PSGCast Updates/Dog in a Cast Updates

In loving Memory of Preta's Mobility: Mid 2011-Late 2011

Shockingly, I am running a bit behind schedule.  However, as you can see in the picture above, I feel like I have a good excuse.  That’s Preta, a puppy our friends found that we offered to hold onto while we tried to track down her owners. A week into the process, her owners were nowhere to be found, and we had ourselves a new dog.  She is apparently a mixture of Chihuahua and Italian Greyhound, and while we were hoping she’d grow more on the Greyhound side of things, six months later I have come to accept that I own a very tiny dog.  Unfortunately, she doesn’t exactly think of herself as a very tiny animal, and will occasionally decide to jump out of my arms and at something she sees through a window, which is why she is in the giant phallic cast you see above.

But anyway, PSGCast Episode 2 is in the editing bay (and will be for a fair bit. There is roughly two and a half hours of audio to sort through for a good 90 minute podcast) and Episode 3 has a recording date.  Episode 3 is where we face the music and play three very mediocre games in a row, but that will at least mean a quick turn-around time. Expect a podcast and a RSS feed here in a few days.

Meanwhile, I finished writing about Hillsfar over on the sister website.  If you are interested in obscure cash-in mini-game collections, I can think of a thousand worse words to read.

Posted in Podcast | 8 Comments

Quick Update

(Crossposted on both blogs)

Both projects are moving along smoothly, they have just hit some snags due to hitting crunch time in both work and school. Hillsfar should be up on Chronomancy within the next week, and episode 2 of the PSGCast (A Thanksgiving sized feast of banter and snide opinions about the games of 1988) is set to record over the holiday break.

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PSGCast Episode One – Ancient Weapons of Dubious Value

Click on the delightful Golden Axe cover art to listen!

While we are currently having some issues with figuring out the hosting/I am having issues figuring out how to make an iTunes feed, I feel like it’s time to finally give the people (well, person) what they want and post the first episode of the PSGCast! Brandon, Roscoe, Austin, and I spend approximately 75 minutes discussing the dubious merits of Sega’s last games for 1989 – Sword of Vermilion and Golden Axe. Since we are currently plagued by very minor technical difficulties, I am just posting this on my dropbox account until we have an RSS feed and everything set up like a real, professional endeavor. But first, a few show notes:

  • There are, as expected, some audio issues. But for four people trying a podcast for the first time, I think it is actually a fair bit more entertaining than it has any right to be. We’re still narrowing down the programs we’ll use for the process, so expect episode 2 to be much smoother.
  • We also immediately and without regrets blow past my original goal of finishing up in a half hour.  I really should have known better.
  • The Golden Axe score system and one man’s battle to exploit it for dubious gain is explained here.
  • Thanks for your patience, gentle reader/listener! I would like to have an RSS feed up for it before long, but right now that is out of my hands and I wanted to make sure people could listen to it before I headed out for the weekend. Future episodes will probably be once or twice a month, but the turn-around time won’t be this long.


Posted in Action, Podcast, RPG, Winter 1989 | 2 Comments

PSGCast Update

Because I know you are all just dying to know, the first episode of PSGCast is currently in the editing bay. For a bunch of people who are barely familiar with the concept of talking to their fellow human beings, it’s surprisingly listenable!

In the meantime, why don’t you head over to Chronomancy and read about my suffering at the hands of Heroes of the Lance?

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Plugs Within Plugs

The nectar of the ears that is the PSGcast is continuing to ferment, but in the mean time, might I humbly suggest my other hastily conceived project?
Chronomancy: D&D Games Through The Ages
I even made some random headers. That’s how you know I care.

