Neo Geo CD
Video System / SNK
I’ve mentioned this in reviews past, but collecting every single release for any given console can be one of the most interesting and rewarding experiences that the hobby of enthusing in video games can present – especially when the console you’re collecting for wasn’t necessarily as tremendously popular as something like the seemingly insurmountable PlayStation 2. Little surprises abound, you never know when you might stumble upon a hidden gem that, up until that moment, you’d never even heard of. Additionally, the collecting journey can become ever more intriguing when rumination is given to the fact that some, if not most, of the console’s games never made it out of Japan. Sure, there are some big Neo Geo CD titles that didn’t reach Stateside such as Ironclad and Samurai Shodown RPG, but what about those few games that never received much fanfare? The games that slipped through the cracks of time, only to (potentially) be discovered years later, when their merit and unique attributes could truly shine, albeit a little behind schedule. The Neo Geo CD’s niche library is not unlike those of the Sega Saturn or the TurboGrafx-16 in that there exists a plethora of nearly unheard of games just begging to be dusted off and given a good spin. That being said, releases that almost solely revolve around competing with tiles in rounds of mahjong aren’t usually at the top of my eBay wish list. However, that old partiality of mine changed when I came across Idol Mahjong Final Romance 2, a hilarious adventure in strip-mahjong developed by the team behind the Aero Fighters series, Video System.
Released for the Neo Geo CD in 1995 (along with a port for the Sega Saturn, and interestingly enough, the 3DO, a year later), Idol Mahjong Final Romance 2 is the sequel to Video System’s first game in the series that, to my knowledge, remains an arcade exclusive. Of the three mahjong games that released for the Neo Geo CD, Final Romance 2 looks to be one of the more compelling. Whether you like the anime art style utilized in the game, or you’re just a horn dog that wants to see unclad chicks in a 24-bit format, this game surprised me by just how much fun I had with it. Now, I should confess that I have next to no idea how to play mahjong, so I usually ask my wife if she’d like to play a few rounds while I sit back and watch. This always turns out to be a really fun time as some of the circumstances she comes across while playing are well worth the time it takes to sit through a match.
Admittedly, there isn’t a whole lot of depth to Final Romance 2. You’re tasked with facing off against several rounds of beautiful women, all in farcical attempts to strip ‘em down to their undies upon winning each game. This is actually a lot more fun than it sounds as most of the dialogue is executed in that oh-so-nineties anime approach that usually has my sides splitting. Forget Donkey Kong Country 2, real gamers in 1995 knew that naked mahjong was what was really happening. Not to make fun of the game’s discourse, but that type of risqué anime is so funny in its own special way that I’m probably a fan of it for all the wrong reasons.
As expected from a game operating on Neo Geo hardware, Final Romance 2 looks and sounds really good, especially when you take into consideration the year it was released. With radiant colours and snappy tunes to keep the flow of matches going, the game definitely has its charms. Keep in mind that this was a mahjong game intended for the arcade, so it does operate at a slightly faster pace than would be expected from a traditional round of mahjong. I still think the idea of having mahjong games released in arcade formats is really interesting. Certainly not what I’d expect to find in the lobby of a movie theater.
There exist up to nine opponents for you to face in the game, each more skilled than the last. Beat a girl once and she’ll tease the player by removing a garment of her clothing while posing in an alluring position. Something similar occurs upon beating a girl two rounds in a row, whereas if you beat her three times, she’ll almost completely disrobe, bowing down to the brawn that is your mahjong mastery.
One of the more waggish details of Final Romance 2 is that it actually showcases each of your opponent’s dimensions on some of the game’s demo screens. Such measurements are also featured (in great depth) within the manual. I find extra details like this to be pretty charming in that the inclusion of them clearly shows how much effort and enthusiasm went into the game. The developers really wanted to leave next to nothing to the imagination here, and in all honesty, I think that’s awesome. When it comes to releasing a well-rounded video game – the more details, the better. To some, a game like this may come off as inappropriate with its overly suggestive themes, but for the suitable audience, it’s a harmless distraction that has supplied me with plenty of laughs and a greater insight into the game of mahjong.
Idol Mahjong Final Romance 2 may not be everyone’s first gambit when it comes to hunting down exclusives for the Neo Geo CD, but I encourage you to give it a shot. For what it’s worth, it actually has a lot more to offer than just righteous babes by way of impressive graphics. With a fun little soundtrack and some really humorous dialogue, it’s an excellent way to play the game of mahjong.