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Minnasan no Okagesamadesu Overview/Review 2021-04-07

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Minasan no Okagesamadesu. For a lot of Neo Geo fans, this name probably doesn’t ring a bell. As it turns out, this is probably the craziest Neo Geo title you might not know about. Released in 1990, Minasan no Okagesamadesu was the first true 3rd party title released for the Neo Geo platform, not being made by SNK or ADK but rather a company called Monolith. Details on Monolith’s history is very sparse, but from what I have seen Minasan no Okagesamadesu was their very first game.

Minasan no Okagesamadesu is a riichi mahjong game. Riichi mahjong is the Japanese variant of the ancient Chinese game of mahjong. Riichi mahjong is played like a card game, but with tiles. There are four suits of tiles, and non-numbered tiles are called “honor tiles”. The basic object of the game is to build a hand with specific tiles in order to win. By far the easiest way to win is by building a hand of four sets of three tiles each and then a pair of two matching tiles. The four sets of three tiles can be in ascending order (2, 3, 4) or they can all be the same (3, 3, 3).

When you boot up the game, you’re greeted with one of the strangest attract screens on the Neo Geo: A guy dressed as a Japanese schoolgirl with copious amounts of red lipstick applied to his face, and another guy who has the most noticeable five o’clock shadow you’ve ever seen. After pressing start, you’re asked to pick one of these two people to play against. The only difference between picking one over the other is the background color and music while playing mahjong. There is no difference in difficulty between the two.

Once you’ve picked your opponent, you’ll see a screen that looks like a board game. In order to progress towards the finish, you must win rounds of mahjong. How many spaces you progress on the board is dependent on your winning hand in that round. Some hands in mahjong are worth more points, so you’ll advance more spaces with a better hand. Different things happen depending on where you land on the board. Different spaces allow you to: receive a power up item to help you win, purchase a power up item, lose your item, move back ten spaces, take a shortcut on the board, view a comedy skit involving the two guys seen earlier, and lastly, view your opponent daydreaming of a scantily clad woman.

Playing the game of mahjong isn’t any different to other mahjong games. You pick a wind tile: north, south, east, and west, to determine who goes first. The tiles are then dealt to the player. You draw one tile, then discard another. This continues until someone has a winning hand or 18 tiles have been discarded. If you win, you’ll advance on the board. If you lose on the first round, you’ll get the game over screen. If you have advanced on the board and you lose a round, you’ll go back spaces. Landing on a “GAME OVER” space will take you to the game over screen as well. Speaking of the game over screen in this game; It’s creepy! It shows a skull with its mouth open, and no eyes. The countdown for the continue appears in its mouth. If you continue, eyes will appear, and the skull will start laughing. It seems really out of place the first time you see it.

Seeing or playing the game might be enough to write it off as “weird” or “crazy”, and you’d be completely right. However, it gets even crazier because the entire theme for the game, the name, the logo design, the characters, the comedy skits you see in the game, all of it was stolen by Monolith.

Minasan no Okagesamadesu is fully based off of a variety TV show called Minasan No Okagedesu. The TV show was created by Takaaki Ishibashi and Noritake Kinashi. These two comedians make up the comedy duo, “Tunnels”. For whatever reason, Monolith wanted to make a mahjong game around this TV show but didn’t have the rights to do so from Fuji TV or Tunnels. This didn’t stop them from making their game though. Monolith used the name from the show (albeit with “sama” added”), the logo design from the show, and the exact likeness of the Tunnels duo for the characters. Takaaki Ishibashi is the guy with the five o’clock shadow, and Noritake Kinashi is the guy dressed as the schoolgirl. There is no way this would have gotten a release in this day and age. It’s blatant copyright infringement. To see a Neo Geo game with its entire theme stolen from another source like a TV show; It really does stand out from the rest of the library, perhaps not in a good way.
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