DEVELOPER: Scap Trust (port by Sunsoft)
RELEASE DATE: 04/27/91 – (JP)
If you’re reading these reviews in the order they were posted, you’ve already read the Shikinjou review on Game Gear. If you’re reading these reviews haphazardly, like some kind of freewheeling vagabond, allow me to post a link to the Game Gear review. It’s on the house.
But if you’re too lazy to click on the link or find the Game Gear distasteful to your gaming palate, here’s a recap. In Shikinjou, you control a jiangshi (a Chinese hopping vampire) around a single screen full of mahjong tiles. Push the tiles of like designs into each other to clear a path to the exit. But watch out! Certain tiles can’t be pushed, while others, like the “wind” and “dragon” tiles, will turn any tile that touches them into their design and render them immovable. This, we don’t need. Thankfully, in the Mega Drive port, you can restart the level at any time without any penalty. In the Game Gear version, you could only restart a finite number of times before the game was over.
Besides obvious differences like “better graphics” and “playing with a controller,” Shikinjou for the Mega Drive differs from its handheld younger brother in a variety of ways. Unique backdrops and alternate playable characters, like a ninja, knight, or spaceman, are featured. In addition to the 99 included levels, there are 10 special levels that offer different rules than the regular game. You can also make your own levels in a Construction mode, and if you’re feeling frisky, listen to the game’s cracking music via a Sound Test.
Shikinjou is also one of the few Mega Drive games compatible with the Mega Modem. If you had one of these gems hooked up to your Mega Drive, and you had a similarly wealthy friend who also owned a Mega Drive, Mega Modem, an online subscription to the Sega Meganet service, and a copy of Shikinjou, you could exchange custom-built levels from the Construction mode. And, uh, that’s it. Probably not worth it, but having online connectivity for your Mega Drive in 1991 was certainly its own kind of reward.
The Mega Drive port of Shikinjou has some enjoyable in-game options. The Game Gear port has, er, portability. Which one reigns supreme? Honestly, they’re both great. I won’t choose one, and you can’t make me. If you try the Game Gear port and you like the tile-pushing, puzzle-solving gameplay, check out the Mega Drive port also. As far as I played, the level designs are unique to both versions, so there’s little-to-no overlap. For me, figuring out where to move the tiles in a particular OCD manner is supremely satisfying. Shikinjou won’t change your life (which is a shame if you invested your life savings into getting your Mega Drive online), but it will brighten your afternoon.