Mahjong. An ancient Chinese tile game that dates back to the mid-19th century in its current form and well before that in older card varieties, it has appeared in it’s classic style in video games across dozens of different consoles over the past 30 years. Usually, when a mahjong game comes to the western world, it’s actually a variation, a tile-matching game called mahjong solitaire, rather than the more traditional form of mahjong. Today, we take a look at the classic take, and try to get competitive, in Kiwame Mahjong DX II.
Developer Athena had achieved some semblance of success in the 90s with titles such as Dezaemon, a series of build-your-own vertical shooters, and the long-running Pro Mahjong Kiwame series. Rather than taking the form of a simple mahjong entry title that you might find in a game pack on PC, Pro Mahjong lives up to its name in that the games are based on competitive mahjong tournaments. Kiwame Mahjong DX II continues this formula, and knows that the only reason you’re playing is to play mahjong professionally. Players select their own avatar and name their character, and then play 4-player classic mahjong against real professional players for cash. Obviously, it’s a videogame, but the challenge is very high, even if you know what you’re doing.
Granted, I don’t have a very firm grasp on what I’m doing. I fully expected to find a mahjong solitaire game, and as someone who previously had no knowledge of mahjong, it was a fun learning experience to research the different styles of gameplay and the history of the game. This newfound interest, however, didn’t really help me play the game. Even though the main menu choices are in English, the rest of the game is still in Japanese, as is the instruction booklet, and the controls that are provided don’t really translate into what they should be in the game.
That being said, don’t lose out hope if you can’t read Japanese and you are dying to play this game. The tournament is playable in Easy Mode, and the tiles become color coded to guide you through to victory. If you slow down and pay attention, it’s actually a smart and easy way to teach you how to play. It’s almost like having a silent guide through each round, pointing out hands to complete and melds to form. This obviously made my experience much more enjoyable, because I started to win – and I won by a lot! – and I became much more comfortable with mahjong as a whole.
For anyone with an interest in classic mahjong and access to a Japanese GameCube, Kiwame Mahjong DX II is worth your time. If you don’t already have the required components, however, I don’t know that it’s worth the energy. I myself would never have even known about the game if I weren’t working on this project, and it was also the final mahjong title that Athena ever released. There weren’t any other mahjong titles released for the GameCube, so Kiwame Mahjong DX II will remain the singular game in the library to feature this ancient tile-game.
Did you ever play Kiwame Mahjong DX II? What did you think of it? What did you like or hate about the game?
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