Posted on June 12th, 2009 4 comments
Release Date: 4/22/88
Price: 4500 yen
Media: HuCard (2 Mbit)
PC Engine FAN Score: 18.98 / 30.00
Kōgien: “A video-game version of the board Game of Life. The path you take through life all depends on the spinner. Twirl it to proceed the given number of steps and launch a variety of events. From employment to marriage, you’re asked to make major life decisions at regular points.”
Further proof that NEC and Hudson perhaps did not start out as robustly as they really could’ve with the PCE’s software library — six months after the console’s release, and the only game that came out at all in April ’88 was a video version of The Game of Life (“Jinsei game” 人生ゲーム in Japanese).
As of 2007, over 35 million copies of The Game of Life have been sold worldwide. Ten million of those are in Japan, where it was introduced in 1968 by Takara and became an instant success, a glimpse of the American good life for a nation that (at the time) was growing its economy at dizzying rates.
YūYū Jinsei (an official licensed version of The Game of Life) follows the board game’s 1980s Japanese incarnation relatively faithfully. If you’re familiar with the Art Linkletter-endorsed game, it’s a bit interesting to see the cultural differences between the US and Japanese versions. Instead of choosing between the “Business” and “College” routes (a steady paycheck or a luck-influenced one), you instead have to select between becoming a salaryman and earning $8000 a month or becoming a part-time bum (アルバイター arbeiter, this being the time just before “freeter” entered the Japanese language) and getting a chance to become a doctor, illustrator, airline pilot, etc. later on if you land on a lucky square. (The game’s pretty rewarding to players who invest in stocks or life insurance, another sign of the times given the ’80s bubble in Japan.)
As in the board game, every player spins the dial and runs his station wagon across the board, gaining or losing money depending on where he lands. It’s a pretty straightforward sim of the original, the only real adornment being the humorous animated sequences that show up with every twist and turn, depending your childbirths, your car accidents, and the occasional criminal act you may or may not pull off.
These animations are humorous enough that they make at least one trip through YūYū Jinsei worthwhile. (It’s also worth it to listen to the music, another classic example of the jazz-lounge thing Hudson had going through a lot of early PCE releases. My favorite selection is the name select tune — I feel like I ought to have a gin and T in hand while listening to it.) You can click through the 4-part video above to see a two-player match, Player One taking a conservative approach and Player Two (who takes the Master Takahashi avatar, of course) jumping on every risky decision that comes his way.
YūYū Jinsei also has a hidden game tucked inside — a straight port of Cannon Ball, a 1983-era game for the MSX released by Hudson. (They sublicensed a port, called Bubble Buster, for the ZX Spectrum in Europe.) You can probably recognize the more popular game that was inspired by this one; Cannon Ball was the title that came up with the basic idea first. If you want to try it yourself, load up the game, bring up the player stats display, hold down I, II and Run, and press Select.