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Review of Dohna Dohna -Issho ni Warui Koto o Shiyou-

SubjectDohna Dohna -Issho ni Warui Koto o Shiyou-
Dohna Dohna -Issho ni Warui Koto o Shiyou- Download Edition
ByVote: 5.5quof on 2020-11-29 last updated on 2020-12-04
ReviewDohna Dohna - All Style, No Substance

I think the phrase "all style, no substance" is often misused as a kneejerk way to criticize any stylistic game regardless of its actual substance. The phrase has kind of lost its meaning, and one might even mentally correct it to "this is a stylistic game" upon reading it while discounting the "no substance" part entirely. However, no game in my life has ever felt so lacking in substance and overflowing with style than Dohna Dohna. You can't get more insubstantial and more stylish than this.

I'll cut to the chase. The art and graphic design in this game is 10/10. Each heroine looks great, the tachie (sprites) are incredibly expressive, the battle sprites are beautifully animated, the h-scenes are nice, even the text box/menus looks good. The music rounds things out nicely with its upbeat vibes, and basically Dohna Dohna is a great visual experience. I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that many people will be fully capable of loving Dohna Dohna purely on it's visuals, and that's fine.

However, this style is like a poster covering a gaping hole in a wall. If you peel it away there is very little of value underneath in my opinion. The gameplay design is busted to all hell, and the story is fairly generic despite the entertaining cast doing their best to inject it with life. I think the gameplay has easier to explain and more agreeable flaws, so I'll start by talking about that.

The first and most critical problem which we have to talk about before anything is the ABSOLUTELY INSANE LEVEL SCALING. Each level in Dohna Dohna gives increasingly more stat points than the last due to being a flat 9%-10% boost on existing stats, which gives characters exponential growth. Going from Level 42 to 43 will net as many stat points as a Level 15 character has in total. The result of this is a battle system that ONLY has extremes, since mathematically every 7-8 levels your characters will double in strength. A character 10 or so levels behind will be killed instantly and be all but unable to damage enemies due to having incredibly low atk/def. A character 5 or so levels ahead will be invincible and kill enemies in one hit due to having nearly double stats. There's a brief sweet spot upon arriving at each new area where things are more balanced and enemies take multiple hits to kill / dish out decent damage, but this is also the point where you get a ton of EXP from killing them, so within 10~ battles or so you'll be overleveled again and have double the stats of the enemy. The speed of this overleveling can be mitigated by equally leveling all your party members, but the party balloons to a fairly large size (10 people with a max of 4 being usable at a time), and I found it pretty tedious to try getting everyone to keep up when I didn't even like most of their moves.

From my experimentation, you have to actively avoid fights and bumrush bosses if you want to have an engaging fight. The majority of bosses in the game I got to after leisurely 100%ing dungeons, and I killed them in 1 turn with zero effort. If you wait too long, you don't get boss fights, since once your stats double you're invincible. The real problem, though, is how brainless the zako fights end up being. You kill all enemies in one hit before long, so battles consist of holding CTRL while spamming attack skills to get through. Zero thought is required and it's incredibly tedious.

To make matters worse, the combat isn't even elaborate to begin with. Each character gets 4 unique skills to use, but for many of them the 3rd and 4th skills are unlocked in the second half of the game, and most of them end up feeling equivalent since you're just 1 hit killing enemies anyway. You never, ever need to think about anything you do in battle just about (outside of the sweet spot where enemies can damage you). Despite having a sideview battle system which games like Darkest Dungeon took extremely far, Dohna Dohna does nothing with its system - the order of your enemies and your units barely matters most of the time, and never is there any clever pushing around/etc to manage positioning. You just mousewheel your units into position on their turn and go. Incidentally, there is almost NO enemy variety in the game. You fight the same security guard-esque dudes the entire game more or less, with some robots or enemy gangs occasionally mixing things up visually, but without much of an impact on the gameplay (at most, you'll want to switch to Antenna to AOE robots sometimes). It's very dull and the enemies never feel threatening or interesting. They're literally like sandbags to beat down in 1 hit while racing through the game.

