Dokuro: A Bone-a-fide Hero Emerges Today on PS Vita

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Dokuro: A Bone-a-fide Hero Emerges Today on PS Vita

Update: At this time, Dokuro has only been released on the US PlayStation Store.

In my last PlayStation.Blog post, I talked a bit about the origins of my favorite numbskull, Dokuro, and the story surrounding his heroic exploits. My ever-diminishing pool of skeleton-themed puns notwithstanding, I’d like to go a bit deeper into the gameplay elements of Dokuro as well as the concepts that spurred development choices.

Although Dokuro was inspired by children’s books — The Velveteen Rabbit and a Japanese children’s book called Kuma to Yamaneko — don’t let the adorable chalk-laden game fool you into thinking the Dark Lord’s castle is child’s play. At first, Dokuro may look like a pretty straightforward 2D side-scrolling puzzler: You’ve got a clear goal of escorting the princess from point A to point B, and a seemingly narrow list of what you can and cannot do to accomplish it. You push a few boxes around, toggle a switch or two, and bash a few bozos who try to hurt your precious princess. The game wouldn’t be a fraction as interesting as it is, however, if it simply stopped there.

Dokuro for PS Vita

As you progress through the treacherous castle, you are gradually introduced to new concepts and abilities, such as using the spicy-red chalk to transfer fires and toggling the amazing anti-gravity device to solve vexing gravity-defying riddles. Just as soon as these new concepts are introduced, they snuggle right into your existing bag of tricks. Now you’ve got to avoid heavily armed knights, transform into a hero to slash away at your foes, push an explosive barrel up against a fragile wall and red chalk that barrel’s fuse before the bouncing flame monsters get you!

By the end of the game, you’ve learned how to interact with a whole slew of environments and objects including seesaws, windmills, pendulums, and water.

Every new skill you learn becomes a necessary part of your repertoire as you encounter increasingly complex puzzles, but the game won’t just test your brains. While many of its stages can be solved with mental dexterity alone, there are quite a few stages that will rely on your platforming expertise. For many stages, you will have to carefully time Dokuro’s jumps, shoves, chalks and heroic transformations to survive some of the more precarious pitfalls. The game’s creator, Noriaki Kazama, described these extremely challenging stages as ones that “come at the users with intent to kill.” However, if you ever get fed up with these challenges, you are permitted to skip as many as ten stages and return to finish those death-inducing stages after you’ve had some time to calm down.

Dokuro for PS Vita

The developer Game Arts suggests that if you get stuck on an area, the best thing to do is take a step back and look at the whole picture. What can Dokuro do? What concepts have been recently introduced? And why do I keep jumping into those stupid spikes!? Even the seemingly daunting boss battles can be conquered quite smoothly once you observe their movements and take advantage of your surroundings. In stages like that, it’s important to remember the Ambrose Redmoon quote that inspired Dokuro in the first place: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.”

Dokuro’s motivations may not be clear at first, but once the princess gives him her magical bell to help him protect what’s most important to him, he literally glows with purpose! Seeing this plucky little pile of bones struggle to reach his goals makes the punishing puzzles and brief event scenes all the more rewarding.

Dokuro consists of 15 stages, each with about 10 areas. At the end of each area, you are greeted by a lovely little flower and a small box that says how long you took to clear the area this time around. In my normal puzzling experience, I’d be taken to some kind of stage select or results screen, but the developers were concerned this would pull players away from the immersive experience, so they cut this part out and made it feel like one continuous journey since the levels seamlessly bleed into one another up until you encounter a story event or boss battle.

Dokuro for PS Vita

Dokuro is out today on PS Vita via PSN for $19.99. We also plan to give away some fantastic artwork from one of the original Dokuro artists. For more details, feel free to check out our Facebook page.

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34 Author Replies

  • Nice work, this looks like a lot of fun. I love the art direction and it kind of reminds me of Castlevania or Ghouls and Ghosts. I will be picking this up. Keep up the good work and thanks for bringing this to Vita where it excels!

    • We were excited to do so! I love both of those series you mentioned, and I will say it’s definitely not as punishing as the latter and filled with far more puzzles than the former ;)

  • This looks great. Is there going to be a demo? About how long would a single average play-through be?

    • There will not be a demo, but I did try to make the trailer here show off as much as possible to give players an idea for how the game flows. There are also a lot of gameplay videos floating around on Youtube.

      As for the length of the experience, I already see a lot of questions, so I’ll explain it here as accurately as I can.