Posted in Metapost | 2 Comments

Sales and Announcements of Note

Still working on setting up the PSGCast, but there are two particular sales of note that are of interest to readers of this site, coincidentally on the only two services I use for purchasing games:

1) Steam, a service which probably requires no introduction, is currently having a sale on almost all of their Sega products. This includes all the (non-Sonic, fittingly) Genesis games on the service for $7.49, an absolute steal if you haven’t already bought any of the console compilations.  And even if you have, those tend not to include Gunstar Heroes or Alien Soldier, two of Treasure’s absolute best games. The set also includes some of my favorite PSG friendly games, such as Gain Ground (source of the PSGCast theme song!) and Bonanza Bros. (a game that only I enjoy!). Also part of the sale is Alpha Protocol for two dollars, which is the right price for a game with writing that good and gameplay that bad.

2) Good Old Games, a service with a business model handily explained in the name, is currently having a sale on all their Dungeons and Dragons products. “But CJ, this doesn’t include anything on the Sega Genesis!” you cry in now-standard agony. And I know! But with the Good Ship Pre-Sonic Genesis Institute of Semi-Academic Chronological Gaming (Merchant Navy Designation CRV PSGISACG) charting out a map into the brave new seas of New Media, I need a chronological essay project with a much shorter trajectory to occupy my idle need to write a lot of words. To that end, I realized there had not been that many semi-academic write-ups of the collected Dungeons and Dragons video games and well there we go.  I am sure I will link here when I finish prettying up the appropriate blog.

Both sales end sometime in the next 24 hours, so you might want to act soon!

Posted in Metapost | 2 Comments

Hiatus (Sort Of)

As you have probably noticed, things are pretty sleepy here at The Pre-Sonic Genesis Institute of Semi-Academic Chronological Gaming (PSGISACG).  In fact, one might think that the boilers have been turned off and the windows shuttered.  And one would not entirely be wrong.  It’s true that a real life that could be politely referred to as “punishing” has put a damper on writing a thousand words about any old Genesis game that might have seen release between 1989-1991, and I need to recharge my batteries. “But why?” you might be screaming, rending your clothing in distress. “Why would you give up on such a noble conquest?”  Well, here’s a handy list of other hypothetical questions explaining just that.

1) “I’ve noticed you take a different tack than other retro games websites. Is this a conscious decision on your part?”
Yes, absolutely.  My goal from day one was to not be unduly negative about the subject matter.  The fact that there is an endless cornucopia of people getting easy and questionable laughs out of pointing at a limping old game out there on the internet made me want to try something new. Coincidentally, those same videos and sites are where the unofficial PSG policy of “no cusses”  came from; here at the institute, we want to work for your laughs. However, this lead to a bigger problem – a lot of games are really quite bad! Trying to find a way to politely skirt around the fact that some games are just straight up dogs is pretty tiring.

2) “I’ve noticed there are a lot of very similar games out there! In fact, there’s a pretty solid overarching theme of ‘this game is fantastic except for one crippling flaw’ that pretty much defines Sega as a company to this day. Is this also tiring?”
Yes, thank you for noticing.

3) “But why give up? Are you ever going to finish a big project before you die?”
I never said I was going to give up, and just so you know, I have put together roughly a house and a half of IKEA furniture in my lifetime.

Yes, I am laying off the long-form review format. Possibly permanently! But this doesn’t mean the concept is dead.

Oh, if only.

You see, the wheels are already in motion to re-imagine Pre-Sonic Genesis as a panel show. Certain and rather big specifics, such as the panelists and medium, are still being hammered out at the moment.  But instead of reading a thousand turgid words, we are looking at you hearing and/or seeing (but probably hearing) several thousand words on two to four games an episode, intercut with music from the games in question.  I can’t reveal who is on board just yet, but I can promise that if you read this site, they are people you would enjoy hearing blather on. But I ask you, noble patron of The Pre-Sonic Genesis Institute of Semi-Academic Chronological Gaming (PSGISACG), if you have any suggestions about the format in question. For example, would you prefer an audio podcast, or an audio podcast with footage from the games in question posted to YouTube? What length is too long for grown men and women to talk about Golden Axe (I am actually drawing a hard line here at forty minutes)? Who would you like for me to reach out to for a sound ‘no thank you’ for the panel? Should I start from the beginning, or pick up where words alone faltered? Please let us know in the comments, and as always, thank you for patronizing your local The Pre-Sonic Genesis Institute of Semi-Academic Chronological Gaming (PSGISACG).

