friends), the player must gather up all the chunks and rid the world of a menacing demon. Each one of the player characters, who can be switched at any given time (the one original element of the game), has different attributes and abilities...although all are oddly around the same height. The characters are: Jaian, the overgrown bully, who sings into a karaoke microphone to quash enemies; Suneo, who gives bad guys the one-two punch with his boxing gloves; Shizuka, a big-eyed little girl who can jump higher than anyone else; and the nerdy Nobita, who sports a pea-shooter and a dead-eye. Meanwhile, Doraemon has a magic pocket in his middle where he can store tons of items, including the tools he'll need to enter new areas of the game. For example, Doraemon will get access to an underwater buggy that lets him drive on the bottom of the sea, a toy propeller that enables him to fly, oxygen nose capsules for underwater breathing, and even a winged kangaroo-like dragon to ride. Sound original? Nope! It's pretty much an elaboration on the You need five stars to open this door aspect of Super Mario 64.
Did you have a problem with the few occasional 3-D screw-ups in SM64? A few minutes with this title will give you a new appreciation for how few problems were present. Mario looked flat and plain? The graphics never looked nearly this basic. Even setting the considerable visual flaws aside, Doraemon's gameplay manages to be tedious and slow. In short, the game is atrocious. Although I found its more straightforward and annoying elements (such as its screaming title character) almost charming, there's no excuse for lack of solid gameplay. Doraemon is like Super Mario 64 put through a strainer until there's nearly no entertainment value left.
While I'm admittedly not a lawyer, I understand all that's necessary for Nintendo to take Epoch to court over this title would be proving seven strong similarities between this game and Super Mario 64. Well, from the nearly identical trees, to the treasure chests, to the pirate ship, there's plenty for them to build a case. Obviously, Nintendo's not going to sue Epoch over this title, since it had to be approved by them in the first place...but perhaps Miyamoto should.
Sometimes an import game comes along that make me wish some publisher would have the wherewithall to release it in the States (such as PaRappa the Rapper or Assault Suit Leynos 2). This isn't one of them.