The Land of the Rising Sun gets a visit from our very own multiple personality, Tony Dillon.
A s so many Japanese games filter their way into the European market via the console sector, it's interesting to find a game that provides a Westerner's view of the Orient, complete with overcrowded tube trams and more gadgets and squalor in a square mile than you'd find in one London borough! Of course, this isn't truly representative of our views, but playing up to stereotypes is always good for a laugh.
MAKING IT UP
The game is set in the fictional city of Tyoko, and centres around three ex convicts recently released from prison. The first, Donna Fatale, is a saucy night-club dancer who is repeatedly arrested due to one of her more risqué dances. Doug Nuts is a scientific genius with no looks and no personality - he's arrested for blowing open a vault only to find it full of police. Finally, there's Dino Fagioli, a mountain of a man with all the strength and brains of your average JCB digger. Gullible in the extreme, his only crime was to help a man open a car door - which didn't belong to him! When the police arrived at the scene, the man was nowhere to be seen and poor Dino was left holding the baby!
You can choose to play any of these characters, or all three if you so desire. Each has a part to play in the overall story, but that doesn't mean you need to control them all. If you like, you can just play one of the characters, meeting the others at the appropriate moments, but that takes all the ingenuity out of it.
The most interesting thing about this system, called Parallaction, is that all three stones follow different paths, crossing rarely but always relevant to each other. Dino, for example, starts his freedom with a job in the Museum, whereas Donna will go back to the club where she was arrested and look for her old friends. Before too long, though, all three get caught up in the same plot and the game proper begins.
Looking at the screenshots, you've probably guessed that this is a graphic adventure, although a lot simpler than most. There are no icon clutter up the screen to make a character over it, and no information panels permanently displayed. All commands are issued by the mouse, either by clicking on an area of the screen to make a character walk over to it, or by clicking the right mouse button to bring up the control panel.
The first time I saw the control panel, I had a few doubts. There are only four control icons - open/close, examine, take and talk. Alongside them are any items you migt carrying, but that's it. Obviously you'll think something along the lines of 'Oh, there aren't many actions you can do, the game must be really easy'. Not at all. The nice thing about this game is the large sequence of actions required to solve a puzzle, rather than one particular action from a list of dozens.
You'll note that there are only real object manipulation icons - open and take. That's because the rest of the game is fairly intelligent. If you highlight a goldfish and then drag it over a fishtank, it knows that you aren't trying to unlock the fishtank the same way, the game won't let you perform actions that have nothing to do with the game. It might be funny feed the goldfish to a cat, but try it and the game won't register anything. Why waste time?
Nippon Safes are based around picking objects up and using them in different locations. Once an object is collected, you can't put it down until it's served its logical function, so it's best to collect everything you can.
As each character works through their story, they will occasionally bump into the other two. This lets you connect the three games together. For instance, at one stage Donna has to learn to make tea. She goes to a tea shop to ask for instructions, and while outside notices a poster offering a huge cash prize in a wrestling tournament. She bumps into Dino and persuades him to go in for it. It you play as Dino, you are walking through the market square when you bump into Donna and she convinces you to enter the tournament. The fun part of playing all three is seeing each scene from the various viewpoints.
The game is very funny, right from the start. Most of the humour comes from the conversations the characters have with other people and themselves. Dino's naive insights into life, the universe and everything are amazing, and the smart Alec answers you'll receive from Doug Nuts every time you try something stupid have to be seen!
Nippon Safes isn't the most original graphic adventure, nor is it the most challenging. It is a playable and entertaining game however, and if you're looking for something to while away a week or two, you could certainly do a lot worse.
CU Amiga, June 1993, p.p.58-59