Another day, another decades-old strip mahjong game off the backlog.
So a bit of a historical note here – there was not a lot of software available when the Saturn launched in North America. It never did terribly well, but that first summer was an absolute game drought. It turns out that launching a system five months earlier than everyone is expecting is an awful idea.
Anyway, lacking domestic software, I turned to imports, and the first imported Saturn game I owned was a mahjong game from the Suchie-Pai series. Not that I understood the RULES of mahjong, mind you, but it was something that I could play on my new $400 videogame console and there were cute girls in it.
So I have a soft spot for the series and have accumulated a fair bit of the associated merch – of which there’s been quite a bit, from artbooks and drama CDs to a 2-episode OVA series that was kind of painful to watch.
Anyway. Getting back to the actual topic of today, I’d never actually played through the entire story mode of Suchie-Pai II, so that’s the task I set myself.
Anyone who was a fan of Bubblegum Crisis or Gall Force will pretty much instantly recognize Kenichi Sonoda character designs, especially as Suchie-Pai herself (front and center, above) is pretty much the same Main Heroine Character design he used in quite a few versions of the Gall Force series. Lemon-Pai (did I mention they mostly have pie-themed pun names?) down in the bottom right is basically a Xerox copy of Lufy as well.
The plot – and there IS a plot! – is that one of the gang gets kidnapped…
…and Suchie-Pai heads off to rescue her. Along the way, you need to recruit other characters to join your cause, which naturally is done through the aggressive application of mahjong. They join you on the mahjong table as a cute little SD cheering section.
And they also provide power ups. The pink-haired magical girl in the middle, for example, can occasionally expose additional tiles in the dora pile and really boost your score at the end of a hand…
…trust me, that dora 9 was NOT earned honestly.
Anyway, while you first recruit your companions by playing mahjong, you need to then unlock their powered-up forms, which is done both through getting good hands and through the traditional Suchie-Pai panel match game. Get all of your buddies fully charged up and you get a better ending:
Anyway, eventually you meet Shiho, the girl whose unceremonious abduction was the casus belli for this whole adventure, and she’s… well, she’s not doing so well. Nobody in their right minds has eyes like this:
Turns out she’s been brainwashed into marrying someone against her will, and the only way to get her back to normal is to mahjong that wedding dress right off.
I have played a fair bit of mahjong against other humans, as an aside, and I have never had it blow the clothes off anyone. I suspect that the developers are taking some liberties with regards to the physics of the game.
Freed from her trance, you are confronted by an EVIL NUN:
But, of course, after you beat said nun, you have to go one-on-one with her again, this time in her TRUE FORM:
…it strikes me that the Japanese have some very interesting ideas about Catholicism.
Anyway, this final boss cheats like mad. I’m not just being salty here, either – one of the benefits about playing Saturn games through SSF is that I can take save states and play the exact same hand of tiles several times in a row and I guarantee you that the final boss will quite frequently just get given hands that straight-up win within the first three tiles and there is not a thing you can do about it.
Oh, and she can also re-cover the panel match game, undoing all of your progress there. She’s a nasty piece of work, is the point here, but one that eventually fell to the might of unlimited continues. I may have, in the spirit of complete disclosure, pointed a finger at the screen and said “BAM” when I finally got the winning hand I needed to complete the game.
So, final summation, I think that Idol Mahjong Final Romance 4 is probably the best of the mahjong games I’ve played on the Saturn, but this one wasn’t far behind. It has really good production values, with lots of animation and a chipper opening song to get you really pumped to start flipping tiles. It also has one of the best song NAMES in recent memory so it gets some extra credit there:
Sung by Kanai Mika, who I will always think of as the little witch girl Yadamon but who you may remember more for her work on Sailor Moon S where she played the main villain. Also she was in some show about “catching them all” or some such nonsense.
I am coming near the end of my mahjong game collection, but there’s a few in there yet that need to be played and lightly made fun of. Please look forward to it. 🙂