To understand this quirky little game, one with really plain, yet stylish graphics, we need to start with a quote from the game's lead designer Mr. Kazutoshi Iida:
"It has taken three years of hard work here at Param (Marigul), but we're finally able to present 'Doshin the Giant 1'. Mr. Shigeru Miyamoto from Nintendo has said that computer games incorporate a world-wide common language, and 'Doshin' illustrates this very clearly. Personally, I've gained a new understanding about games as 'a common language that supersedes not only nationality but also age'."
The genre listed is 'Tropical-Style Up N Down', which may sound like a bit of a joke, but it is in fact the most straightforward way of expressing the game's charm. You see, an integral part of the fun in Doshin comes from manipulating the terrain on the game's southern island setting. Something that might not normally seem fun, but is actually pretty addictive.
Managing to raise or lower the land through trial-and-error is somehow reminiscent of playing in a sand pit. There are a couple of methods one can use for raising and lowering the terrain, including using Doshin's long arms to pull the ground up (or jump on it to lower it). You can also use magical powers to change your surroundings.
Doshin is a giant that appears from the sky at dawn and disappears at dusk. He seems to be an incarnation of the sun. Each day in the game lasts 30 real minutes, which doesn't give you a whole lot of time. In the limited time available, you must choose a theme and behave accordingly.
Doshin is a giant, but on first appearance he is a surprisingly small giant. But don't fret, there are three ways to increase Doshin's size. Doshin can perform human-friendly actions, aquiring hearts from the little people. Collect enough of these hearts and you will grow in size. Doshin can also grow by collecting skulls, which you get by performing an action that is NOT friendly to the humans.
You are also able to absorb paradise energy to grow bigger. You see, "Paradise" is the area on the island densely covered by trees. If Doshin lingers in this area, he will grow in size. But as he grows, the surrounding trees will disappear. The bigger he grows, the bigger the changes are in the island's terrain. As Doshin's steps increase in length, so does his speed, and walking the island becomes much easier. However, if Doshin gets too big, he is more likely to step on humans or destroy their buildings. The challenge comes in keeping the Yin/Yen balance right, to achieve perfect harmony for Doshin.
After 30 minutes, evening descends, and the giant vanishes from the island. The next day, he will appear as usual, but will have returned to his original size. At that point you can continue with the previous strategy, or try something different. This set-in-stone cycle means that you either play a repeating or very different game depending on your tactics to get all the monuments (more on that in a second). There are 49 generations of giants (yes that's almost 25 hours of gameplay if you make it through each day) and your progress carries on from the previous giant.
The game is set on the southern island of Barudo, and Sodoru Memo is the in-game narrator. Four types of human live on the island, and they can be recognized by the colour of their hats and clothes. The humans may ask the giant to bring them a tree, or to raise or lower the land. Once you react to their request, the humans will begin to work, and then form a settlement. When the settlement reaches its final stage of development, they will begin construction of a monument, which can range from a simple pile of stones to a beautifully decorated complex construction.
There are 16 different types in total, and the type built is decided by the combination of colours of the people in the settlement (different cultures will have different songs for you to recognize them by), you'll need to exchange different coloured inhabitants of sometimes far away villages with each other to progress. The humans will tend to leave the group or stop working altogether and begin to play, but only when all 16 monuments have been built the ending scene will appear. This is a big part of the game strategy, to guide them so they continue to work "for you".
Humans that the giant accidentally steps on will turn into lotuses (you'll see their spirit float away), and in the next game these will have become trees. Strategically, sticking to this rule will ensure smooth progression through the game, but is a very aggressive strategy and to deliberately control the number of humans isn't very nice... tender loving care anyone? Not only do you have to be careful Doshin does not step on humans, but natural disasters like wandering fires, volcanic eruptions, insect plagues, and tornados can do A LOT of damage to not only the buildings you managed to get made, but the latter of which always kills many humans. Unless you get there in time to lower the ground, to extinguish fires, or walk into a tornado to block it's moving around the villages, which destroys everything in sight.
I'm not kidding when I say this game is a lot of classic/pure fun, nicely strategic and although I can't understand one word of the games commencers it's still awesome to hear the Dragon Ball Z voice-over (Mr. Gozo Soma) guide you through the game. The female voice-over (Ms. Tamaki Ogawa) is too cute when she warns you that silly Doshin stumbles and falls over... flat on his face.
The game is really addictive in it's own simple way. I like this game most of all 64DD games, because the little men you have to help build towns aren't speaking Japanese, their talking with symbols and basic language like singing, chanting, sleeping, calling for help etc. Which is great, because I don't understand two words of Japanese. You can save your progress by taking a nap, so if you can overlook the somewhat slow controls and simple graphics, you'll keep coming back for more, as long as you don't go over the mystical & deadly edge of the world!
To keep the theme of the game interesting you'll feel a battle between doing good and bad throughout Doshin's incarnations. In the end it's true that this God-game can be best described as: "Populous meets Mario." Instead of buying a 64DD set-up just for this game I suggest importing the upgraded graphics, environment, AI and overall harder difficulty level version made for GameCube by the original team and Giles Goddard. This newer version went on to sell over 200,000 copies in Japan alone against the originals 15,000. After this success, the game even got converted into English and was released on 20 September 2002 in PAL territories. I'd like to close off by saying: Yes that is Doshin's bellybutton what you're looking at, nothing else.