Posted in Metapost | 8 Comments

The Revenge of Shinobi [The Super Shinobi] (12/2/1989)

(Guest post thoughtfully provided by buddy-in-residence of the The Pre-Sonic Genesis Institute of Semi-Academic Chronological Gaming (PSGISACG), Brandon Teel. As usual, he absolutely knocked it out of the park. Technically this is out of order, but I doubt anyone will really mind.)

First of all, Revenge of Shinobi is easily the best game of the Genesis’ first year.  Second, it’s easily one of the best games in the system’s entire library.  While Sonic understandably gets the credit for showing off the best of the Genesis’ capabilities and turning the system from a competitor into a world-beater, if anyone had been paying attention there was already Revenge of ShinobiRevenge of Shinobi is the kind of game you’d see being played at your friend’s house – the one whose parents were frickin’ loaded – and wonder what the hell you were doing messing around with this bush league Nintendo stuff.  That’s not to say there aren’t arguably better games yet to come out on the NES, that’s beside the point; Revenge of Shinobi was just a shockingly good, incredibly polished, beautiful game that constituted the windmill gutpunch of the Sega Genesis’ opening flurry, one that could make even someone lukewarm on Sega’s arcade ports sit up and take notice.

My own experience until recently, when I was asked to write this piece, was seeing Revenge of Shinobi in the game magazines of the time.  As a late adopter of the NES, an upgrade from the limp offerings of the Sega Master System, I was very, very happy with Nintendo’s machine.  But though I professed my undying fealty at the shrine of the gray toaster, I couldn’t help feeling a twinge of curiosity on seeing the shots of the sixteen-bit games in print.  Revenge of Shinobi, in particular, was an eye-popper.  Even in the postage stamp sized shots, blurred and artifacted from late-eighties screen capture technology, the level of detail and colour was so above and beyond anything else out there, even if you couldn’t tell exactly what was so detailed.  The image of the Zeed fight – the last boss – stands out in my memory even today; that giant shock of hair being flung across the screen, meticulously detailed and shaded; I couldn’t tell what it even was but I knew it looked cool as anything.

On researching this article, I have become utterly and completely infatuated with Revenge of Shinobi, considering it among the best action games I’ve ever played.  But this is, oddly enough, a recent development.  Even after emulators came around and I voraciously (illicitly) consumed the entire libraries of five or six different game platforms, I never did give Revenge of Shinobi a proper chance, though.  Despite the memory of its impression on me as a child burned into my brain, I didn’t play it much past the first stage.  I could see that it was a solid enough game, that much is obvious.  But when you have the entire library of every pre-millennial video game console at your fingertips, it becomes easy to take games for granted if they don’t provide that rush of immediate gratification as soon as you turn it on.

This is because Revenge of Shinobi is a slow burn.  It’s methodical, it creeps along, it’s about carefully engaging in every encounter and engraving it into your memory.  It is also a very hard game.  Anyone expecting to be able to run through the first level and, like some kind of scene from Ninja Scroll, slicing through everything in your path and not even waiting for them to die before dashing forward and leaving rent, blood-spurting bodies in your wake, is going to be in for a rude shock.  Enemies are tough, and comparatively smart.  There are samurai who react to your positioning and raise their guard in whichever direction you attack from, there are ninja who switch up their shuriken tossing to hit you and then jump out of the way when you try to engage, and although there are tricks to deal with the entire roster of enemies quickly and efficiently, your first few games are generally marked with a swift and severe beating.  Even tackling the very first boss, a giant, nigh-invulnerable samurai, is a trial which takes a not inconsiderable amount of finesse to figure out.  If you stick it out past the initial slope of difficulty, you realize you can’t play this game like the swift, stealthy ninja you would imagine a game like this would play like.  To make a comparison to film, this is less a quick, cheap ninja flick and more of a chanbara; less American Ninja, more Sanjuro.  Taking each encounter one by one, observing the enemy’s attacks, and then quickly dispatching them when you see an opening.