      I play a lot of puzzlers myself and my main rule of thumb is to do it with NO walkthroughs or other kinds of help. Then once I’ve beaten the game fairly and want to platinum/100% complete it, I will look into FAQs and such.

      I beat “teleport gun: the game” in the time it would take to watch the third Lord of the Rings movie.

      I beat “artsy game with little man in sharp suite looking for girlfriend” in about 1 evening.

      Dokuro I had to dedicate 2 full gaming weekends to simply beat it – trophy hunting not included.

      Maybe I’m just getting old >_< but there is DEFINITELY a lot of content to complete.

  • The first time I saw the price it was a blow to the face. After thinking about it; The amount of hours of gameplay you get, the amount of good things I heard about the game and also Velveteen Rabbit has made sure this gets a download from me.

    Good things happen to those that wait. And this is just the beginning of great things for Vita.

    • Glad to hear it. The game also makes me wanna find that Kuma to Yamaneko book!

      This really is a great month for the Vita eh? I’ve played it to battery-death more times in the last 2 weeks than in the entire span of February to September!

  • Roughly how long would you say this experiences is?

    • It really is tough to say. There are times when I’d struggle through a level, die several times, and ultimately conquer it to see “complete time: 3 minutes 30 seconds.” It always made me giggle to see this since I knew full well it took about 2 hours! Part of me wishes it kept track of all your game time somewhere, but part of me would be embarrassed to see it!

      The dev team typically answers anywhere from 20-30 hours, but of course, this can always change with the player’s level of skill.

  • There is too much complaining on this blog. PS+ Entitlement posts are the worst. Annoying people who want obscure PS1 JRPG re-releases. However I gotta complain about the $20 price point. Come on? $15 seems like the standard price for this. I know it is $5 but it adds up.

    • I do see where people are coming from when it comes to price point, but I can honestly say the shear amount of style and content really do make it worthwhile. It may look like some of those other budget puzzlers, but I really believe it’s got way more to offer.

  • Excellent game, excellent price point!

  • meh. looks really low budget. I’d get it for $4.99 at most. charging $20 for this is just near criminal.

  • This game looks amazing but…. 20$? Really?

    10$ seems ok BUT 20$?

    no this time.

  • I’ll be buying this as soon as the store updates. Keep the Vita games coming. Jet Set radio is a buy also thought that was coming out today to

  • Would have been a definite buy if not for the price point

  • @5 I think it has a platinum, so its a “full” game. I’ll look into that and repost. Plus $20 isn’t that bad compared to the $30 robbery ports Square Enix is shilling on iOS and Android.

    • Ah >_< I did forget to mention the platinum in reply to comment #5.

      In any case, the digital-only environment is a tricky one: people want quality games, but price can be a volatile topic. I think it's a very tricky transition period we are in.

  • $20 seems shocking at first. I hope it’s worth every penny. Looks promising, though.


    Its a full, retail-sized game. $20 ain’t bad. I will be picking this up. Support Game Arts and quit your whining people. They seem to be one of the few devs dedicated to making unique experiences on the Vita (Picoto Knights, Ragnarok Odyssey).

  • (comment is being moderated and that can take years, so I’ll repost).

    Its a full, retail-sized game. $20 ain’t bad. I will be picking this up. Support Game Arts and quit your whining people. They seem to be one of the few devs dedicated to making unique experiences on the Vita (Picoto Knights, Ragnarok Odyssey).

    You can go to PSN Profiles to confirm the platinum. Posting the link got me moderated. Lame.

  • i was off to pay for this $14.99, but seeing its $20, sozzz im not buying it :/

  • It’s a great game and very much a full one. It’s a great challenge and I spent over 20 hours getting the platinum for it. Don’t let its looks deceive you, this is one of the best original Vita games out there.

    • You got the platinum that fast O_o

      Avoiding spoilers, all I can say is “How the heck did you _______ the _________ without getting _______ every 3 seconds! I mean, I barely ________ the _______ just doing it normally!!!!!!!”

  • @11 Rainbow Moon also had a platinum trophy and it only costed $15. So its no excuse for this game to be charged so much.

  • There should have been at least some kind of discount for plus members.

  • @17 Rainbow moon had gated grinding that unless you didn’t pay for the DLC, you’d spend upwards of 200 hours grinding for the plat. Terrible example.

    I know its a recession, but $20 for a game isn’t steep. At all.

  • I wonder if Gung Ho will be as chatty as Atlus and XSeed. Community outreach is what keeps the niche gamers interested in your product! Some official forums too, if you’re listening.

