It's time for another round of Japanese import gaming, during which I finally learn to play Mahjong!
We're booting up Mahjong Goku Special, one of many such games released for the PC Engine. This one was published by Sunsoft and Chatnoir Inc. in 1990 on the HuCard format, and is more family-friendly than a lot of these titles. At least the comical animals keep their clothes on.
The game gets off to a good start -- a pretty title screen, accompanied by charming intro music with a reasonable facsimile of taiko drums:
It was a bit of a challenge figuring out how to get into the game proper -- despite the deceptively gaijin-friendly title screen, most of the important text is in Japanese. I found my way in and out of the password continue screen, only to muddle my way smack dab into another text options screen:
Finally, I found a display I could handle, with pictures for selecting three opponents:
I found the story mode shortly thereafter, and discovered that Mahjong Goku Special is based on the classical Chinese legend of the Monkey King. The story mode opens with Goku, the self-proclaimed Monkey King, emerging from the rock from which he was born, in keeping with tradition. He runs amok for a while, then get himself imprisoned in stone by a Buddha-esque Indian deity. Rescued by a kingly figure, he and his companion set out to make the journey west.
Of course, this is an epic mahjong game with RPG overtones, so after the animated intro, Goku finds himself making his way across a map, faced with enemies at every stop. And how does he defeat them? By occupying the southern position at the mahjong table and taking their money:
Each player starts out with 25,000 points/yen/what-have-you, and at the end of each round the impact to one's score gets added up:
I am the crying monkey at the bottom of the screen. Humiliating loss apparently capable of generating a drive to which pixelated cartoon deshabille has never moved me, I finally started figuring out how to play this game. I'm no expert, but after a few Google searches I now have a few basics under my belt.
The goal is to end up with a specific mixture of tiles in hand; often, the game calls for 14 tiles total, with 4 sets of three tiles in the same suit, plus one pair of tiles in the same suit. The sets of N must be N-of-a-kind, or N-in-a-series within a suit. Unneeded tiles are discarded onto the table. This particular game seems to accept the standard winning combination - 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 2 = 14 - as well as some other combinations, like 2 + 2 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 1.
I found a useful Wikipedia page depicting the tile sets, so I could tell what constituted a sequence within a suit. Some are numbered, but many are not, so it's important to familiarize oneself with the standard ordering.
And after a few hours getting the hang of it... I was still unable to come out on top of the first round of opponents.
But third place isn't bad. And at least I know how to read the tiles now.
Look out, winsome, big-eyed anime nurses!
There are less technologically complicated ways to play Mahjong, certainly. But as these games rarely make it to the US, you may find this affiliate link of interest.