When I say the word “Mahjong”, it’s likely that you thought of the version that is most prevalent on the PC, which is a tile matching solitaire game where the tiles are arranged in shapes of varying difficulties. That’s certainly the first thing I thought of when I read “Mahjong Pretty Girls Battle” (MPGB) so I was a bit perplexed at how anybody could be battling over a single player game. Looking at the Steam store page though, it turns out that this is a competitive version of mahjong, which is played by four players. This is the first game of that type that I had ever seen on the PC, so when it came around on Weeklong Deals and just over a pound for MGPB and Mahjong Pretty Girl Battle: School Girls Edition (MPGB:SGE) I grabbed it to check it out.
Firstly, the game play. MGPB is a variation of mahjong that uses Japanese rules. It’s a good job that the Steam store page told me this, because this game comes with no tutorial whatsoever and there is no real explanation of how to play. This is not helped by the localisation being pretty terrible. So, if you fire the game up, you will more than likely have no idea what’s going on and it will feel like a confusing mess. The Steam guides offers an extremely good explanation of the rules written by Steam user BeefsteakPrime which can be found here and you can also play a flash version of Japanese Mahjong for free that has the rules included here. For the love of your sanity, please at least read the guide before you play the game or you may end up howling in frustration. Even knowing the rules, the game can still be highly frustrating because all of the calls are done in Japanese, with Japanese text which can make it tricky to follow what’s going on. For example, the very basic basics is to make groups or runs of three tiles and a pair out of your hand either by drawing tiles or by stealing other player’s discards. A steal to make a group of three identical tiles is a “pon”, but as the call is in Japanese (and what’s said doesn’t always seem to match what just happened) I had no clue what was going on at first.
Once massive strength of the game though, is that it prompts you to make a call (for example to declare a win) which will really help you get the hang of the rules. The game also automatically sorts the tiles in your hand to make it easier to spot groups of tiles. Plus, the game also has the ability to tweak special bonus rules to your liking – it doesn’t really tell you what the rules do, but the option’s there if you want it. Anyway, once you are familiar with the rules, the game is mostly enjoyable although the tiles you draw seem to lean towards your character’s strengths. I can’t put my finger on it, but one character in particular seems to be insanely lucky. This isn’t helped by the camera angle – set it to over head or you won’t know what the player opposite you is doing without scrolling, which can lead to surprise wins. This problem seems to be independent of the resolution chosen which makes it even more annoying!
MGPB is styled almost like a fighting game. There is no campaign just battles against a group of thee AI characters. Initially, there are four characters available, but you can unlock more either by playing a certain amount of games, or by getting wins with a certain character. Whilst we’re here, let’s discuss the characters in more detail. These girls are some of the most irritating characters I have ever run across in a video game. One in particular emits a sex moan for a certain call which is just bizarre. I’m probably not the target demographic for this, but the voices are so freaking annoying that I want to break my headphones just to make it stop. It’s a shame too, as the music isn’t bad, but the voices. Ugh.
Speaking of the characters, lets talk about their physical… assets, shall we? Good god, those are some enormous boobs. I figured that there would be skimpy outfits ahoy, but some of the chest sizes are eye popping. MPGB:SGE suffers far more from this. I have never, in anime or anywhere else, seen knockers that size on a school girl. It just doesn’t look right, somehow. Again, though, I’m likely missing the point here. The curious thing, is that the girls aren’t even on the screen that much! During the game, you will mostly just see a table, until a character makes a call, which results in an unskippable cut scene that can really disrupt the flow of the game. These scenes, the end of game scene and the menu are the only time you’ll see the characters.
Now, let’s have a look at MPGB:SE. This won’t take long – it’s the same freaking game. I mean, absolutely identical apart from the characters. The music is the same, the menu is the same, the localisation is still iffy, its THE SAME GAME. So I guess it’s just choose your destiny (or fetish, whichever!). Let’s look at side by side screenshots so you can see what I mean:
Given their similarity, it’s probably worth only picking up one of the games, but I have developed an unhealthy obsession with Japanese Mahjong, so it’s nice to at least have different faces to look at, plus it means that there are double the unlocks! Speaking of unlocks, both of these games feature Steam trading cards for your collecting pleasure.
So, are these games worth buying? Maybe. If you know Japanese Mahjong or are prepared to learn outside the game, then I’d say yes, absolutely, although I’d wait for a sale. The play is fluid, there are custom rulesets and these are the only games of this type I’ve seen on Steam. (You may want to play it muted though!) Otherwise, it’s probably not worth your time or money, especially if you’re more interested in the characters than mahjong.
Mahjong Pretty Girls Battle and Mahjong Pretty Girls Battle: School Girls Edition are made by Zoo Corporation and are available on Steam for £10.99 each or in a package for £18.99.