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Name: Sho-Ki
Type: MJ
Platform: WINDOWS
Company: Cs Ware Of Japan
Release date: 1990
Reviewed by: Unicorn

This game is a mahjonng game with a story and some RPG-elements. In order to continue the story, all available opponents have to be beaten in mahjonng. A completely beaten opponent becomes a characters that you might choose to accompany you at a later mahjonng games against the next opponents. By winning games, the characters (including the players character) are awarded experience points, that might be used to increase three different character values (no, not the three sizes of the girls). Besides this "Story Mode", the game also has a "Battle mode" that offers an opportunity to challenge human opponents via a LAN. However, since my computer is not connected to a LAN, the game does not give me access to that mode, so I can only cover the "Story Mode" in this review.

The story takes place at a highschool (maybe, you would say a fairly normal manga highschool, featuring all kinds of pupils, including robo- and catgirls). The players character (Kichijouji Kai) loves to play mahjonng and wants to become a regular member of the mahjonng-club of the school. However, at that day, when he went together with his classmate Ekoda Shoko (who secretly seems to have a crush on him) to the mahjongg-club, they arrive at a scene of horror: All the regular member of the club lie around in the room, unconcious. The tables are all broken in half. Everywhere in the room, there are mahjongg-tiles scattered on the ground. Some people are even pinned to the ground with counting-sticks. So, suddenly, the whole mahjonng-club is reduced to him and Shoko.

Because two people are not enought for a decent game of mahjonng and in order to rebuild the mahjonng-club as well as to investigate, who did that to the former mebers, Kai and Shoko start to challenge mebers of other clubs in mahjonng. If these other clubmembers lose, they have to join the new mahjonng-club and have to tell them everything, they know or suspect about the incident.

The game has two different modes (a story mode and a battle mode). The battle mode offers an option to play against human opponents via a LAN. I have not tried that mode (because my computer is not connected to a LAN, the game does not even give me an option to start that mode), so this review counts only for the story-singleplayer mode.

The game starts as a visual novel, but very soon, it concentrates on the main objective: playing strip-mahjonng. From the beginning, there are two clubs each with three members available to be challenged. The player has to select, which four characters (opponents, as well as allies) shall participate in the game. After all available opponents are beaten, the story continues, introducing new opponents.

The game looks at first like a regular mahjonng game, but sometimes, the opponents use nasty tricks (or "magic attacks") that would either give them back an article of clothing or change the rules of the game temporarily (not everytime to their own advantage).

If a character wins a game, this character gets experience points and after a certain amount of experience points got on this characters account, it levels up and could be modified in three different character values. These values affect the playing abilities of the players character (for example, the probability to draw the required last tile from the wall) as well as the abilities of the other characters to support him or the chances of the opponents to win against him.

The BGM of Sho-Ki consists of a few (not very much) themes in CD-DA-quality. However, these few themes are really pleasent to listen to, without being that special, they would distract from the game itself. All characters (except Kai) have nice voice-acting. During the Mahjongg games, these voices are only used for announcements like "Riichi", "Tsumo", "Rong" and the yakus at the end of each game.

During the story, there are several different backgrounds on that the currently talking characters are pasted on, as well as some special graphics for special situations. The quality of these graphics is comparable with the graphics of state-of-the-art-titles like "Snow Drop" or "Tokimeki CHeckIn!". In the Mahjonng-sequences, the playing characters are reduced to faces of the characters, that shows their current situation (score, not their current hand!) by their expression. All characters are quite cute, each of them with its special kind of cuteness, even the mechanical robogirl Shiina Tomoki (have you ever seen an embarrased machine? Ahhh, yes, I remember: Elise in CP!). The striping-scenes are animated, but the h-scenes, that follow straight after the last article of clothing is removed are also standing pictures with voice-acting and textwindow. These pictures (as well as the high-resolution animations) have the same quality, as the already mentioned grahics during the story.

If an opponent loses a game, it has to strip an article of clothing. Each strip is diplayed as an animation. The animations are available in two different resolutions. The lower resolution is part of the data, that are copied during the installation and is always available, when the game is started. The animations in higher resolution are on the second CD. If the game detects the second CD in a CD-drive, it would play them instead of the installed animations.

User Interface:
While the story is told, the graphics occupy the whole screen and the text is displayed in an transparent window that could be either moved to the top or the bottom of the screen (or temporarily entirely hidden in order to view the whole graphic instead). Most of the time, the story is just told and the player has to achmowledge the text after reading by clicking. However, at some (very few) times, the player has to decide between different options, that are displayed in the textwindow by pointing on one of the displayed choices and clicking.

During the mahjongg game, the user-interface is quite intuative: The mousepointer becomes a finger to select the tile, currently to discard. If a special situation arises (the player has "Mahjonng", an opponent discards a tile, the player could use or the player could announce "Riichi"), a menu pops up, offering the player the currently available actions. This could become a little bit annoying, if the player has a "Riichi"-situation and doesn't want to call "Riichi", because the menu pops up everytime at the players turn. However this menu does not force the player to select one option, so the player has simply to ignore the displayed menu in order to continue without declaring "Riichi".

After the story is finished the first time, an "Extras"-menu is added to the title screen. This menu allows access to all animations and graphics and H-scenes, that have been seen during the game (it is not necessary to beat all characters in order to finish the game, so some CGs, animations and h-scenes could still be missing here). Also some additional graphics and a lot of phrases, told by the cat-girl-chara "" are available in this menu.

In addition to this, there is also a small surprise included in the installed game (no, I am not talking of a virus!).

My personal opinion:
Despite the fact, that the magical attacks were sometimes really annoying, I enjoyed this game very much. Of course, one of the reasons for this is, I really like mahjonng, so it was no problem for me to get attached to the players character (even if he is quite more a ladies man than me). Also the cute characters with matching voice-acting were a completely new experience for me (hey, I only played simple mahjonng-games before, that had only different sets of tiles as eye-catcher, no opponent characters, just opponent hands and of cause no-one (except myself), getting angry for losing and no underlying story as motivation for continuing playing). So, it has the advantage of being my first bishoujo-mahjonng game and thus I may judge it a bit better, than it deserves.

After this game, my secong bishoujo-mahjonng-game was "Datsui-Jann-2" and if I compare these two games, I still can't decide which of them was more fun. Because of the story the characters in Sho-Ki did not only appear as nice and rewarding eye-candy, but gave them also a bit of a personality.

The characters of "Datsui-Jann-2" on the other hand are characters, that are taken from other games. So, if I had the according games played before, they would have been even better developed, because their stories are complete adventures and would be far better written, than the small background story of Sho-ki. This would have given them even the advantage of a "Long-time-no-see"-effect.
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