As a brief note on the dungeons, they don't matter. You're limited to walking right and ultimately they have very few branches and zero gimmicks. They're purely tubes for holding enemy encounters and have nothing more to them than that. Sometimes there's locked doors you have to come back to later in the plot, but big whoop.

Okay. In short, the level scaling is insane and prevents battles from being balanced. You quickly 1hko enemies while being invincible. The enemy variety is next to zero and they never engage with the sideview system at all. A friend of mine identified Dohna Dohna as being part of a trend of modern eroge RPGs following soshage trends to try and appeal to a wider audience of players (alongside such titles as Eushully's Conquista) and I honestly agree. Dohna Dohna hardly feels like an Alice Soft game, which are traditionally known for brutal overarching time limits and move limitations etc. Dohna Dohna is more grindy and easy, where you're never threatened and never have to think. You just turn off your brain and hold ctrl throughout, just like soshage.

There's another side to the gameplay, though - prostitution. Each day you can choose to either delve into a dungeon or prostitute girls for money - you don't get money from beating fights, so prostitution is the only way to up your funds to spend in the shop. One could argue this SLG side of the gameplay is just as important as the RPG side, but well... in my opinion, it's kneecapped by the simple fact that it's completely cut off from the rest of the mechanics. It's a feedback loop that circles into itself with no point beyond that. Let me explain.

You want money to spend in the shop. Makes sense. The shop has items to boost the stats of your prostitutes, building upgrades to house more prostitutes, upgrades that increase the potency of your prostitute stat boosting items, etc. Sounds good, right? Well, look closer - everything you're buying feeds into upgrading how much money you make from prostitution. It's a cycle. You prostitute to get money for prostitution items, which then let you make more money from prostitution. It's a direct back and forth cycle with NO connection to the RPG side whatever. You can ignore the prostitution 100% and be totally fine. You don't need the money for anything but upgrades - or well, there *are* important weapon upgrades to buy, but they are WAAAAAAAAY cheaper than the prostitution items. Take a look: link (note that you can only buy 1 of the rank 5 weapons there, the other 2 disappear). I won't go into the explicit numbers, but suffice to say you can buy every Rank 5 weapon in the game for the price of a single Rank 5 prostitution upgrade, and there are a LOT more rank prostitution upgrades than just that one.

In short. You simply don't need money in this game. It doesn't feed into the RPG side at all, with a few minor exceptions. You can ignore the prostitution SLG and be entirely unaffected. A much better and interesting execution of this is (once again) found in Darkest Dungeon, where what you find in dungeon upgrades your home base in mechanically significant ways which assist dungeon delving. The "SLG" and "RPG" of Darkest dungeon work in tandem so that they help each other and feel meaningful. In Dohna Dohna, the SLG is entirely it's own thing and feels tacked on.

Now. The biggest response to this is that gameplay systems don't need to be well-designed as part of the core gameplay loop, they can jut be fun on their own. And that's true. The prostitution SLG in Dohna Dohna being so superfluous is particularly grievous from a ~game design~ perspective, but if it's fun in it's own right it's fine. Well, mileage will vary when it comes to having fun with it or not. In my opinion, the best part about it by far is (once again) the art. There's a TON of unique tachie for the prostitutes and they all look good. There's also like 8-10 unique prostitutes with more elaborate H-scenes. If someone enjoys the prostitution SLG, I suspect it's largely due to the appeal of seeing all this great art for generic mob characters that unironically look better than the main heroines of many other eroge. I don't really think this makes the system itself fun, though.

