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Arcade Archives Shanghai III
  opened by paleface at 23:33:41 01/20/23  
  last modified by paleface at 12:27:18 03/05/24  
  paleface [sys=PS4; cat=Puzzle; reg=NA]
Arcade Archives Shanghai III (PS4; original 1993 Sunsoft)
Until I saw the Activision and TM on the title screen I hadn't realized the video game "Shanghai" (TM) was an American invention: originally a free 1981 mainframe game dubbed Mah-Jongg, and generically today called Mahjong solitaire , it was probably simply invented from a pile of mahjong tiles by the programmer from Arizona who sold millions of copies of it for '80s home computers through Activision, who trademarked the brand name "Shanghai.". Sun Electronics aka Sunsoft licensed it to for Japanese arcades, and here we have Shanghai III, in Japanese, by far the most difficult version of Mahjong solitaire I've played, with monolithic piles of tiles in twelve almost equally daunting layouts, blurry tiles (seriously, I could feel the eyestrain), and music guaranteed to keep you just sane enough to keep inserting quarters.
Not used to playing under time pressure! Even after setting it on Easy and then lowering the speed of the timers, it still took me ages before I got better at spotting 4-of-a-kinds and could clear a puzzle.
So why would you get this version now when even Sunsoft themselves these days sell a non-trademark-infringing, sharp, accommodating, fairly acclaimed and relatively modern version of Mahjong solitaire -- not to mention probably about a billion free ones--heck, even Microsoft has adware and freeware ones they want you to install.
Well, maybe because those newfangled ones look so bland and innocuous as to feel somewhat pointless next to the hopelessly brutal boards that crush you under a relentless mass of tiles in Shanghai III. Had to put all the settings down to the easiest possible and STILL took 1.5 hrs to start getting to the point where I finally got through ONE puzzle. Then I somehow cleared two in a row. It felt big. Also I felt kinda sick. Also, the zodiac animals you get to see when you win are kinda cute.
If you want a chance to submit your score online the manual I think says you can't continue, so you either have to wait for the slow game reset, or go into the menu and reset it manually. Slightly annoying.
For some reason, Hamster Corporation did not put in their usual, separate Hi Score mode, so everyone is free to post high scores using the easiest settings (although these could nuke your scores a bit for all I know), and, worse, simply to pause the game and peep at their tiles through the transparent menu, pretty nearly completely circumventing the game's strict time limits. Hamster's usual Hi Score mode prevents pausing, so it's baffling they didn't put it in here. Maybe they thought the game was just too hard so they're encouraging everyone to cheat that way?
Admittedly, at the most generous settings the options allow, once I got used to it, in the end I mostly lost simply due to running into a move dead end--no take-backs--rather than to running out time. And I'm pretty bad at the game. So the menu-peeping probably doesn't matter all THAT much; why would you really bother when you could probably just go get an easier free Mahjong solitaire game, if winning easier was what you wanted?
Well, it kept me up half the night and I barely got anywhere but I guess I enjoyed it in the end in a masochistic sort of way.
I really shouldn't be straining my abused eyes at those blurry tile bitmaps any more, though. Dar. (Checked and I definitely had the Archive's graphic filter off; Sunsoft just drew those tile markings in a slightly blurry way.)
I did like the loud snap of the tiles, and the intense but somehow not annoying background colors, against which the tiles themselves stand out really well.
Okay, that modern-ish Sunsoft one DOES look like it starts off easy but a screenshot of a later board looks pretty beefy, and they have inexpensive DLC currently on bundle sale with 80 more "Extreme" levels. And for a 2019 game it has really low system requirements (Windows7 or newer! = o).
Also I'm feeling a perverse glee in seeing this through and actually buying a kinda new Sunsoft game. Sunsoft Mahjong solitaire from 1993 to 2019!! 26 years apart! So I'll give MSR a shot in the next video or so.
  paleface 14:07:19 02/01/23
MSR was ALSO blurry, in a 1080p way. ; | Returned it, yay Steam. : )

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