Coin Puzzle Moujiya

Coin Puzzle Moujiya
3.5
Game Name: 両替パズル もうぢや (Coin Puzzle Moujiya)
Media: 1 CD-ROM
Publisher(s): Virgin Interactive
Developer(s): ETONA/FWS & FPS
Genre(s): Puzzle
Release Date: 11th November 1996
Serial Number: T-7010G
Region: Japan


Coin Puzzle Moujiya is a little obscure title that not many people know about. At first glance it resembles a very cute kitty cat themed Puyo Puyo or Tetris clone, but deep down under the generic looking puzzle game lies a very complex and well thought out title that even requires a lot of memorization if you want to get anywhere past the game’s second match.

If you played or seen Tetris, or Puyo Puyo, you know what I’m talking about when it comes down to the general gameplay of this title. You have a narrow and tall playzone in which you drop down pieces of varying shapes and colours and you have to match them up a certain way to eliminate them to make room for more. If you end up filling the pieces up to the top of your playfield where the next piece cannot fit onto the screen anymore, the game is over for you, and your opponent is the winner. If your opponent fills his/her screen, the same thing happens only vice versa.

However, while the general idea of the typical puzzle game is there, there are a few things you’ll notice (besides the cute kittens) when you first start playing this game. First of all, the pieces you drop down your playfield are coins, and each colour coin represents a different value. For example, lets just make up a currency to help explain how the matching and eliminating system works and call our new made up currency Cakes (everyone loves Cakes). Lets say a 5 Cakes coin is called a Nickle, and a 10 Cakes coin is called a Dime. Now lets say you wanted to add two Nickles, which would be 5 + 5 Cakes (which equals 10 in case you failed math). Instead of having a bunch of loose change in your pocket, you could simply exchange those two coins for one Dime, which is also the equivalent of 10 Cakes, but you take up less room in your pocket. That’s exactly how this game works. Instead of eliminating coins in your playfield, you exchange them for a higher valued coin to save you room for more until someone finally loses control and fills their playfield.

That’s where the memory part comes in. Every colour when matched with other coins of the same colour create a new coin of another colour as the final output. Unless you know the Japanese currency of Yen, you’ll have to play this game quite a few times to know what colours make what. Not only that, but it isn’t always “four in a row gets rid of them all!” but it varies with colour. Blue for example takes five in a row to make a yellow, but only two yellows in a row make a red. Five reds in a row are needed to make a green, while only two greens make a pink. Finally five pinks make a purple, and two purples eliminates them off your playfield. Although, purple is a very rare colour to come by and you pretty much need to make them by matching pink coins as they just won’t fall on their own. May not sound like much, but when you play against a very unforgivable AI, you have to access your brain not at the speed of a hard drive, but more so the speed of a RAM drive. (That’s geek talk for “You have to think fast!”)

Another feature is the “bomb” feature commonly found in most manic-shooter games, so it’s a little odd to see in a puzzle game like this. You get one “bomb” (not the official name for it by the way) every match, and if you use it at the right time you can save yourself and completely turn the match in your favour. If you start chaining coins like crazy, you’ll send cat heads to fill your opponent’s playfield (as he will do to you) that you can only eliminate by matching coins beside the heads. May not sound unique, but what the “bomb” does is summons a rather badly scaled sprite of a dog’s head onto your playfield and it eats all the cat heads, allowing not only for you to place pieces on the field again, but also drops pieces built previously on top of the cat heads allowing for strategic placement before allowing them to drop to max out your chaining, royally screwing your opponent. However, use it at the wrong time and you can screw yourself badly as the “bomb” has a casting time, and while it’s eliminating the cat heads on your playfield, your opponent has about 5 seconds to rack up even more chains and to send even more heads for when your “bomb” is done clearing your field, finishing you off.

Of course, if competition isn’t your thing, there’s a “survival mode” (again, not the official name as I cannot speak or read Japanese) where you play alone and see how long you can last. The catch is that the game speeds up and slows down only once. It eventually gets to the point where you don’t even see the pieces dropping anymore and they’re instantly at the bottom, giving you only the half a second to think after the piece touches down and the next piece is loading into the top of the playfield.