  • This was a retail release in Japan. It’s not a “bite sized”, budget downloadable. It’s more of a full retail game, that is packed to the brim with stages and new gameplay content, to keep that large number of stages actually interesting to play. A rare case of quality AND quantity!

    Hopefully, this will all become more apparentl, after people get their hands on the game later today!

    Oh, and estimations of the game length are between 15 and 30 hours of gameplay.

  • As a Vita owner I will say this just once. I will support this game with my purchase later today !!…….As always , Keep on Gaming.

  • I’m going to disagree with those saying the game is too expensive. It is a full retail title in Japan, after all.

    Anyhow, game looks great; eagerly anticipating the PlayStation Store update tonight.

  • I have a very impotant question for any of you at GungHo. Are the trophies on the US digital version separate from the trophies on the import versions (as in Japan or Hong Kong)? I need to know if they stack. IF so, then I will be buying two copies! Please answer. I can’t find an answer to this anywhere.

    • On a technical level, it has different back-end codes and such, so it SHOULD count as a unique title with its own trophies. I will be able to confirm this in a couple of hours – but I wanted to let you know I’m looking into this!

      I will also confirm the file size!

  • omg, important*!…wow. haha.

  • Oh, quick question: any idea as to how big the file size is? Need to know if I should clear some space on my memory card .

  • Antonio, thanks for the response to my earlier question! I like what I’m hearing. Once I’m done with Retro City Rampage I’ll be picking this up. :)

  • @20 the old ‘its a full retail release in japan, so it must be overpriced in NA as well’ excuse. That doesn’t justify the price here, it just shows how much they ripped off japanese gamers. The same with Legasista released on psn.

  • wow i had no interest in the game what so ever, but after seeing the trailer, i may actually get it :)

    • Glad you liked the trailer. I was trying to show a good variety of things that you could do in a very short time frame!

    • It’s true the video capture doesn’t exactly do justice to that sexy Vita screen! At least for this trailer I had it better calibrated than the last one.

  • Why aren’t store updates made on the morning? It hurts so much to wait the whole day! :(

  • Thank you very much! I appreciate that and I’m looking forward to playing it (and also finding the answer to that question of course). Also I think $20 is a fair price. The game is $30-35 retail on Playasia and it is in english. So that price point makes sense. I’d gladly pay for both versions if the trophies stack. I’d rather have the hard copy though replaying it and re-earning the trophies would be sweet. I share my Vita too, so it only makes more sense for me. Since it is digital only in the US right now, people will want to know the size of the game on here too. Not just PSN. This game so deserves a retail release. I know it’s going to sell very well over a short period of time. I just think it would do better starting as a PS Plus discounted game it’s first week. As for Retro City Rampage, I’ll pass on that until a price drop lol.

    • OK – in case you missed it, I did look into it and unfortunately you cannot double up on the trophies.

      Sorry about that, and thank you for all your input.

      Hopefully in the future, we can use different trophy codes so this doesn’t happen again.

  • A PS3 version would be very nice too!

  • I wasn’t expecting it to have so much platforming as shown in the title, i thought it was mostly a puzzle game. The trailer was a pleasant surprise.

    • I would say the ratio of puzzle to platform favors puzzle, but the platforming sections are quite delightful and ample enough spread across the various stages.

  • I’ve been looking forward to this game for months. I love what I see here! Getting my Vita on the 30th and this will be my first download :)

    • That gives you 1 day to spend for the PSN pay 100 get 20 back in credit promotion :P

      Then again… it only took me 5 minutes to blow that much cash >_<

  • i wold really like to get this but im afraid to buy something on the Vita and come next month it will be free or cheaper (u know cause of PS+ coming to vita)

  • Sorry guys, you pinned the price higher than the unfinished swan. Not a good PR move in my opinion. I was seriously interested, but I’m not coughing up $20.

  • @37 as he says it’s hard to price digital things. People just think oh this is digital so it should be cheap. But on content/time alone this game is 33% more money for about 500% more content than Unfinished Swan.

  • buying this as soon as the store update goes live

  • @19 You obviously didn’t try to Platinum Rainbow Moon, on Hard it took 100 hours exactly, and playing on hard is just a challenge, no trophies. And if you played on easy you can get Plat in 70 play time and have the ps3 sit for 30. Dokuro is 2400 yen, which means it’s an indie game in Japan as well….
    I’m not sure I can convince myself that that $20 is acceptable for an indie game. I’ll just wait for it to pop up on PS+.

