PUBLISHER: Renovation Game
RELEASE DATE: 03/29/1991 (JP)
ALSO ON: PC Engine-CD
The video game translation community typically shies away from mahjong games. I get it. On top of translating, you also have to play mahjong well enough to beat the entire game. I’m sure there’s at least one game translator out there who loves both Japanese-to-English translation and mahjong. But enough to spend dozens of hours translating ancient Mega Drive mahjong games for a select few (like me) in the rom hacking community? I doubt it.
The latter paragraph is my roundabout way of saying that there is no Jantei Monogatari English translation. As such, I have no idea what the hell’s going on here. There’s kanji, there’s hiragana, there’s mahjong. I’m stumped. I’ve tried to learn mahjong in the past to no avail; it definitely seems like one of those games that benefits from having an in-person teacher. So why play Jantei Monogatari if I can’t understand it?
Until I find someone to trudge through Jantei Monogatari with relative understanding, it’s up to me to discern why this particular mahjong game exists. From my perusal of the internet, it seems MobyGames is the only outlet to feature a summary of the game. Here is the summary in full: “A daughter of the chair of a local high school, Yū Honjō, has been kidnapped by someone unknown. Unable to go to the police, the girl’s sister, Mai, hires a private investigator to find out what happened to her. The only piece of evidence is a photograph from the night of Yū’s disappearance, where the missing girl and three other students from the same school are playing a game of mahjong.”
“Jantei Monogatari is a hybrid of a traditional-style Japanese adventure game and a regular mahjong game. The player takes the role of the unnamed private investigator, and moves from place to place via menus, talking to different characters. The investigation happens through playing mahjong with each suspect: win and they’ll tell you a bit more of what they know. At first, the investigator can only speak with the three girls in the photo, but as he wins games of mahjong against them, he gains information and experience that allow him to find new clues and talk to more suspects. The investigator will need to play against a dozen different opponents in his attempt to find out what happened to the kidnapped girl.”
Normally, I wouldn’t post an entire summary from a completely different web site, but without it, you’d have me writing things like, “So I think you might be a cop? Or a private detective? You’re trying to find some one in a picture, so you go talk to people and… play mahjong against them. Or something.” Nobody has time for that nonsense. As such, thank you MobyGames user “雷堂嬢太朗 -raido.jotaro-” for writing what is (for now) the only English summary of Jantei Monogatari.
Jantei Monogatari sounds slightly reminiscent of Mahjong Cop Ryuu, another story-driven Mega Drive mahjong game. Both games feature cops/private eyes trying to solve a case with the power of mahjong. Both games feature mahjong “battles” in order to progress. No fights, no scuffles, no hard drugs, just endless tiles and cigarettes.
Jantei Monogatari is notable, not for its hard-boiled mahjong antics, but for being the first Atlus-developed game released for a Sega console. In 2016, Sega purchased/consumed Atlus and forced them to re-release Catherine and Persona games over and over again (this is a joke, sort of). In the early days of 1991, however, Atlus was a small company that lept between genres with unruly abandon. From film adaptations like The Karate Kid and Friday the 13th to sports games like Major League Baseball and NFL Football to platformers like Xexyz. Atlus could and did make any game they wanted, including (for some reason) Jantei Monogatari.
I’m not giving Jantei Monogatari a real grade, nor do I consider this a proper review by any means. The game sounds intriguing, though. I’m always down for bizarre genre pairings, and adventure + mahjong sounds delightful. If only I could read Japanese and play mahjong. If only I could actually play the game.
MY DESIRE TO PLAY JANTEI MONOGATARI: B+
JANTEI MONOGATARI ITSELF: ?