Friday, June 19, 2015

Hokuto no Ken Pachislot

I assume you're at least familiar with pachinko. That's that Japanese game with all the little steel balls that bounce around on a playing board with lots of little nails, making bells and whistles go off and eventually falling into holes in, or at the bottom of the board. Modern pachinko machines are computerized to be much more noisy, and have video screens to play animations when you hit certain point combinations. Well, Pachislot ("pachinko" + "slot", pronounced "pachi-slow") is a computerized version of the American slot machine, along with the video screen for playing those animations. One of the more common pachislot machines is for Hokuto no Ken (Fist of the North Star). There's a game version for the Nintendo DS, which I picked up used for 950 yen ($8 USD).

Hokuto no Ken Pachislot for the Nintendo DS.
I don't like pachinko, pachislot, or slot machines. To me, they all seem programmed to not stop consistently when I expect them to. It's way too easy to rig these things in software, and I've got betting things to do with my time and money than sit in front of one and swear a lot. On the other hand, Hokuto no Ken. I figured I'd get it just for the artwork.

And yeah, I'm disappointed. The game fires up with two options - play a game, or play with the extras. The extras are a couple mini-games that are crude and boring, to be generous. One mini-game has Ken walking over planks of wood to save refugees without falling off the side. That all, nothing else. The other mini-games are no better. The first option then gives you "new game" or "continue". Because the previous owner saved a dead game, there's nothing to continue. "New game" gives you "tutorial" or "dictionary". Dictionary mode just shows you some of the secrets you get to see in the extras screens, and duplicates the tutorial without letting you progress to the game itself.

Leaving me with tutorial mode. Ok, you get the above screen, announcing what you're going to learn about next (here, it's "important point #4", what happens if you get a "Chance" result in the game).

And then the explanation. Ok, fine. Click next, go to the next point. And click again. And again. After 10 highlight points, which may be as many as 2 or 3 screens of text each, I get a quiz. Initially, there are 3 questions per quiz, but later it's as many as 6. Get all of the questions in the quiz correct and you win some coins for the game. Get just one wrong, and either you have to sit through the entire 10-point tutorial again just to have another shot at the quiz, or you forfeit the coins and go to the next set of 10 highlight points. At first, I tried writing the questions down, and then the answers, repeating the quiz multiple times to get all three questions right, but after 4 quizzes,  (40 highlight points, for 50 data screens), it started to get too ridiculous. Instead, I grabbed my camera and just started shooting every single data screen so I could go back and look the answers up on my laptop as I went through the tutorial for real.

After about 2 hours, the battery on my camera was dying and I was still just on highlight point 121. This was getting insane. What kind of tutorial, just to START the game, takes 2 hours and has over 140 screens of explanatory text!? I put the game away and recharged the camera. A couple of days later, I was in Tenmonkan, killing time between English lessons on a Saturday, and I had a place to sit down and bring the game and camera back out. It took over 30 minutes of simply clicking "next", and deliberately trying to fail the quizzes just to get back to highlight point 121. Then, I fall back into the routine of click, click, photo, repeat. Again, I spent more than an hour with this before finally reaching the end of the tutorial at highlight point 200. And this is just time spent jumping past screens; I'm not even trying to read them, understand the quiz questions, or even repeating the tutorials if I blow one of the questions. So, what happens next?

At this stage, I've gotten 9 coins by accident (I got one quiz right) and I'm being asked to save the game (first chance to actually save after 2 hours). I say "no", and the game returns me to the opening credits screen. I assume that if I said "yes", the "continue game" option would let me play, but I'd only have 9 coins to work with. I'd go through that fast, and probably have to do the tutorial all over again anyway without ever having a chance of getting the hang of the game. So, I'll wait until I have a free 4 hours, a full charge on the 3DS, and my laptop in front of me, and do the tutorial for real. Keep in mind, though, that all the bonuses, the cool fight animations, the obtaining of stars and everything, is all based on what shows up on the slots screen. Which is random. And I hate playing slots because they're rigged. On top of this, I'm expected to remember 200 pieces of "important" information about what happens if I get a cherry, 3 watermelons, or 3 7's on the screen, followed by a cherry, 3 watermelons, or 3 7's on the next screen, and on how much I've bet per pull of the lever.

Good thing I got this game just for the artwork, and not because I wanted to play it. Good grief. NOT recommended.

Super duper major bonus if you get really, really, really lucky. Still part of the tutorial. I have no interest in playing long enough to ever see this in the game itself.

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