SOLD SEPARATELY: the gritty glamor of a seedy pachinko parlor.
RELEASE DATE: 1983
If there’s anything more depressing than gambling, it’s video game gambling where you ostensibly gamble for fun, not money. Problem is, nobody gambles for fun, so the only way video gambling games are enjoyable is if the game that’s being digitally rendered – like, say, blackjack – was rewarding before people decided to mix money, booze, and smokes with it. Unfortunately, Pachinko could use a little substance abuse and financial payoff to make its mindless ball-hucking worthwhile. The act of playing pachinko is replicated well enough, but without a reward system, the goal becomes to accumulate as many balls as possible. I doubt even Kenny Rogers and his unfortunate addiction would stick with Pachinko for long.
A classic pachinko machine.
For those unfamiliar with Japanese culture, pachinko machines are like a mix between pinball and slot machines, and they’re used primarily for gambling. Imagine a small upright pinball machine littered with pins, a handful of holes, and no flippers to propel the balls upward. The player purchases a certain amount of balls and launches them as slowly or quickly as they’d like. The balls drop through the pins and into the hole at the bottom, and occasionally, into the holes strewn about the machine.
Most holes activate a small number of extra balls to be released, but the hole in the center of the machine activates a slot device. Getting three-of-a-kind in the slot device triggers a jackpot of balls, at which time, the player trades in his balls for prizes or continues to fling balls. Gambling for cash is illegal in Japan, but the prizes one receives from the pachinko parlor can be exchanged for cash at locations near the parlors. I’ve never been to an pachinko parlor myself, but from the testimonials I’ve read, the police do not care that these tricksy shenanigans continue unabated. Once again, the system fails.
Would you like to try a game of Lucky Hit?
Pachinko for the SG-1000 provides the player a single pachinko machine. You set the angle you wish to launch the balls with the joystick, launch them one at a time or a bunch in a row with button II, and hope they land in the holes.
Word to pachinko noobs: firing off a bunch of balls is the only way you’ll acquire more balls. When I first began playing, I was shooting out one at a time and getting nowhere. Then I realized the game started me with fifty balls, so why be bashful? Once I let the balls fly, I was able to successfully land a ball in the slot portion about a dozen times (though I never won anything) and the green holes numerous times.
The green holes open once a ball goes in, winning you ten balls in return. The red Lucky cups also give you ten balls, but are much harder to land in. On one playthrough, I won about 140 balls before deciding to stop. Firing balls as rapidly as possible was chaotic and briefly entertaining, but once the illusion of progress wore off, I realized once again that life is but a vapor. Unless you’re a die-hard pachinko fan who plays as much for the “sport” as for the winnings, Pachinko is an inarguable waste of your time.
Non-stop pachinko action, action, action!
Unless, of course, you own a physical copy of the game. Pachinko is one of the rarest SG-1000 titles on the market. The only copy I could find to purchase was through a second-hand seller on Amazon Japan who wanted 300,000 yen for it. That’s close to 3,000 dollars, or in collector’s terms, ten Panzer Dragoon Sagas. According to SegaRetro, Pachinko was recalled due to a game-breaking bug. The idea that someone played Pachinko long enough to find such a bug confounds the mind. Then again, by SegaRetro’s own admission, this information has not been verified. I’d say there’s an equally good chance Sega didn’t sell very many copies and destroyed the remainder of their stock.
So if any of your friends ask what pachinko is, remember: it’s not a Japanese misspelling of the surname ‘Pacino.’ Pachinko is slot pinball, which sounds a lot more fun than it actually is, while Pachinko for the SG-1000 is digital slot pinball and about as entertaining as listening to “The Gambler” on infinite loop.