Friday, November 12, 2010

Clueless Gaijin Gaming: You You Jinsei

You You Jinsei is one of those games that's almost comprehensible to Western gamers, yet quintessentially Japanese in style.  Hudson Soft produced this game as one of its own early releases (No. 8) for the popular PC Engine console it designed and marketed with NEC.  The title screen actually bears an English title not seen anywhere on the packaging -- Victory Life, which makes the whole concept much easier to fathom:

This is an unofficial, unlicensed version of the popular Western family board game, Milton Bradley's The Game of Life.  As such, the game plays pretty much as you would expect -- we pick a name, a character, a car color, and we're off to study, breed, run up traffic fines, and retire, our fate determined by the luck of the spinner:

The game supports up to 5 human players with the Multi-Tap accessory, and in single-player mode the computer provides two AI opponents to keep the game interesting.  The "board" is a whimsical roadmap, filled with bucolic cows, tall urban buildings, and odd flying things like UFOs, biplanes, witches and pterodactyls.

Each turn, we spin a spinner and move from one to ten spaces.  The spot we land on can benefit or harm us, and on rare occasion may transfer money from one player's account to another's.  I really get a kick out of the simple, animated graphics illustrating key events, like weddings:

And buying a house:

And I really love the blessed events, where proud Mom joyfully tosses the new babies fifty feet into the air while Dad and the irresponsibly free-spirited Nurse cheer her on:

The game seems to have a general obsession with medical care, as many of the negative events also involve trips to the hospital, like Dad's accidental fall down the front steps:

And expensive surgeries:

Toward the end of the map, players who accumulate too much debt may find themselves doing hard labor to pay it off as other players speed past them:

In the end, whoever finishes with the most cash, wins!  With a Japanese bunny to help celebrate!

And the winner gets to relax on the beach before the first gray hairs arrive:

You You Jinsei is a lot of fun, very much in the spirit of the classic board game.  The cartoon graphics are cute and varied, especially considering they've been squeezed onto an early-generation HuCard, and the chiptunes are upbeat and whimsical. Even though there's a ton of Japanese text, if you've ever played The Game of Life it's not hard to figure out most of what's going on.

Although it seems I missed an opportunity to buy insurance somewhere along the way:

You You Jinsei is good clean fatalistic fun.

This seems to have been a popular title in its day, so it's available fairly cheaply now.  It's on HuCard, so you will need a real PC Engine or a rare PCE-to-TurboGrafx adaptor to play it.  But if you're interested, you might be able to find a copy for sale here or here:

Yu Yu Jinsei PC-Engine Hu

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