Sunday, July 31, 2011

DX Jinsei Game - The Game of LIFE

When going through my latest stack of Sega Saturn discs (thank you, internet), I found this entertaining little gem of a game.  It's DX Jinsei Game, or The Game of LIFE (1995), by Takara for Sega Saturn.  This is the third title in a very long and popular series that has appeared on most game systems from Gameboy to Playstation to Wii.  Do you remember the tropical island board game from last year's Wii Party?  Well, probably not, judging by the lackluster sales.  But DX Jinsei is kinda like that.

I don't know if The Game of LIFE is different in Japan than the US, because this video game version is quite different from the board game I played as a kid.  The basic premise is still there - you drive a car and move through a winding pathway, earning degrees, getting married, making money.  Takara's version is quite a bit different, adapted both for Japanese culture and the video game medium.  I really enjoyed this, because it kept me on my toes.  It felt like a new discovery for me.

The game plays like a hybrid of the original board game and Mario Party, only without any arcade mini-games.  There are various squares that lead to good or bad events, opportunities for winning money or buying items.  Oftentimes, you're presented with a choice to be made, like whether to claim a lost purse as your own, or find the owner.  These are nice character-building exercises, even if I am just guessing (I can barely read Japanese).

The dating squares are even more interesting.  Instead of just getting married and collecting pins for yoru car, you have to court someone from a group of singles, male and female.  Yeah, you can actually marry as a gay couple in this game.  First date is basically luck, but the second and third dates require you to choose a gift and destination (is karaoke night a good idea for a 2nd date?).  You may be rejected, or you'll win and get married.  Then you can have a child, but interestingly, only one.  Japanese culture, no doubt.  It's an interesting twist; as you earm more money as your family grows, you can't waste time chasing the wrong person or playing the field.

There are three different boards in DX Jinsei, but even the short board takes around 90 minutes to finish with 2-4 players.  There's a reason a save option is available, kids.  You can customize your car and your character, which is kind of a precursor to Nintendo's Miis.  There's a lot of goofy characters and situations...and have I mentioned how trippy this game is?  The graphics skew to the colorful and the psychedelic, almost to the point where you openly wonder if the CD came with a package of morning glory seeds.  Even the music has this slightly off-pitch, haunting quality .  This is definitely a Summer of Love video game!

I was very pleasantly surprised by this game.  I only planned to play for a couple minutes, before moving through my large stack of CD-Rs.  Instead, I played through an entire game and even started a second before heading off to bed.  I can see this being a lot of fun with four people, some music on the turntable, and root beers all around.  At some point, I'll have to buy the sequel, which appears to be more refined and polished in every way.  Thankfully, these are the sort of Saturn games you can score on eBay for less than five bucks.  You'll definitely get your money's worth.

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