The core of why I didn't find the prostitution SLG particularly interesting is the speed of mastery and the heavy randomness involved. Especially if you're referencing the manual/asking questions, the prostitution SLG can be mastered very quickly. Get S+ rank technique for more money. Get S+ looks so the customer goes to her. Keep mental high so she doesn't snap. Use pills so they don't get pregnant. Done. You win. There are traits which influence how much their stats change after a steamy night out, but it's easy to overcome these with items, and it only gets easier. The one time the traits have an opportunity to shine are the "dispatch" prostitution things where a customer asks for a specific kind of girl and you have 4 days to send one that suits his needs. However, this mechanic has about zero effort put into it. There are 5 things the dude asks for in a girl, and 3 of them relate to the base stats. You can easily just send a 3/5 girl that doesn't have any traits he asked for and you'll STILL make enormous bank. He might ask for "A+ looks, A+ technique, B mental, milf, sadistic" girl, and despite you sending a girl that has none of the actual traits he wants (MILF/sadistic), he will still pay out the ass for a A+ looks, A+ technique, B mental girl. This means that the dispatch prostitution missions are basically identical to normal prostitution except you get obscene amounts of money for no effort from it. You *can* try to get the traits he wants, but it's a lot of effort and RNG for not much more money.

Speaking of RNG, that's another reason I didn't get too into the prostitution mechanics. The income, appearance, traits, and desires of customers are all RNG as one might expect. To customize prostitutes beyond their 3 base stats you need to hook them up with dudes which give traits, but which ones are available are RNG, and ultimately it doesn't make a huge difference either way as mentioned. I don't really feel like savescumming to get good RNG on the customers, so I just took what I got, and that still gave far more money than I needed. (Recruiting girls is also RNG, but it doesn't really matter who you get since they're all functionally the same once you pump their stats up with items).

Don't forget that all this is done to get money you don't need to spend on anything except things related to making earning money from prostitution more efficient, by the way.


Okaaaaay. That's about enough on gameplay I think. For both the RPG and SLG I can fully understand someone having fun playing based purely on the style/visuals of things, but the actual mechanics are in my opinion an absolute travesty. The RPG is much much worse off than the SLG since it doesn't have even half of the surface-level complexity, but it compensates for this with flashy attack animations which are sure to draw attention and earn favor to make up for that.

As for the plot. Well, it's harder to go into detail about the plot, since it's a lot more subjective and I can't exactly spoil how everything goes down. It's overall less offensive than the gameplay so it doesn't need a beatdown either, but I'll try to convey why I didn't enjoy it too much.

First of all, the setting is extremely generic and paper-thin. There's an evil corporation controlling citizens lives and you're part of a gangster punk resistance kind of thing called a clan. None of this is outright explained in the game for quite some time (unless I missed something), and you have to pick up on context clues in the first few hours. That's all well and good, but the reason why you're stuck "picking up on context clues" is because the evil corporation in question is barely relevant despite being the overarching villain. Nothing is done to shown their immoral acts at the start and you're basically stuck just going "okay well, this is a video game and this is an evil corporation, time to take them down because that's what we do in video games". Nothing is done to give you ANY investment in the characters or the defeat of the evil corporation. Over time the game like trickles out info about evil shit the corporation does (and they're definitely evil, for sure) but it feels like so... obligatory. Oh no, GPS chips in the citizens, whatever there's only like 5 lines dedicated to it. The setting has zero development and is extremely generic despite the stylistic visuals.

Instead, the bulk of the game is about the protagonist's clan clashing with other clans. Two other clans to be specific, a clown gang and a samurai gang. Well. What can I say except, holy shit what a bunch of zako? They're mostly all small-fry side characters that rely heavily on tropes just to have an identity. I mean... okay, I have to get this out now. The plot is extremely generic. You can predict all the general events from the beginning (although there's two semi-cool twists which might catch someone off guard). This is a story you've seen 100 times before. I personally think that even a generic story can be great if executed well, but the execution here is lifeless, like I described last paragraph. It's just... It's just so damn boring, I'm sorry.