Unlike most of the Genesis’ hits thus far which had been adapted from arcade games – Ghouls & Ghosts, in particular – Revenge of Shinobi feels designed especially for the home console.   It’s both as leisurely paced as you might like it, and offers you a number of concessions to your skill level.  There’s no ominous timer above you forcing you forward, you move at a walking pace, and with the difficulty settings that serve to increase the number of lives you start with, you’re given more than enough chances to make it through to either win the game or quit in frustration.  The ninja magic you’re given is relatively plentiful, giving you one shot at the beginning of each level plus offering you bonus pickups along the way.  Between the spell that lets you take four hits without taking damage or flinching, and the spell which causes you to explode, damage the enemies, then reassemble with full health and one less life, this magic, used judiciously, can help even a fairly mediocre player make it through to the end.  Used judiciously, and not like a total idiot, I should say.  You’ll feel like a total chump for using the ninja magic, though, if you’re anything like me.

The pace further is reflected in your moveset.  Your primary attack is throwing kunai, but you’re given a limited number.  When you get up close to an enemy or otherwise run out of kunai, you can engage with a short knife attack (or a kick if you’re crouching).  You can also double jump, and attacking while double jumping will shower the enemy with a spread of kunai.  This spread of kunai becomes increasingly more vital as you progress in the game; however, this uses up your precious supply like they were going rotten.  Each group of enemies you run into requires a careful assessment of your capabilities – can you deal with them with your kunai, are you going to have to hit them with a flurry of kunai so they can’t get a shot off before you land, can you get close enough to engage with a melee attack?  There’s also a power-up item which turns your kunai into powerful fireballs, changes your puny knife attack into a full-fledged sword slash, and allows you to block projectiles simply by moving forward.  This power-up will make you much, much more survivable, but being hit once will cause you to lose the power-up.  This is almost a mini-game in of itself, one that seems to be directly descended from the original Shinobi (single-hit Rolling Thunder clone that it was) in figuring out how to make it through the stages with your power-up intact so that you can easily take out the bosses.

This is coupled with the amount of technique required to pull off the double jump.  Unlike other games where you can double jump at any arbitrary point along the arc, you are given maybe a half second at the peak of the arc to pull it off.  Panicking and mashing are punished; mastery, careful planning, and execution is where you want to be.  A slip of the finger is often the dividing line between a masterful dispatch and ingloriously plummeting into the drink.  This is something you will be doing a lot of, as the allotment of enemies in each stage were carefully considered by the game’s designers and placed to cause you the maximum amount of psychological pain, allowing you to become cocky, then springing a sniper on you in the next screen who promptly knocks you off a ledge and kills you instantly.  I liken Revenge of Shinobi to a stereotypical master in a martial arts movie’s training montage; standing to the side with a taciturn, impenetrable scowl, while giving you seemingly impossible tasks, then smacking you with a bamboo rod when you make a mistake, telling you “AGAIN!”

But it isn’t as if the game doesn’t make the struggle worthwhile.  Revenge of Shinobi is gorgeous, varied, and has one of the best soundtracks on the Genesis, period.  This is the game that put Yuzo Koshiro on the map for a lot of us out there, and it’s not just that he was the most canny composer in gamedom at that time (managing to fanangle a titlescreen credit).  Koshiro, who proves time and time again to be possibly the most versatile Japanese game composer out there, provides a soundtrack that would have sounded ultra-modern and hip in 1989 and is still bangin’ as all get-out in 2011.  A mix of traditional japanese instrumentals, house, jazz, funk, and heavy metal, brought to bear with Koshiro’s typically excellent FM programming.  Probably best known is the boss track, Terrible Beat, a rocking hard techno track that gets your blood pumping for boss bustin’, but literally every other track on the soundtrack is fantastic.  From the unforgettable first stage jam “The Shinobi”, a Japanese-flavoured house track with an incredible beat, or Ninja Step, an industrial dance banger perfect for the factory stages it illuminates, to “The Dark City”, a smooth, jazzy joint that nevertheless keeps the driving momentum of the soundtrack going strong.  There are shades of Koshiro’s later Streets of Rage soundtracks here, with their contemporary electronic sensibilities, but Revenge of Shinobi still stands tall on its own merits.

