1991 Blog Game Gear Games Sega

Shikinjou (Game Gear, 1991)

Chinese vampires and mahjong tiles are a dangerous mix.

The most adorable jiangshi I’ve ever seen.


RELEASE DATE: 04/26/91 – (JP)

Is it possible that every puzzle game released on Game Gear is somehow better than Columns? Well… no. Kinetic Connection – where you shuffle moving tiles to make an image – is one of the worst puzzle games I’ve ever played; blessed be, it stayed in Japan. Junction is slightly better, although its brand of tile-shuffling is both incredibly hard and not very interesting at the same cursed time.

A shiny Sacagawea dollar for the person who can tell me what’s happening here.

Shikinjou, however, is better than the aforementioned three puzzle games and all without trying very hard. Originally released for the PC-88 and PC-98 in Japan, the game is a winning blend of Soukoban‘s box-moving bonanzas and Shanghai‘s tile-matching shenanigans.

You control a jiangshi around a one-screen stage filled with mahjong tiles, and your goal is to match like tiles together to create a path to the exit. Essentially, you push tiles of the same design together, they explode, you repeat until you get to the exit.

Only the first stage and already tuckered out.

Sounds easy enough, but there are a couple caveats. For starters, you can’t pull tiles, so any tiles on the edges of the stage are stuck there. Most importantly, the dragon tiles, the wind tiles, and the miscellaneous tiles bearing images of food are immovable. What’s worse is if you push a tile into them, the pushed tile will transform into the dragon/wind/food tile, creating a barrier that could prevent you from completing the level.

Not even delicious store-bought cake can tempt a jiangshi.

As you might imagine, the one hundred stages provided range from super simple to incredibly challenging. There’s often only one way to clear a path to the exit, but that usually involves moving tiles around convoluted paths, away from the dangerous tiles that transform innocent tiles into dead weight. This slow-paced gameplay could be torturous for some, but discerning the tiles I needed to use then moving them accordingly was incredibly rewarding for me. Thankfully, there is no time limit, so your brain doesn’t have to rush. There is a step counter at the top of the screen that informs you of the minimum number of steps needed to complete a level. I didn’t see a reward for doing so (I managed to barely complete one level in the number of steps given), but its inclusion is helpful in determining how long the game expects you to take on any given level.

If you mess up, the game lets you retry a limited number of times.

Yes, Shikinjoh is delightfully brain-melting, but I still have questions. Why are you controlling a hopping Chinese vampire through one hundred levels of methodically-placed mahjong tiles? Does the jiangshi’s presence have anything to do with the title Shikinjoh referring to the Forbidden City in China? Could the jiangshi be making his way through these tiles in order to suck the life force out of the Emperor, thus claiming the Chinese throne as his own? Hard to say, but I don’t trust any creature that can consume your essence and solve crazy hard puzzles at the same time.


For Those Playing Along at Home

Shikinjoh was also released for the Mega Drive, one day after the Game Gear port, in fact. In the past, I would have reviewed both versions together in this review, as it admittedly makes my job easier. Starting with Shikinjoh, however, I’m not going to be reviewing multiple versions of a game in a single review anymore.

The latter system worked for a while, and it still works for sites like Hardcore Gaming 101. With how Sega Does game lists are laid out, however, reviewing multiple versions all at once makes little sense. If I want to read the review for the Master System version of Columns, for instance, I’d go to the Master Games List link located under “Master System” in the menu. I’d find Columns, click the link, but then I’d have to scroll down through the Genesis review to get to the Master System review. If you’re a visitor looking for a review of a specific version of the game, this could be frustrating and confusing.

TL;DR – I’m not reviewing multiple versions of one game in a single review anymore. Shikinjoh Mega Drive port review next week.

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