7.5 / 10 Banzai!s
There are a number of games here in Japan that were never exported overseas, either due to the company’s small size, an inability to set up a foreign publisher, or simply believing the game is too directed at the Japanese market. Then there’s game that wouldn’t even be considered to make a dime outside of Japan.
Then there’s PachiPara17.
Walk into any gaming shop in Japan, and you should be able to find at least a dozen pachinko games for every console, and the PlayStation 3 is no exception. What is pachinko, you might ask? In a nutshell, a pachinko machine is like a cross between a slot and pinball machine, with flashy lights and often taking on themes, ranging from Evangilion: Neo Genesis, to Star Wars. Stick money in the slot, from 1,000 to 10,000 yen notes ($10 to $100) turn the dial to adjust the power of output, and watch the small silver balls bounce through an assortment of pins, making their way to the bottom. Either you’ll lose them, recollect them, or have them fall into a small opening which sets off the “slot machine” on the screen. Get three in a row, and win a ton more balls.
Gambling is illegal in Japan – but don’t worry, there’s always a loophole. Once you’ve had enough, you can gather your balls and bring them to the counter, who will add them up and hand you a ticket. Take the ticket to a different location (usually around the corner) and exchange it for cash. As long as the cash isn’t exchanged at the same location, it’s okay.
Irem, perhaps most well known in the West for their side-scrolling shooter, R-Type, is behind the PachiPara series, and 17 is their third on the PlayStation 3, released in 2011. And yes, there are a total of seventeen PachiPara games, which started on the PlayStation One. The title, パチパラ17 ～新海物語Withアグネス・ラム～ can be roughly translated as Pachinko Parlour 17: New Sea Story Featuring Agnes Lum, Agnes Lum being a Hawaiian model made famous in Japan by the babyboomer generation.
So how do you play a video game version of a pachinko game? The same way you play a regular pachinko – only with virtual money.
In Free Mode, you’re given enough balls to last you about an hour, though the time limit is two. Use the D-pad to adjust the strength of the ball’s firing into the machine, then sit back and wait. While hosted by Marin-chan, Karin-chan, and Sam, the sea-loving virtual idols made famous by the real pachinko parlour, the images on the “slot” portion of the machine are sea creatures, ranging from sharks and turtles, to yellow tropical fish. Occasionally you might get a “reach,” in which the top and bottom rows match. Here you have a chance to mash the square button, hoping to slow down the middle row in order to get three of the same creatures lined up. In most cases, this doesn’t happen. But occasionally you get a “Lucky,” in which an explosion of balls are granted as you watch either a music video of Agnes Lum, or Marin-chan and Karin-chan singing on stage with some bizarre English lyrics.
In addition to Free mode, there’s also Battle Mode, where the set time is 10 minutes. Here, the “Reaches” count as points as you play pachinko against the CPU. And if you think that’s not enough, there’s even an Online Battle mode, where you can compete your luck in multiplayer.
But wait, is that all you do? Adjust the knob with the D-pad, and occasionally mash the square button? Surely you don’t play this game by just sitting there for two hours and watching balls drop.
Yup, you do.
What I Liked:
Since the game is obviously intended for – and thereby limited to – fans of pachinko, there wasn’t a whole lot they could have done. But Irem certainly did their best, and filled the game with as much pachinko-related stuff as they could. Aside from the three different modes, you can even read through an instructional tutorial on how to play a real pachinko machine, learn the good and bad manners at a pachinko parlour, and collect an assortment of picture cards for each variety of “Reach” you get. In addition, if you win a set number of “Luckies,” the game takes you to the official website which grants you a code. Take it to the pachinko parlour, and redeem it for something. (Haven’t tried, so I’m not quite sure what it is you get – I’m guessing it’s a free box of balls to use on the machine).
The presentation is great as well. Much like in a Hitchcock film, there’s a long moment where nothing’s happening – the balls keep dropping, there’s the occasional “Reach,” and you sit there watching with mild boredom. Then suddenly you get three slots in a row, Marine-chan shouts “Lucky!” and the machine flashes like crazy, and you feel excited. You grab the controller, ready to change Marine-chan’s bikini design before the next round, while your heart thunders in your chest from the thrill.
What I Didn’t Like:
This is simply one of those games geared towards a very specific type of player. Mainly, those interested in Pachinko. I could argue that it would be nice to have something to do for those two hours instead of just watching balls drop, and occasionally mashing the square button. But anything more, and it wouldn’t be a proper pachinko game. Irem has already graciously allowed the player to adjust the ball’s power with the D-pad, then leave it; while at a real pachinko parlour, you need to hold the knob with your hand the whole time.
Otherwise, there’s nothing really else to say about this game. No complaints about loading time or any bugs. But it’s not a game I would recommend to just anyone, either.
PachiPara17: Shin-Umi Monogatari With Agunes Ramu is, like AKB 1/149 and Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f, a difficult game to review because it’s targeted at a specific kind of player. If you’re not interested in pachinko, then there’s no way you would find PachiPara17 fun to play. Even professional pachinko players might get bored, since they’re not winning real money.
But for what it is, Irem did a great job of attempting to bring the pachinko experience into your home. Winning this game all just comes down to luck. And if you’re in it for the trophies, the time it takes to platinum can take anywhere from 100 to 500 hours – again, depending on your luck. But if you’re someone interested in learning more about the culture of pachinko and want to see what it’s all about, then PachiPara17 might be the game for you.
It’s certainly cheaper than losing 50,000 yen at a real pachinko parlour.