[I ♥ The PC Engine] ShanghaiPosted on May 18th, 2009 6 comments
Release Date: 10/30/87
Media: HuCard (1 Mbit)
PC Engine FAN Score: 19.13 / 30.00
Kōgien: “A puzzle game where you must remove identical pairs of mahjong tiles from the edge of a multi-layered pile until none remain. There are extra conveniences in this game, like a Help function that tells you which tiles are available for taking.”
This and Bikkuriman World are the two launch titles for the PC Engine in Japan. Despite this, Bikkuriman World is marked “Vol. 2” in Hudson’s PCE titling and Shanghai is “Vol. 4.” Hmm.
“Shanghai” is the world trademark for the mahjong-solitaire computer game created by Brodie Lockard in 1981 and marketed commercially by Activision beginning in 1986. All told, about ten million copies of Shanghai games have been sold worldwide. In Japan, System Soft released Shanghai on the local PC platforms in 1987 and Sunsoft released it in arcades and on the Famicom late that year, but Hudson seems to have worked out their own rights in order to make the PCE version. (I originally thought Hudson sublicensed the rights from Sunsoft, but there’s no copyright text to back that up and Sun’s arcade game actually doesn’t have much in common with this implementation.)
The question of Shanghai’s origins is actually a really hot topic, or was back in the mid-90s when there were dozens of shareware clones filling up bargain-bin CD-ROMs in every computer store in America. The very short version of the tale:
- Brad Fregger, producer on the original Mac Shanghai, wrote in 1998 that Brodie told him the game was based on an old Chinese mahjong variant called “The Turtle.”
- There is Chinese-language book of mahjong history, written in 1984, that describes a very Shanghai-like solitaire game “played by children” too young to follow all the intricacies of full-on mahjong. This seems to back up Brodie’s statement.
- However, Brodie himself later denied saying anything like that to Fregger, implying that he came up with the idea independently instead.
- It was important for Brodie to maintain this, because otherwise Activision didn’t have a leg to stand on in pursuing Shanghai clonemakers. (They didn’t chase every single freeware programmer, of course, but they did slap C&Ds down on anyone foolhardy enough to use the word “Shanghai” in the title of their clone.)
There is a very long history page that outlines this little piece of drama as it unfolded on Usenet’s rec.games.mahjong in 1998. If you have a lot of free time, use Google Groups to poke around that era. (Way before 4chan or Something Awful were even conceived, Usenet posters had trolling down to a science.)
Anyway, this particular port is Shanghai at its dead simplest. Only one table configuration, and the game doesn’t expressly tell you when there are no legal moves left (you have to use the Hint function to find out). I’m not sure why Hudson needed 128KB to program this. …At least the music is good. I like “Melody 2” the best, but the ending jingle is refreshing, too. Below is a YouTube vid of someone successfully completing a game, just in case you really want to see the dragon at the end. The sound falls out of sync halfway through, but I give the uploader credit for recording off a real machine.
Shanghai on PCE is a bare-bones treatment, but it was one of the first titles, so we can be somewhat forgiving. Blodia (Timeball), on the other hand, lacks polish as well, even though it was released much later. I actually love Blodia, but I feel it deserved a lot more love and nurturing treatment. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought Blodia was released alongside Shanghai.
Check out the tunes in Blodia, though, they are heavenly (it’s a shame Hudson didn’t add a few more tunes to the soundtrack for Blodia and Shanghai).
You might laugh, but out of the first few batches of PCE games, I think The Kung Fu (China Warrior) had one of the best soundtracks. Frenetic, catchy, adrenalin-inducing, still good after hearing it a few hundred times, etc.
About the catalog numbers: you can find a list of Hudson’s own HuCard releases at Hudson Catalog (TurboList)
I was going to comment on the PCE FAN post as well, but I am getting coffee instead.
P.S. I loved the Seta Mouse comic you posted. I must have missed that the first time around. Fantastic.
Volume #’s for Hudson’s releases: http://turbo.mindrec.com/files/hudson.vol
(not sure what went wrong)
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