Coupled with a soundtrack that never lets up, neither does the game itself – as you inexplicably travel from Japan to the US, to Detroit and then back to California, and finally to New York City to take down the evil Neo-Zeed Organization, there’s scarcely a level which doesn’t have some new trick.  In one level you find yourself jumping between a freeway and the catwalk outside, attempting to avoid this one persistent red Honda trying to run you down while at the same time evading ninja women leaping from inconspicuous nun habits, in another you jump from log-to-log across a waterfall; there’s a speeding train, an airship with doors that randomly swing open to spit you out, and, perhaps most infamously, a labyrinth of doors at the end.

From these stages, you meet with the bosses – and yes, this game is notorious for its rather cavalier attitude toward other people’s copyrights, with you, depending on the ROM version, fighting Spiderman, Batman, Devilman, Godzilla, and even some kind of canonically problematic fusion of The Incredible Hulk and The Terminator.  There are some standouts – the Spiderman/Batman fight for sure, and not just for its jaw-dropping lack of propriety; the gigantic Godzilla fight; the rock-hard final battle against Zeed (who is apparently Kabuki: Quantum Fighter’s bad apple cousin) who relentlessly tosses his obnoxiously accurate and incredibly dude-ruining hair at you, as the ceiling drops on your girlfriend all the while.  There are some duds as well – the super-computer in the airship stage that takes ages to kill unless you’re really brave/foolish, and the simple and unimpressive battle against flashing red nodes on a speeding truck carrying a nuke – but all in all, it’s never boring.

So yes, I’ve been positively gushing about it for paragraphs now, seeing as I am quite taken with the game.  Is there anything wrong with it, though?  Of course, it’s not perfect.  It’s an early Sega Genesis game, and it’s missing some of the niceties that people come to expect from games these days.  The game really likes throwing you off ledges into pits, causing instant death – not so bad in of itself, if you could see it coming, but Revenge of Shinobi really, really likes to use the Genesis’ vastly improved memory capabilities over the eight-bit generation to hit you with attacks from offscreen enemies.  In almost all cases, these unseen attacks are precisely designed to knock you into a pit making, on most levels, a clear on your initial run effectively impossible.  Plus it also has a particular fondness, on the levels which are multiple screens high, for giving you a lot of blind jumps and no way to see what’s under you.  It’s a memory game beyond all else, for better or worse.  While painstakingly practiced play will have you leaping around and stylishly busting whole groups of enemies before they have a chance to react, the neophyte would not be remiss in thinking that this game has a tendency to push complete bunk on you.

And then the labyrinth stage.  Since Super Mario Bros. 1’s final level, mazes have been a time-tested method of giving the last stage just a bit of extra kick-in-the-pants.  And, ever since then, final level mazes have been awful and infuriating.  It’s not particularly hard, and it’s devoid of the instant death of previous stages – but this is actually to its detriment; it replaces brutal, relentless, unforgiving action with dull confusion and travelling the same corridors five or six or ten times.  The game doesn’t fizzle out with this – the last boss battle is, as mentioned, completely excellent.  But it’s probably the most glaring blemish on an otherwise superb game.

