game Cover
game cartridge
©1994 Metro Corp.
ITC, Inc.
Release: 1995-02-10 (¥8880)
Cartridge SHVC-ADRJ
Puzzle game

Dharma Dōjō (aka Daruma Dōjō) is a puzzle game by Metro and Den'Z, and conversion of an arcade game of the same name originally released in 1994. The game stars a little monk and a cute shrine maiden who have both been specially trained by their master to battle Yōkai monsters. As a matter of fact, all kind of Oni demons and other strange apparitions have caused major mayhem and mischief throughout the valley, and the two monks decide to put a decisive stop to all of this. In story mode, the player goes through a series of single-screen puzzles (eight levels each containing three rounds), all made out of stacked up blocks. The goal of the game is a heart pounding race against the clock - in each round, a demon, located on the left of the screen, climbs up a rope and must be stopped before he reaches the ceiling and releases a large temple bell onto the player's blocks. And there is only one way to slow the dreaded foe down - the player must use his or her large mallet to hit blocks and make them fall into a separate compartment located at the bottom of the screen (this aspect of the game certainly reminds of Daruma Otoshi, a traditional Japanese children's game). If three identical blocks (or up to eight later in the game) are aligned correctly inside the compartment, they turn into a good spirit and perform a short strike attack against the demon, thus slowing him down. If not, the blocks are sent back to the main stack, and the player must quickly think of a better way to align or shift more blocks. Interestingly, the gameplay slightly changes depending on which character the player chooses - as the monk, each puzzle must be completed within a time limit, but as the maiden, they have to be completed in a set amount of moves. Dharma Dōjō features a couple more play modes such as an unlimited mode (where rows of blocks just keep appearing) and a puzzle mode (where the player must align blocks so they match a pattern within a certain move count or time limit). However, although most of the modes are oriented for single-played sessions, a two-player battle mode is also available and allows two friends to fight head to head. Finally, while levels are apparently randomly generated in the story mode, a clever password system lets player save their progress.
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Daruma Dōjō - arcade Dharma Dōjō was originally released in the arcades by Metro3D in 1994 (picture on the left). While the original version provides the same gameplay as the Super Famicom version tested here, the game does have some noticeable differences. First of all, it has more enemies and features colorful backgrounds borrowed from traditional Japanese themes and myths (well, in the Korean version of the game, Metro3D apparently threw in a couple of bikini girls for good measure). Additionally, the arcade game only contains a story mode and there is no progress map or alternate game modes like in the Super Famicom port. But, most importantly, the gameplay is slightly different - the player has to move the character around the screen in order to hit a block with the mallet. The Super Famicon version, on the contrary, automatically aligns the player with the furthest most block, and this apparently minor difference makes the gameplay of the home conversion more fast-paced and enjoyable than the original.


Daruma Dōjō's manual Registration Card
Click on picture to enlarge


Add your Pov here !

Dharma Dōjō is a fun puzzle game that brings some really original ideas to a genre that has been around for a long while. Although it borrows elements from other puzzle games (such as Tetris's basic block matching concept), it brings in enough of its own charms to prevent it from feeling too much like another copycat. First of all, the gameplay mechanics are solid and work really well - hitting blocks with your mallet and aligning them at the bottom of the screen is a really unique idea. It is also surprisingly difficult - although you will breeze through the first couple of levels, the game becomes very quickly really challenging! My only problem with Dharma Dōjō is its repetitiveness - levels all look alike and the game becomes an endurance test rather than a fun ride. But there are enough play modes and fun cutscenes to keep Dharma Dōjō interesting for a good long while, and the two-player battle mode is particularly fun. All in all, Dharma Dōjō is a clever and intense puzzle game that will really give your brain a good workout!

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