Yoshiro Kimura is a Japanese game developer that has always had wonderful, sometimes crazy and yet always unique ideas for video games. His pedigree are the most niche of niche games, Chulip, Little King’s Story, Rule of Rose, among others. His latest outing is a game, Dandy Dungeon – Legend of Brave Yamada, is so niche it sort of defies any explanation. Part puzzle game, part RPG, part dungeon crawler, part story-driven adventure, the game is completely absurd, silly, thoroughly well-written, and constantly pokes fun at both itself and the games industry at large. I sadly missed the opportunity to put a lot of time into the mobile original, so I’m ecstatic the game has found a new home on Switch – and the game is vastly bigger and better. Read on to find out why!
Dandy Dungeon – Legend of Brave Yamada
Publisher: Onion Games
Developer: Onion Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: June 27th, 2019
The visuals in Dandy Dungeon are pixelated and extremely heartwarming. Despite the fact that the entire game is built with retro visuals, the sprites and environments have so much charm it’s almost too much to handle. Onion Games really nailed a throwback design, but made it wholly unique.
The character sprites and monster sprites in particular are very animated and really add to the overall ridiculousness of the game, as well as its humor. The poses and faces that even just Yamada himself makes had me laughing every time, and his enemies can be evil-looking, and yet silly too.
While Yamada’s apartment tends to never change, the various dungeons and their layouts change every time, between the monsters, themes, and so on. The game has enough visual flair to really give it a charming, ridiculous, yet whimsical nature to it all. The team really knows sprite-work.
Dandy Dungeon is at its core a roguelite RPG, where you enter various randomized dungeons spawned in the home-made video game that Yamada himself is slowly building throughout the game itself. Each dungeon has Yamada start at level 1 in terms of stats, but you can upgrade your gear.
As you progress through each dungeon, you’ll slay monsters, uncover treasure, and overcome traps. Each obstacle gives Yamada more XP, to which he levels up and gets better stats. If you clear more of each floor or perfect the entire floor, you’ll get even more XP. The core loop is grinding dungeons, collecting random loot, and upgrading your gear – and it’s pretty darn fun!
If you take too long to clear the floor or you miss tiles after clearing the floor, you’ll get attacked by a flame for each tile missed, or every second until you clear the floor. The goal is obviously to clear the floors as fast as possible, and as soon as you move your cursor – or Yamada – the timer starts ticking down. Floors are randomized each time, so it provides new challenges every time.
Once you make a path to the exit of the floor, Yamada will move automatically and begin slaying monsters, opening treasure chests, and overcoming traps. You’ll have to watch Yamada’s health, as well as the monsters, so you can make use of potions, magic scrolls, and more. Once you get confident you’ll be replaying levels just to ace them every time.
The other half of the game is the story-driven personal life of Yamada-kun, a 36-year old programmer at a large game development studio that is unhappy with his career. We’ll get more into the story in a bit, however the primary love interest, Maria, becomes Yamada’s entire focus. As you progress in his game, Yamada’s romantic confidence improves as well.
Dandy Dungeon was originally released as a free-to-play mobile game, and as such, had some elements that had timers or low drop rates for certain items. Rice balls, which revive Yamada in dungeons, are still hard to come by, as well as Clovers, which let you buy rare items from the shop. As the Switch port is paid, the drop rates should be more fair.
Overall though, the Switch port for Dandy Dungeon is quite excellent and is definitely the way to play the game now, especially considering the mobile original was pulled. If you’re competent at video games you’ll probably have no problems clearing the various dungeons, and then you can just focus on farming items to upgrade your gear.
The soundtrack in Dandy Dungeon is a hilarious mix of chiptunes and goofy vocals that are the perfect compliment to the extremely awkward game itself. Keiichi Sugiyama made the game’s humming and offbeat theme song with fellow musician Caorinho Fujiwara. They even did an English version that is equally as goofy, and it’s pretty great.
The majority of the game’s actual background music is a mix of nostalgic-sounding chiptunes, melodies, and sound blips. All of the characters have silly gibberish like voices when they talk, most of which involves Yamada himself yelling or making various noises. If the gameplay is a satiric love letter to classic games, the music and voice work perfectly matches this feeling as well.
The story in Dandy Dungeon is easily the highlight of the entire affair. When Yamada gets obsessed with his own game, he stops showing up to work – and promptly gets fired. Things go off the rails, however, when his boss shows up and steals his game idea, hacks the build he has, and implements several new dungeons for Yamada to complete.
The game quickly breaks the fourth wall when Yamada asks you, the player, to help him build his game and traverse his own creations, so that someday he can win over his new neighbor, Maria. He immediately falls for Maria, and even puts her into his game as Princess Maria. The entire story is mostly outrageously silly, and pokes fun at common tropes in games and anime.
Writing in the game is actually pretty hilarious and clever, there are tons of digs at lame or annoying tropes in games like calling onigiri a doughnut, or the fact that Yamada never leaves his bedroom and is basically a complete shut-in otaku. Yamada comes off as awkward, sad, even desperate – but the writing makes him likable and silly, and just want to root for him.
Dandy Dungeon – Legend of Brave Yamada is an irreverent and extremely silly yet enjoyable take on classic gaming themes and tropes, all bundled into a package that only Kimura and his team could produce. The game has quite a lot of charm, and really cannot be properly experienced or explained properly until you’ve played it yourself.
There may be some minor things lingering from the game’s mobile release like the rarer items, however, Dandy Dungeon is definitely an extremely unique game with a-one-of-a-kind experience that you can’t get anywhere else. If you’re looking for something completely different and are bored with the usual gaming fare, you should check the game out!
Dandy Dungeon – Legend of Brave Yamada was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a review copy provided by Onion Games. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.