But those are, in consideringhow much this game gets right, minor complaints.  It’s a brilliant game.  It’s the first game I can see as justifiably making people want a Sega Genesis, and one of the first games to really show off the potential of the new generation of video game consoles.  Unlike most of the Genesis’ library before it, it is emphatically not just an arcade port but rather an action game uniquely suited to its home format.  It’s a game of which it’s difficulty will constantly, frustratingly, stymie your attempts to master it, but its solid gameplay and constant inventiveness will keep you coming back for another try.  Sonic may be the symbol of Sega’s ascendance in the home game arena, but this game – Revenge of Shinobi – is the real turning point for this system.

Posted in Platformer, Winter 1989 | 5 Comments

Herzog Zwei (12/15/1989)

Believe it or not, there was a time before the internet when the differences between a game’s Japanese and overseas release were shrouded in mystery.  This sticks out for me mostly due to reading a strategy guide for Super Mario All-Stars that gleefully pointed out that “The Lost Levels” were really the lost secret Super Mario Bros. 2.  At the time, no one believed me on this matter, but you can’t click three hyperlinks without someone confusing this anecdote for a nugget of legitimate knowledge.  The same with the Super Nintendo Final Fantasy games and how the subject of today’s write-up, Herzog Zwei, defined the real time strategy genre way before those scoundrels at Blizzard and Westwood stole all their ideas.  The game was just unfairly maligned because gaming magazines didn’t understand the intricacies of the genre and just wondered why their slow, janky fighter jet exploded randomly. Of course, these sorts of statements are pedantic at best, and in the case of Herzog Zwei, entirely wrong. But we here at the The Pre-Sonic Genesis Institute of Semi-Academic Chronological Gaming (PSGISACG) are not here to admonish the past, and while Herzog Zwei is certainly something of a clunker, there is no shortage of heart to be found within.

I find it hard to believe that most people who bought the game just assumed it was a mechanically unwieldy top-down shooter in the vein of the parts of Thunder Force II (Another game Techno-Soft ported to the Mega Drive) that no one liked, but the game certainly doesn’t go out of its way to convince you otherwise. Starting up the game puts you on one of several maps flying your aforementioned fighter jet, and without any guidance one might fly around until they run out of fuel and promptly explode right as they finally find the several dozen tanks the computer had managed to build while your inferior neural pathways soaked in the detailed but muddily colored landscapes.  However, good old fashioned button mashing reveals that you can turn into a slow moving robot that controls in the incredibly unintuitive “shoot in the direction you’re moving” style that Commando pioneered.  A little bit more reveals a menu densely packed with consonants, and that is where the real meat of the game lies.

You see, when you build a unit in this menu (a two part process of selecting the unit you’d like and the command you’d like to give it, mercifully detailed in the game’s Wikipedia page) a spanner flashes on the screen for a few moments before a thumbs up lets you know that your little soldier is ready to be sent to his death across the map.  From there, you have to move your fighter back to the base, pick up the unit, and drop it off.  All of this costs money and energy, which can only be obtained by building  fragile infantry men with the command to capture one of several vacant bases that litter the game’s various maps.  The idea is to manage both your resource collection and offensive effort while anticipating your opponent’s ideas and stratagems. So basically, it is a real time strategy game, with the top-down shooter parts of Thunder Force II no one liked added into the mix.

And like most real time strategy games, single player veers wildly between arbitrarily unfair and devastatingly dull. You can select the computer’s difficulty level, but that only changes the advantage the Mega Drive has over you to begin with. Beyond that, it plays the exact same way ,with the complete precision of a game playing itself.  It could just be because I am entirely unwilling to devote the time I needed to learn the intricacies of championship-level Herzog Zwei play (which exists) but even when I was winning the single player campaign was incredibly stifling.

