Idol Shisen Mahjong


Review by Keita Iida

Hacker Int'l


Graphics: 8

Sound: 6

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8

Here's a game from the ONLY Japanese company during the Famicom's heyday that attempted to sell unlicensed games in Japan. Before discussing this game, a little about the history behind the company and its games....

Nintendo anticipated in the late 1980s that companies unwilling or unable to become licensees would figure out ways to manufacture and sell Famicom games on their own. As a result, they added circuitry inside the Famicom and periodically modified the code inside new Famicoms so that only Nintendo-approved games could play.

This didn't stop Hacker International, which reverse-engineered Famicoms and figured out a way to make games that would work on them. And since Hacker didn't pay royalty or manufacturing costs to Nintendo, it was able to make a decent profit by selling their games via mail order (wholesalers refused to carry unauthorized products for fear of being cut off by Nintendo).

Nintendo's boss, Hiroshi Yamauichi, decided to retaliate against this renegade company that dared to sell games that were both unlicensed and involved nudity and sexual themes. When Hacker placed ads in leading video game magazines, Nintendo immediately stepped in and ordered the publications to remove them in all future issues. Despite these setbacks, Hacker managed to make a decent profit on their games.

Idol Shinsen Mahjong is similar, if not identical to, an unlicensed NES game, Tiles of Fate by American Video Entertainment. In this Idol Shisen, you are in a race against time to remove the Mah-Johng tiles in pairs until the entire screen is cleared. In this respect, the gameplay mechanics are reminiscent of Shanghai, except for additional power-ups and slightly different rules which apply in the elimination of tiles. For example, brick walls, skulls and cross bones provide obstacles that can only be eliminated by acquiring power-ups that appear when certain tiles are removed. In addition, a time line at the bottom of the screen indicates the amount of time remaining - when your time is up your game is over.

Although the game is relatively easy in the early stages, Idol quickly becomes extremely challenging. Matching pairs become few and far in between, and your concentration level must be at its highest in the face of the increasingly complex layout of the tiles. In other words, this is not a game that you want to sit down and play after chugging down a six-pack of Samuel Adams. But then again, maybe it is.....

The fun (well, for most of us anyway) really begins during the intermissions. And if you expected to witness some cutesy Pac-Man-ish cartoon scene, you're in for a (ahem) pleasant surprise. As you progress further into the game, the girls begin to remove pieces of their clothing, one by one, until they're left with nothing else but their birthday suit. As they're are a total of four different "Idols" and it takes about 3 or 4 intermissions for each girl to strip down to nothing, you won't be guaranteed to see anything unless you get the hang of the game. I've spent some decent time with Idol Shisen Mahjong and I'm still working on the second girl!

If you're looking for an addicting Shanghai-ish puzzler for your NES, Tiles of Fate provides it in spades. But for a double dose of entertainment, Idol Shisen Mahjong has no peer. Keep in mind, however, that only 15,000 copies of this particular game were made (and Japanese are notorious for throwing away old or unwanted items), so it's not exactly easy to find, even in Japan.


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Last updated: Sunday, February 08, 2004 12:42 PM