Another thing about the gameplay is that you get a little bar the shape of a cat at the bottom of the screen that fills up, and when that reaches full, a white cat head piece comes down and whatever colour it lands on, it will advance every coin of that colour to the next colour as if you matched them all up. Very helpful for when you’re trapped near the top, and the piece comes, allowing you to chain yourself out of a mess. It’s an element of luck that adds unpredictability to the mix, as well as excitement.

One final thing of note about the gameplay is that if your piece touches the top of another piece, the bottom of the playfield, or is one piece below a wall of pieces, you can tap rotate really quickly to keep the piece active for a few extra seconds instead of it touching down, and if done correctly, can even allow you to climb low walls and to land on the other side! Normally puzzle games are very unforgiving and if you’re one pixel under another block, there’s no chance the piece that’s going down can move to the other side.

Now that we got the gameplay out of the way, being a port of an arcade game the graphics, while colourful, aren’t the best on the Saturn. Sure, they’re appealing, but they look and feel like they belong on the Super Nintendo. Animations consist of two frames for each animation. However, if you can look aside from the actual graphical quality and look outside the box, the characters themselves are very well drawn, as well as very amusing to watch. Some of their expressions when they chain a combo or have a combo chained against them are priceless. Plus, since all the characters in the game are cartoon style cats, you get some really silly ones that you have to take on. Examples are an old man who throws coffee at his playfield in anger, or the poor cat who has a lot of straw tied up to him due to the lack of clothing. Unfortunately I wish I could praise the actual gameplay side of the graphics as well. The colours of the coins sometimes look alike, especially the pink and purple coins. Sometimes you mistake a certain coloured coin for another and place one down on top of it only to realize that you just screwed yourself and lost the match. Once you get used to it though, you mainly only have trouble with the pink and purple coins, and sometimes yellow and green.

The music is nice for the theme of the game despite the fact that the quality is pretty low, and on top of that, the music sounds very MIDI’ish. It sounds like someone got lazy and put a recorder to the arcade cabinet, recorded the music and slapped it into the game as CD Audio. What you can expect is a light hearted soundtrack to fit a light hearted game. The music is in place though, and sometimes you may find yourself humming along with the tune. Unfortunately, where this department hurts the most is in soundtrack’s variety. Sure there’s an intro tune, and a couple various ones such as some option screen tunes and the tutorial screen tune, every level in the game shares the same track, with the final match as the exception. It can get tiring quickly, making you reach for the mute button on your TV remote until you finally beat the final match and are awarded with the ending credits.

The sound effects fit the game fine. They’re in place, but not really noticeable. Thankfully the sound effects don’t detract from the game at all. The voice samples are, again, low quality just like the music, but it’s funny to hear some of the characters go nuts when they’re losing, even if you can’t understand the game’s native language.

This game has a storyline believe it or not, but not one I can understand by text alone since again, the language barrier really hinders my ability to fully understand this game. Fortunate

ly everything is illustrated as well as the ending sequence of the game, so I’ll try to come up with what I ‘think’ the story is for this game. Some evil cat dude stole some money from a bank and you’re some other cat dude who has to get the money back. You beat the bad cat dude and everyone goes “YAY!” and throws you up in the air. The end.

The main disappointing aspect of this port is that it offers almost nothing new from the arcade. There’s no new game modes, or any new content at all. Normally, if an arcade game is ported to a system, there’s often times something a little extra added in to help the game last longer instead of a twenty-five cent visit to the mall. Look at the bright side though, at least they didn’t decide that the game shouldn’t play like it’s arcade counterpart. The addictiveness of being an arcade game is still there, which is a good thing.

Overall, this game is an interesting puzzle game if you dig deep into it. For someone who wants something quick and simple, stick with Puyo Puyo or Tetris. For someone who wants to try something new and innovative that expands on an already great game genre, you owe it to yourself to at least give this game one try.

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