Like. The characters are fun, and to be clear, I definitely enjoyed the character banter which eroge does so well. Lots of funny lines, and as a teenage boy at heart all the sex jokes (said by hot babes) definitely appeal to a core part of my soul. But that's just the flashy surface level, and everything beneath it is *dull*. The things the group does is dull. Half the game consists of raiding a place then running away. They never do anything interesting. It's all extremely rote. The gang warfare could have been FASCINATING, but it's not. Aside from a spattering of surprisingly dark events, everything is just so by the numbers, zako villains bwahaha like comic books and all that stuff. Despite the charismatic characters and their entertaining lines, the actual plot to Dohna Dohna bored me to tears. It's a bog-standard execution of a bog-standard idea that brings nothing at ALL new to the table.

Let's talk about the dark events though, since I think they're worth mentioning. Dohna Dohna has some extreme mood whiplash at times. First and foremost, there's the fact that the heroes are literally kidnapping and forcing women into prostitution with the protagonist holding an actual gun to their head (for the unique prostitutes). There's psychological torture going on and you need to keep their mental stat up so they don't just snap and turn into an emotionally dead vegetable. All this is going on in the background of the comedic romcom stuff and it honestly feels bizarre to know the characters are like being all charismatic and comedic while also literally kidnapping women to force them into prostitution. I think games can generally alleviate this kind of whiplash by creating an "atmosphere" that emphasizes that in this game universe, the dark events aren't so bad at all, but Dohna Dohna often drops the humor to get weirdly serious about these things such that it was impossible for me to fully suspend my disbelief. This wasn't a dealbreaker for me, and I can overlook this as just an eroge thing, but man. It was definitely a little bit harder to engage with the light-hearted comedy knowing the same characters were basically doing some pretty objectively evil shit.

On that note, there's also a lot of scenes where heroines get kidnapped and you have to rescue them before an H-scene occurs. I'm actually genuinely curious whether the broader audience of Dohna Dohna will enjoy this content or not - that is, fat old men plugging the holes of heroines (optional or not). It feels like a somewhat bizarre inclusion if they were aiming for a broader soshage audience with Dohna Dohna, but maybe I don't understand the market.

Anyway. I think that about sums up my thoughts on the plot, or at least, as much as I can say without spoiling. The plot is paper-thin and generic. The characters are nice and charismatic, easy to like especially thanks to their 10/10 designs, but the things they actually do are pretty dull and uninteresting. There's some hilarious mood whiplash between the dark / comedy sides of the game that make it feel not well thought out at all sometimes.

Ultimately, it's like I said at the start. Dohna Dohna is all style and no substance. It's a beautiful game that looks incredible, but there's just nothing beneath it. Whether you like Dohna Dohna will come down to whether you can like a game purely for how it looks, how tolerant you are of generic stories, and how much you enjoy the comedy/h-scenes. For me, the atrocious gameplay and generic plot was enough to soil the game for me, although I did still enjoy the characters and I did like the art just about as much as anyone else.

Incidentally, the game is fairly short-ish for an Alice Soft game. there's no routes, just a few different 5-minute epilogues based on friendship points with the heroines. Should be completable within 30-40 hours or so. Not sure how much playing around with the prostitution system can add for people more into it than I was.

Comments

#1 by ithoo
2020-11-29 at 11:20
< report >How could you finish it so quickly? I'm going on day 51/episode 9 (I have focused quite a bit on the events of the characters).

On that note, there's also a lot of scenes where heroines get kidnapped and you have to rescue them before an H-scene occurs. I'm actually genuinely curious whether the broader audience of Dohna Dohna will enjoy this content or not - that is, fat old men plugging the holes of heroines (optional or not).

