Monday
Oct292018

QCF: Hot Gimmick: Cosplay-Jong for Nintendo Switch

e love ZeroDiv over here at Studio Mudprints. They have pretty much single-handedly made the Switch the best place for arcade shooting game action with a slew of digital and retail releases for a number of high profile mid-to-late nineties Psikyo arcade shmups. So it was kind of interesting to see something entirely different from ZeroDiv and Psikyo surface on the Nintendo eShop. After all, shooting games aren't the only titles Psikyo has done. One such game is Hot Gimmick: Cosplay-Jong for Nintendo Switch (heretofore known simply as Hot Gimmick 'cause who has time to write all that?) a 1997 arcade Mahjong game with a decidedly Psikyo Twist.

As some players probably already know, there is a ridiculous amount of Mahjong-themed video games out there, the vast majority of which come out of Japan and almost all of which are entirely in Japanese. Very few Mahjong games have come out in North America with most of the ones we've seen, like Shanghai, being a form of Mahjong Solitaire, rather than the Japanese Riichi, or “Reach” Mahjong as seen in Hot Gimmick.

The premise and story in Hot Gimmick's main gameplay mode is pretty flimsy; a number of girls exhibit stubborn, uncouth habits and require behavioral reformation as a result; One girl uses foul language all the time. Another is a picky eater. You get it. Each promises to change their ways if they are bested in a game of Mahjong, as is entirely customary and totally something that just happens all the time—obviously.

Here's where things get a little sticky though. While it is true that, yes, Hot Gimmick is presented completely in English - albeit with the expected translation misses – and it includes a built-in digital manual like any other ZeroDiv release detailing how the game itself operates, there is nothing in the way of even a basic tutorial on how to actually play Mahjong. Players will need to figure it out themselves. So that's what I did and holy crap, is this ever a complicated game. After several hours of dedicated tutorial watching on YouTube and in-game practical hands-on study, here's what I know.

•    The goal in Riichi Mahjong is to form a hand of four melds of three tiles and a pair of identical tiles separate of these four melds. A total count of 14 tiles is needed, including the drawn, winning tile

•    There are four suits of tiles in Mahjong: Characters, Dots, Bamboo and Honor (Winds, Dragons)

•    Each tile in these four suits has four copies.

•    Players are set up according to dice rolls and Wind direction.

•    Wind rules apply at some level here, but there are only two players in any match, so the winds and additional rotational rules for higher player numbers don't really apply here.

•    Players always draw and discard a tile every round, with 13 tiles at minimum and 14 at the maximum at any given time.

•    A meld can be made of a run (1-9 if numbered tiles are used) or three of a kind (any single tile type can be used, so long as they are identical.

•    The pair can be made of any two identical tiles.

•    Players can steal tiles from the opponents discards before a draw to form a meld through “Chii” (or chow as is written in Hot Gimmick.) A draw is then performed.

•    If a player is sure that they can win the round, they can bet 1000 of their points and call “Reach” to auto-draw draw until the final piece of their hand is found – hopefully.

•    When a hand is won, players receive points for how complex their hand is. If a player loses, they pay out points to opponents. If a player or opponent reaches zero points or less (yes, negative integers apply,) they lose.

The A button is primarily used for most actions in Hot Gimmick. Players draw tiles with A, place tiles with A and make selections from menus with – wait for it – A. A number of actions also open up with the X button though. Depending on the situation, players will be able to swap tiles, lock in melds, bet on victory and more. Again, it's all very situational and extremely complicated as hundreds of rules apply in any given Mahjong match by design.

Players are required to win three hands against any opponent in Hot Gimmick, or reduce them to zero points or below. If the player wins, they perform a punishment on the girl who lost which is just as suggestive as it sounds; Some are Psikyo themed, like cosplaying characters from Gunbird or Sengoku Ace, but there is definitely a ton of lewd stuff in here too. Like, a ton. There is also a huge amount of opponents to discover and challenge. Of course, there's a huge element of luck and RNG in video Mahjong games, just as with any other digital representation of parlor or casino games. Without a firm grasp of what to do, players will invariably have a rough go at any Mahjong game, Hot Gimmick included. Especially since they want players to work for those lewds—and of course, they can be accessed and viewed once performed.

Naturally, I'm terrible at it, but it's something that I genuinely want to learn for reasons that (and I know no one will believe me) don't pertain to scantily clad women. Way, way more so than that, Mahjong games are insanely cheap on most platforms they appear on and often feature anime-style presentations that make them something I'd be interested in checking out now that I get some of the basics. PC Engine and Sega Saturn have just a ton. It's just a shame that so much external research is needed to get even a tiny grasp of the game's mechanics. If the rules could have been archived and demonstrated in-game, it could have been way better.

There's been a shift for me in this regard; before it was, “ehh, another Mahjong game...” and now it's “hm, that's a neat looking Mahjong game.” Hot Gimmick Cosplay-Jong for Nintendo Switch has ended up becoming my gateway Mahjong game in this respect. It incorporates just the right elements of a puzzle game into a tradition tabletop-style setup that has me equal parts baffled and intrigued. So long as the intrigue is equal to or greater than my confusion, it's something that I can see myself dedicating to, at least until the next Strikers 1945 game sees release.

But I also have a very long way to go. Until then, Hot Gimmick is what's teaching me the basics. As with anything else, skill comes with time and practice. But it's definitely going to take a ton of both.

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