    • Thanks, now I have another game I gotta buy this month. I hadn’t even heard of that one until everyone here started talking about it. Not sure how I missed it!

  • @24
    Dokuro is 331MB on the Japanese PSN.

  • @14, Christian- The truth will moderate you, haha! =]

    Appreciate the responses, Antonio. Dokuro looks great on the Vita!

  • After reading gameinformer’s review I’m questioning if I should spend $20 on this. They stated some levels are so frustrating they had taken a couple of hours to figure out. I like a challenging game but not a game that will make me want to throw my vita across the room. Not sure I want to pay $20 to just be aggravated.

    • As someone who actually did beat the ENTIRE GAME, I can say it’s quite challenging at times, but conquering the challenge makes it well worthwhile.

      The game has a feature that lets you skip up to 10 stages. In my personal experience, there were really only 4 stages that made me wanna cry big manly tears (though I did eventually manage to beat them!).

      With the skip feature, you can easily overcome the most devastating challenges and play your way through to the end. You can always go back later and figure out that troublesome stage or lookup an FAQ/playthrough vid for help.

  • Getting this today, thanks, even though it’s probably too hard for me. And, as I always say, “Yay, more Vita content”!

    BTW, took me days, maybe weeks, to beat that teleport gun game, which was one of the very best games of last year. I think it got a little buried under the whole Outage fiasco, but that’s what I played during the Outage, ev

  • SHUT UP AND TAKE MY…..oh wait, today?

    Carry on then.

  • I am so looking forward to playing this. It will be bought immediately after I get home from work.
    I love the art style, and any new 2D games are always welcome on my game systems.

    • I feel the same way myself! I was worried when everything went 3D, but it’s great to see the resurgence of 2D popularity in this decade.

  • Just want to say the game looks super cool. It’s at the top of my “Totally going to buy this list”. People complaining of the 20$ price, I get it and don’t get it. Regardless.
    Sucks there isn’t a demo because I feel with the demo I could really get more of a feel of how the game plays. The trailer does look cool though.

    If it was 10-15$ I’d probably just pick it up and say to hell with it. But for the 20$ not sure why but my mind says I need to try before I buy. So here’s to hoping for some seriously positive reviews so I can justify picking it up.

    • One thing I will caution about the reviews: beware of the butt hurt. When a game comes out that’s got some challenge to it, you will see 2 types of reviews:

      1. Hey this is great! You don’t see fun challenging games like this anymore…

      2. GRRRRRRRRRRR THIS GAME IS TOO HARD IT’S TOOOOO HARRRRRD *temper tantrum thrown on screen*

      My honest opinion is to try reading what the game contains and try not to focus on subjective terms.

      Check out some vids, or ask others who have played what they experienced and if they think you’d like it.

  • I didn’t know about this game till your last blog post,I was like meh I have PvP but boy I was wrong.I quickly imported the game paying $35 was worth every penny,replay value is really great and those damn spikes lol.people,for $20 you are getting an all you can eat fun,long lasting platform’s with lots to these devs cuz they deserve it.if you don’t buy this,then don’t complain vita is getting no games.

  • was only mildly curious about his game and wasnt going to buy it when i saw the price point, but the enthusiasm antonio cara is showing in the comments section really made me realize that this is a special game that deserves attention. will be buying!

    • I like the part where you say “antonio cara.” It’s neat seeing my name on the internets!

      I guess I really am strangely enthusiastic – you may even say I’m “GungHo.” >_<

      I was so completely hooked on this cute little skeleton guy I had to see his story through to the end!!!!

  • Good luck with the new operation at Gung Ho btw. I think that there is a real resurgence in interest in cultivating the now “niche” JRPG and Japanese market games for release here in the West. Considering the best Vita stuff is for Japan-only at the moment, I’d say that you have a wealth of products to choose from and a consumer that is hungry for them!

    I welcome you and all the folks at Gung Ho and will support you with my $!!! Keep those quirky titles coming.

    P.S. If you folks at Gung Ho nab a Tales (Vita) or Lord of Apocalypse publishing agreement from the curmudgeons at Namco and SE, I will buy TWO of every game Gung Ho ever makes! The Shining PSP series of games really need some Western love too. SEGA is too concerned with Sonic shovelware to invest the time.

    • Thanks for the warm welcome. I think Dokuro is a great start for our company.

      As for those other titles, I can’t speculate too much about future acquisitions. What I can say is that for now we will work on titles that our Japanese headquarters/affiliates develop, but we later hope to branch out to other exciting IPs.

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