So why does this game regularly show up in the tail end of THE XX BEST GAMES EVER lists? At least partially because of successful myth-building, but mostly because if you can find someone with the same relative skill level or lack thereof, it’s a surprisingly fun multiplayer game.  I was entirely ready to write off the game as a textbook example of an over-rated classic before getting a few rounds in with my Non-Plussed Research Assistant/ The Pre-Sonic Genesis Institute of Semi-Academic Chronological Gaming (PSGISACG) Girl-In-Residence Mary It turns out the game is pretty fun whenever your opponent is just as clumsy and frustrated as you are.  Is it fun enough to stick out, regardless of your nostalgia? More experienced minds than my own say no. And it’s hard to argue with that. But while it may not be the holy grail or forgotten gem of a beloved genre that some people think it is, there’s certainly some merit in the nano-managed chaos

Posted in Action, Strategy, Winter 1989 | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Mahjong Cop Ryuu – Shiro Ookami no Yabou (12/14/1989)

It really goes without saying that not every game released in Japan makes it to the West.  So far the Mega Drive has been lucky in that it has only seen a small handful of games that  weren’t localized, a trait that will come to almost define the system’s library (most likely due to the incredible disparity in popularity of the system in America and Europe versus Japan.  In Japan, the system was marketed early on as a real contender for arcade-style graphics and game play, but lost that market to a demographic already spoiled by the PC Engine and disillusioned by Sega’s slow start, something from which the system never really recovered)  So far there have only been two games released in Japan that didn’t see an American release, and neither of them were a particularly huge loss for the Western world.  Sure, a flashy war game and a surreal Technicolor platformer probably wouldn’t have hurt the American success of the Genesis, but they could have been ported over if someone wanted.  Even Super Hydlide made it over during the opening salvo, and that has to be at least as inscrutable to an American gamer circa 1989 as any boss battle against a racist caricature of a Japanese man dressed as Cinderella.

(On a related note: The Oso-matsu Kun article continues to be the most eagerly sought out and read page on this website.  Could some kind soul explain why in the comments?)

However, during the game deluge of December 1989, Sega managed to release something that managed to completely and utterly evade the interests of Western game fans: A novelistic adventure game/Mahjong simulator about a psychic detective called Mahjong Cop Ryuu – Shiro Ookami no Yabou (Mahjong Cop Ryu: White Wolf’s Ambition, more or less).  And this isn’t mahjong as we understand it on this side of the Pacific either (that’s technically Mahjong Solitaire and was something of a fad in Japan at the time due to Activision’s Shanghai); this is the full on inscrutable betting game Mahjong, modified for two players  and to accommodate the psychic powers and lightning bolts that a name like Mahjong Cop Ryuu naturally suggests. All of this comes in handy when Ryuu must use his wits, psychic cheating abilities, a quick detective’s intuition and a quicker gun to face a conspiracy to…

…I have no idea, honestly.  Even with a functional knowledge of how to play  Mahjong (it’s ultimately not that different than Western trick-taking  games like Hearts) I found myself completely unable to progress into the no-doubt seedy mahjong underworld of Mahjong Cop. The game doesn’t seem to have puzzles between the Mahjong matches, but what it does feature is endless dialog trees, each rich with heavily condensed and colloquial Japanese text.  It’s entirely possible to power through the first dialog with what looks like Anime Terminator and get to the part where he soundly trounces you in a game of Mahjong, but answering one prompt wrong sends you back to the beginning for more tedious, slow scrolling text  (complete with every character receiving its own obnoxious typewriter sound effect like a high school student’s Power Point presentation).

So what am I qualified to say about Mahjong Cop? Precious little, honestly.  The cover art is absolutely amazing and rife with all sorts of out and out copyright infringement.  The music is also pretty great, as witnessed by the incredible opening song:

And I am sure if you understand Japanese, you are in for a treat if this guide is to be believed.  But unfortunately, Mahjong Cop is just a game that I am linguistically and culturally unequipped to play.   And considering the general lack of enthusiasm in translating the few lost “classics” (apparently Mahjong Cop is hardly beloved in Japan) for the Mega Drive amongst the emulation community, it will likely remain that way.  Fortunately, I think we can manage.

Posted in Adventure, Board Game, Winter 1989 | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments