Solaris Japan

Friday, 14 March 2014

Snes Review : Yujin no Furi Furi Girl (Game 033)

Pop open a box for any game of the 16 bit era and you’ll see a little book. This is called the Instructions, some call it the manual, but all agree it’s filled with words (sometimes pictures) that explain how you play a game. Nowadays you don’t get these little books of course, at best you get an on disc version or a download code to get a digital copy for your tablet or phone. It doesn’t matter of course, as children we only ever read them if we need something to do on the bus home after buying the game.  It was good to know they were there though, as without the internet they served as a safety net if you ever got lost in a game or were unsure how to do the specific action needed to continue.

These mysterious books were also in board games too, and like the video game manuals were largely ignored in my house. In retrospect this maybe wasn’t the best thing to do, as without the written laws of the game we often had to make up the rules as we went, something my brother would use to his advantage. “No, if you’re playing as red you have to actually Connect 5”, “I’m the top hat which means I get an extra hundred Monopoly pounds because I’m Upper Class”, “I’m older so I get two Hungry Hungry Hippos” – I really shouldn’t have been so trusting.


The rules of a Table Top game are often much more complex than Video Games rules, mainly because to the un-initiated they don’t have the distinct game types that video games do. While they all usually have playing pieces, dice and a board, they often have extra bits and bobs too. What you do with this whole mess of plastic varies massively between games, even if on the surface the contents of each board game box looks very similar. With this in mind, it is a bit of a mystery why I decided that I should attempt to play a computerised version of a board game, which was available exclusively in Japan and had almost entirely Japanese text. This time I didn’t look at the instructions not because I was eager to get on with rolling the dice, but because I couldn’t read them. This was never going to be an easy ride.

When you think about it, a video game version of an existing table top game actually makes some degree of sense. The game has been tried and tested, and is known to work in an enjoyable way. The boring complex elements (be it the finances in 'Monopoly' or the spell checking in 'Scrabble') can be done by artificial intelligence, meaning you can focus solely on the fun game parts. Plus of course, if you’re on your own with no one to join you in a game, the computer can take on the role of your opponent and a two player game can still be enjoyed. The specific game I’m attempting to play, was as far as I know never a real table top game (it’s far too bonkers for that) but it uses the logic. Yujin no Furi Furi Girl as a fantasy board game allows up to four players to compete against each other with the goal being to retrieve a key hidden in a board and then use this to open the door to glory. The four playable characters; Lucy, Midori, Alice and May, are all young scantily clad female anime stereotypes (the Furi Furi Girls of the title). I’m reliably informed by a friend who can translate the madness that they live in a secret flower garden called ‘Princess Land’ where young men are prohibited.

Apparently there is all sorts of trouble awaiting them, but whoever manages to open the door to glory first will become the one true Furi Furi Girl.

This is clearly a very Japanese game targeted at men. There are no human male characters  and with the game set on a floating paradise in the sky there is an abundance of angel goddess charming you after each roll of the dice (dressed of course in just a sheet that barely covers their ‘heavenly bodies’). But despite its excessively suggestive anime art style, 'Yujin no Furi Furi Girl' at its core actually like any traditional western board game. The players simply roll the dice and move the amount of spaces show. If a player’s anime girly happens to land on another player's square or one occupied by an evil foe, a battle is triggered. Though this may plunge you into a 'Final Fantasy'-esque battle screen, the fighting system is as simple and random as you can possibly get. 
There’s no weapons, magic spells, techs, or arts; this is the world of ‘Rock Paper Scissors’ battles or Jan-ken-pon as it’s known in Japan. This naturally means little skill and a lot of luck is needed. Winning a battle gets you JL (pounced Gee lou - the game’s currency it seems) but the more interesting thing about the game is that losing takes people to the dark and malicious side of the board. In this state of purgatory characters constantly lose their money and for some reason turn into a blue zombie. This isn’t the only way that the game takes a u-turn into the world of the strange though, as after every turn a play has to spin a punishment or reward roulette wheel. The rewards are logical enough, a currency or stat boost (which makes little difference in battle) but the punishments seem
like the result of the game designers having a brain storming session after too much Sake. Spin the roulette well and get a negative result and you’re just as likely to be pushed back several squares by a Sumo Wrestler as you are to be abducted by a UFO. You could have a lucky spin, and get a weapon that kills all enemies instantly, or get crushed by a weight that removes all your wealth and health. I’ve had games where my pretty lady has ended up being tied up (with movement restricted to one square at a time) yet still managed to win when a tsunami blew me to the exit. This all sums up the main problem with the game, it’s all just to random.

I’m all for surprise elements, but they remove any need for skill to play this game. You never really feel in control of your destiny, since even if you have had all the good fortune possible for a whole game you can still loose against an opponent  because you chose rock rather than scissors on the last turn. Games can last hours upon hours, simply because the opponent defeated the boss and got the key to the Glory Door before you did. However despite having the one item that will allow them to win, they seem to make no consistent attempt to get to the exit and end the madness. Of course you can get the key off them, and still win but the chances of achieving this are minimal. To do it, you have to land on the exact same square as your opponent, passing them wont  trigger the battle that you need to win to steal the key off them.
"Is it my turn yet?" Yes please just end this!
Even getting to a battle screen doesn’t guarantee success, as victory is only possible through random luck. Frustration will lead you to turn the game off, more often than stick with it.
Despite the game being practically un-winnable I did find myself coming back for more and even now I can’t quite figure out why.  It looks nice enough, with the characters reminding me a bit of Chrono Trigger at times, but this wasn’t why I kept on coming back. Mad Japanese games are always appealing, but despite having no idea what unique  blend of crazy was coming next I cant claim this is why I kept on coming back either. The only reason I can think of for my mild addiction to a pretty but terrible Super Famicom game was because I didn’t want it to beat me – which is odd as I don’t usually enjoy a game that punishes me. Because the chance of getting into the Glory Door seemed so impossible I felt compelled to prove the game wrong; I wanted to justify the amount of time I had sunk into the game.  I wish the reward was suitable for all the effort, but I promise you it was not. Success happened quite unexpectedly, I was having a terrible run of luck, the computer was randomly strolling about with the key a few squares from the exit (without going in) and I was playing the game while falling slowly into a pixalated trance. Another bad roll, and I ended up on some money sapping slime, but the end of turn roulette wheel offered a UFO, which for no apparent reason put me directly on top of my opponent. Only paying half attention (the lure of the pretty girls had worn off) I rhythmically tapped the button choosing rock, and through no skill on my part won every round. Now with the key in my possession, I could win provided I rolled exactly the same number on the dice as squares between me and the Glory Door.
There were four squares, I rolled a four. I had finally won, I was elated and somewhat confused as to how this had happened in a game I was minutes ago losing.  By paying no attention what so ever, not even looking at the screen I had managed to do what was impossible for me when I was concentrating attentively.
My little sprite lady did a dance, and I was ready for some sort of life affirming ending  that I would rush home and tell my children about. I was disappointed. Included here is the ending in its entirety, two pages of text and the same scantily clad lady you had seen countless times throughout game play.  I of course couldn’t read what she said but I do hope it was something profound and not something amazing accurate like “you have wasted eight frustrating hours playing a game filled with random lunacy, now turn off your Super Nintendo and go to sleep!”  


So if randomly luck is your thing, you will probably get much enjoyment from Furi Furi Girls.  It’s a simple board game that despite attempts to surprise with the outrageous and the unpredictable never really requires any skill to play. 

Evidently unlike the board games of yesteryear, this is one board game where you don’t really need to read the instructions to win. Even if you do, there’s no way you can possibly know what’s going to happen next and being able to press one button repeatedly without looking is actually more likely to bring you success.

Where did I get this game from?
Cost against hours played, this game was amazing value. £2.99 to buy on eBay with free postage. The poor guy who sold it actually made a loss thanks to Royal Mail’s prices, maybe he was just pleased to see the back of it! It’s boxed and complete, with the all important instructions – which look nice but wont hep you to win. I’m pleased I have it, and will probably look back on the game fondly once the disappointment of the ending is forgotten.


To import games from Japan, eBay isn't your only option of course. I always check on sites like Solaris Japan as often they have a game in stock cheaper than the final price it goes for on eBay. The also have a few gadget that removes any worry of getting charged extra at customs, so they're worth a look.

Without Sara I would have been tied up in knots!
There is no way I could have stood any chance playing this, let alone understanding the story without a friend of mine acting as translator. If you ever need to know what the squiggly letters mean in a Japanese game mean you should look up Sara Ruehlman, or read her great new blog ‘Random Encounters’ that looks at obscure Japanese RPGs. If you do contact her though, I’d suggest you probably shouldn’t remind her of this game –she has a hatred for one of the characters that I doubt will ever fade!

2 comments:

  1. As someone who plays Japanese games on a regular basis, I know I'm making quite a statement when I say that this is easily in the top five on the weirdness scale. Completely random and downright unplayable at points, the amount of time that you were able to put into this game was amazing. I honestly think that it could have been a decent game, if the overcomplicated, random system hadn't been its own worst enemy. By the way, if you see that thieving bunny girl anywhere, tell her that I still want my magical bling back.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The art style of this game reminds me so much of the old Phantasy Star games. Phantasy Star III in particular.

    ReplyDelete