Most of the things I've tried from Alice Soft contain that kind of scene, so...
#2 by quof
2020-11-29 at 11:26
< report >When I say "broader audience" I mean it - not the audience that normally plays Alice Soft games (of course, they will be fine with it). Evenicle 1 drew a lot of ire on it's steam release due to this kind of thing for instance. If they wanted Dohna Dohna to get broad appeal it doesn't necessarily seem wise, but again I don't know what their plans for it were. (Note that the presence of these scenes has 0 impact on my score. They don't bother me. I just mentioned that since I'm genuinely curious if a broader audience outside of the normal alicesoft audience will like the content.)

I played pretty consistently since release, finishing after a 24-hour ish marathon. One of my pals finished a bit earlier than me, having also marathoned since released. It's an easy game to marathon since the gameplay and plot are both so brainless. I don't like prostitution very much so I didn't get most of the unique prostitute H-scenes, and I mostly stuck to the same party of 4 (due to the simplicity of the combat it was best to just stick to the 4 hardest hitters) so I missed friendship events for a lot of the cast. Though, as mentioned, it's not particularly long - if you focus on progressing the plot you really blaze through it.Last modified on 2020-11-29 at 11:37
#3 by ithoo
2020-11-29 at 11:43
< report >Alice Soft is one of those companies that have had a pretty loyal fan base over the years, so I guess they never intended to meet widespread demand with this game. Haha Ranman was the closest thing to trying to achieve that, and the concept of prostitution itself should work quite well as a filter.

Ah, yes. That may be it. I'm trying to finish as much content as possible, and at the moment the most significant character in the cast of prostitutes is Inui (because of the fatefulness of her scenes and subsequent conversation with Kuma).
#4 by behappyeveryday
2020-11-29 at 12:21
< report >Okay, this review is really long but based on the parts that I've read the game has shitty gameplay, shitty plot, decent characters, art, and sex scenes (depending on a person's taste). Simply put, read it like your usual nukige with pretty graphics and nice voice-acting. Considering that you even rated Evenicle 2 as 8/10 I would assume that you aren't exaggerating about how bad this game is at all.
#5 by undying12
2020-11-29 at 14:26
< report >on top of insane level advantage, only 4 characters (or less) that are still alive at the end of battle will get EXP. unless you deliberately try to level up your lower level characters through carry&babysitting, the level gap between your frequently/unfrequently used characters will just get bigger (since underleveled characters do scratch amage and die to any hit, it's hard to keep them alive). even though the game allows you to use and switch 10 characters at will, it makes little sense to make use of it when level advantage is more influential than effective/uneffective attacks/buffs/debuffs/shred. by the way, 4 characters around lv 50 are already enough to easily crush the last boss in a pretty braindead way.
#6 by prototype909
2020-11-29 at 14:30
< report >I was worried about it being style over substance from the trial. Combat seemed like it would become a chore real fast and it seems like that's exactly what it is. Disappointed that based on your review they didn't do anything more with the gang vs gang stuff, I was expecting some Dai-series level decision/branching but it seems like it's just totally linear.

Fuurin's next game will deliver hopefully, Haha Ranman was good.
#7 by eacil
2020-11-30 at 06:57
< report >What hurt the most is your comparison with Darkest Dungeon. To me, its game design was pure genius, near perfection. This is exactly the game which came to my mind while watching screenshots of Dohna Dohna's side view, knowing full well the potential of it.
You clearly fatality the game by saying they made a soshage-like, the thing that is pretty much the opposite of good mechanics and challenge.

The only thing left for me is the nasty and brutal forced prostitution (100% my thing) and the slick visual. Maybe... and that's a big maybe, if it is localized.
#8< report >Post deleted.
#9 by ljkgray
2020-12-29 at 10:47
< report >I wonder how "extreme" Alice Soft has done with the NTR part in this game. Haven't played it myself yet, still, these rape and NTR things have always been one of many AS's special. I'm more than curious to try out tho.
#10 by rider
2021-01-13 at 13:37
< report >>getting censored for telling quof to take a hike.

Ok keep listening to this hack about games you haven't even played yourselves.