Shanghai Triple Threat

Shanghai Triple Threat
3.5
Game Name: Shanghai Triple Threat
Media: 1 CD-ROM
Publisher(s): Activision
Developer(s): Activision
Genre(s): Puzzle
Release Date: 1996
Serial Number: T-13001H
Region: USA (no region lock)

This sort of game is usually played with MahJonng tiles bearing Chinese/Japanese characters and has been around on the PC for quite a while. Microsoft released a version of this called Tai Pei in one of its entertainment packs way back in the early 90s for Windows 2 but Kyodai Mahjonng 2006 is probably the definitive way to play this on the PC.

Shanghai Triple Threat screenshot1

This title brings this game to the console with new ways to play and even introduces an excellent 2 player simultaneous battle mode.
The basic premise of this game is that you are presented with a complex multi-layered layout of tiles and you have to match up pairs.
Every time a pair is identified it is removed from the layout, perhaps revealing more tiles. The object of the game is to clear the board.

There are a couple of simple rules about selecting tiles.
First, a tile has to be completely visible with no part of its front face being covered by another tile.
Secondly a tile must not have other tiles touching it to the left and right at the same time.
Any tile that is visible and its left and right side untouched by another tile is available for selection.

You control a pointer using the D-pad – picking a pair is easy – just move the pointer to a tile and press the A or C button (it will glow to show it has been selected) – then move the pointer to its match and press A or C again. If they match they disappear. If they don’t match you hear an unpleasant sound and they don’t disappear !!

Shanghai Triple Threat Screenshot2

You can unselect a tile by just pressing B at any time. You will become ‘stuck’ if there are no more possible matches – mercifully the game will end at this point instead of leaving you wondering if there are any more pairs to be found!
This type of game is usually played with a mouse on a PC – but the control works well and the pointer will move more quickly if you hold down one of the shoulder buttons while moving.

There are 2 main modes of the game – Original and Arcade. In original mode you just play to clear the board with no pressure – in Arcade mode you play for points against a timer. The timer will continually drop (it is displayed as a shrinking meter at the bottom of the screen) but you can slow and even temporarily reverse this by selecting pairs as fast as you can.

Shanghai Triple Threat screenshot 4

With each pair you remove in arcade mode you also get points – different types of symbols will give you different points. When you run out of time its game over. You may continue (which will reset your score to zero) or quit and register your name and score on the high score table – the contents of which are stored on the Saturn’s internal backup or cartridge (you are given the choice when you first start playing).
If you continue, then the board is reset and you may choose to retry the same board again or a reshuffled board.
Believe me – a game like this can get intense when 2 players are frantically looking for pairs on the same layout with an almost empty time meter flashing!

Within each of these 2 modes are 4 game variations: Classic, Great Wall, Beijing, and Golden Tile – each of which may be played in 1 player or 2 player simultaneous mode.

Classic : play to clear 30 normal levels.
Great Wall : each level’s layout is ‘standing up’ and gravity has an effect. If tiles are removed from the bottom of the layout then the higher unsupported tiles will fall down into the newly created gaps.
Beijing : The layout of each level is a grid and some gaps are created initially for you. You then slide entire rows or columns around to make pairs.
You get bonuses if you make simultaneous matches with a slide (almost like combos or chains in pit-based puzzle games such as Puyo Puyo or Panel de Pon).

Shanghai Triple Threat ScreenshotIn all of these variations your progress is tracked on a map screen and is auto-saved between sessions or you may use a password if you have no memory backup. High scores are saved in Arcade Mode (a different score table for each mode). You may call for help and undo a move 3 times per game in Great Wall and Classic variations. Choosing HELP highlights matching pairs on the layout.

Golden Tile : this is really a 2 player only game (you can play it in 1 player mode but it’s a bit pointless as there is no computer controlled opponent). Each player has their own layout. The layouts are smaller so that they both fit on the screen at once but this makes for faster and more frantic games. There is a golden tile hidden in each player’s layout – the first to click on it with their pointer wins. You may use tiles from your opponent’s layout to make matches with tiles in your own – so it’s not just a straight race – but you CAN’T steal the other player’s golden tile to snatch a win. A match is best of 3 – the game keeps track of the total number of matches won by each player.

The great thing about this game variation is the pace at which it can be played due to the simpler layouts. Another nice feature is that at the start of each round you see the layouts being built up – so you can see where the golden tile is hidden if you keep your eyes open.
This really is an excellent variation and is of a pick-up-and-play style of game much like the battle mode of other puzzle games like Tetris and Puzzle Bobble.

At first I thought it a pity that there is no computer controlled opponent in this mode – but it is best played against a human and the other modes cater for the single player admirably.

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