Game: Doremi Fantasy: Miron no Dokidoki Daibouken (ドレミファンタジー: ミロンのドキドキ大冒険)
Developer: Hudson Soft
Publisher: Hudson Soft
Release Date: March 22, 1996
System: Nintendo Super Famicom
Doremi Fantasy is the sequel to the NES game 'Milon's Secret Castle'. Don't be fooled, though. Doremi Fantasy isn't even close to resembling its predecessor. It's a straightforward platformer with very mild puzzle elements and it's a whole lot of fun. Upon starting the game you are met with a cutscene in which Milon and a companion are walking in the woods together when suddenly a demon appears in the sky. This demon, Amon, kidnaps a fairy named Elise. To combat the evil Amon you must collect 5 legendary musical instruments from across the land. Once you acquire these instruments you are ready to face the evil Amon and rescue Elise. Along the way you meet people who imbue magical powers into each instrument that you collect.
Similar to platformers like Super Mario World, Doremi Fantasy consists of a variety of overworld maps which consist of a number of levels. The themes of these overworld maps come in a wide variety. There are the requisite ice, forest, and fire worlds long with unique worlds like the snack world, and the toy world. After you complete the regular levels there are 'castle' stage and a boss stages. Before moving onto the the boss you must collect 5 special stars hidden in the preceding levels which are needed to enhance the magical properties of the music instruments. You can revisit cleared stages to power up or acquire items that were unreachable during the original run.
Your only weapon, like in the original Milon game, are bubbles. Reminiscent of Bubble Bobble, your enemies are encased in your bubbly restraints until you tag them and subsequently they float off to somewhere in the sky. You can stomp enemies, but this only stuns them and does not kill them. Your bubble bullets can be powered up but to a very short extent. It would have been nice if Hudson Soft put a little more effort into this since blowing bubbles does get a bit boring. A variety of weapons would have made this a lot better.
Items and power-ups are available throughout the game as well as a plethora of 1ups. Items range from bubble gum which prevents you from dying in and endless pit to winged shoes which help you glide through the air. As you progress further into the game you realize that these conveniences become more scarce. Musical notes which are like Mario's coins or Sonic's rings can be collected for 1ups. Even these become more rare as you get closer and closer to the final battle with Amon.
The colorful graphics and great attention to detail is really amazing. The cute little animations Milon and his enemies have are nice little touches which add to the game's charm. I've never seen one individual character in the 16-bit era have so many animations and expressions. Some of which are only unique to being harmed by a specific single enemy. There is a wide variety of cute enemies and bosses each seemingly distinct personalities. From the baddest boss to the most insignificant grunt of an enemy, they all have character which is more than I can say for a Goomba or a Koopa Troopa. You can easily tell a lot of devotion went into developing the presentation of the game. As if the gameplay and graphics weren't good enough, the music and sound effects of Doremi Fantasy are top notch. Everything sounds beautiful and Hudson Soft really got the most out of the Super Famicom's sound capabilities.
In addition to an already rich game there are mini games hidden throughout the levels. There are three different mini games in which you can earn suits or 1ups depending on how many points earn. One thing I must mention is that the instructions of the mini games are in Japanese so if you aren't familiar with the language the mini games make require trial and error to figure out. While there is an English patch available for the ROM, I am not big on emulation so I don't endorse it.
The game forgoes battery backup with a password system. Once you reach the 'game over' screen you'll be given a password if you don't want to continue right away. Hudson Soft did keep it simple by having only 4-digit passwords, but you cannot resume exactly where you left off the last time you played. So, for example, you lose all of your lives at the last level of a given world you must restart the entire world if you decide to quit. Perhaps this was added for a challenge. The only way to resume where you left off is to instantly continue once the game is over. Also, you must deplete all lives before getting a password. It would be more convenient if it was possible to retrieve a password at any time. You have to wait for a 'game over' screen. There were times I wanted to quit for the night but had to waste all of my lives just to get a password.
Doremi Fantasy is not a very difficult game. I suppose Hudson Soft wanted to make the game accessible to gamers of all ages and levels, so if you're a seasoned gamer Doremi Fantasy might be a bit on the easy and short side. There are 7 worlds, but the levels are fairly short which is a shame because they are so much fun. There is one major area where Hudson Soft completely dropped the ball, but I can't really mention it without spoiling the game. I'll just assume that they must have spent so much time on the presentation that they totally forgot or didn't care about one major detail of the game...or it was just rushed towards the end of production.
Don't let that deter you. Doremi Fantasy is a must-play. From the rich, colorful graphics to the beautiful sounds, and a surprise cameo by Bomberman this game cannot be missed. While the Super Famicom version might be a bit hard to come by, it is available on the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console as an import. While it is no Super Mario World, it does succeed in being a very fun game that shouldn't be missed. Get a copy or download it from Virtual Console. You just might find yourself thinking this is one of the Super Famicom's best platformers.
No backups, pirates, or emulation. My copy: