So, this is a weird but ultimately very fun bit of Saturn history.
Most console mahjong games – and, by the way, I learned today that Wikipedia has an entire category page for “dasui mahjong”, or “strip mahjong” games – are pretty straightforward affairs where you either pick an opponent, or a character to play as, and then get matched up against a series of opponents to play mahjong until the clothes start flying. Home console releases after a certain point (September 1996 or so, I believe) weren’t allowed to show any actual nudity, not that it was ever terribly explicit before that point.
Idol Mahjong Final Romance 4, coming back to the subject of this post, was a fairly late release, so the flying clothes stop at the bra-and-knickers level.
It’s also a little funky in its presentation, because it has a little bit of an RPG overworld to it, with item shops and an inn and everything:
And an ADORABLE innkeeper:
So there’s two parts to the game, really. The first is wandering around town looking for houses that pop up a big “GIRL” word bubble letting you know that there’s a mahjong opponent in residence, or spending your hard-earned currency on items from the various item shops etc, and the second is playing mahjong against said opponents until you have defeated five of them. The story, as much as there is, is that you are looking for contestants to participate in the “Miss Final Romance” beauty pageant.
There are 11 opponents in total, by the way, and all of them are listed in the manual along with their ages, 3 sizes, hobbies, favorite foods and what they’re looking for in a man. There’s also at least one secret opponent who appears to be a penguin. There’s not a lot of information on this game on the web (and almost zero in English) so I don’t know how you unlock the secret opponent.
Anyway, once you’ve defeated five opponents, you’re taken to the pageant proper, which is just a screen that allows you to crown one of them:
I chose to put the crown on Kana, who was a catgirl who had been living in a vacant lot until I gave her her big break at stardom via the Miss Final Romance pageant.
TOO CUTE CAN’T BREATHE.
Anyway, Kana’s big wish was to get to go to a human school (and presumably move out of the vacant lot), so wish fulfilled:
…and let’s roll credits!
Anyway, most of the opponents I stumbled on to in my playthrough were on the easy side – they’re all ranked in the manual from 1 to 5 stars, and I just happened to stumble on to 1 and 2 star opponents – so it didn’t really present a huge challenge. You DO need to manually tsumo though, it will not help you there.
It took less than an hour to gather up my five potential contestants, judge them on their merits and send Kana on her way to her first day of school, but presumably every character has their own secret desire for you to sort out for them so there’s quite a bit of replay potential if you want to see all the endings.
“Idol Mahjong Final Romance 2”, which I played back in February, was about as bog-standard of a mahjong game as you’ll get from the Saturn, with very little to recommend it over games with higher production values like the Suchie-Pai series or the Super Real Mahjong games. This entry in the series, however, really knocks it out of the metaphorical park and I give it one of my highest recommendations if you’re uh, a mahjong fan who likes old Saturn games and uh well ANYWAY I liked it.