As you may or may not know already, prolific localiser and publisher eastasiasoft has been getting very cosy with Japanese developer Zoo Corporation of late.
For the unfamiliar, Zoo Corporation is a company that has been around since the late ’80s, and over their time in the business they have developed a wide variety of video games and medical prescription systems — nothing like having a few strings to your bow, huh? In more recent years, they have been most known for their nukige and eroge series, but a few years back they also jumped into the popular “girls with guns” subgenre of mobile games, most known for titles such as Azur Lane, Arknights and Girls’ Frontline.
Their take on this enduringly popular subgenre of gacha games, Rick G Earth, may be no more after its closure in 2019 — but its character designs and artwork live on through the Bishoujo Battle series. Much like how Zoo’s Pretty Girls series takes characters from their nukige and eroge titles and puts them into various other contexts, so too does the Bishoujo Battle series borrow characters from Rick G Earth and place them in other situations.
We’ve already seen these girls in a “Gals Panic”-style game in the form of Bishoujo Battle Cyber Panic — now it’s time for them to get the mahjong solitaire treatment, just like their Pretty Girls counterparts.
As you might expect, Bishoujo Battle Mahjong Solitaire unfolds almost identically to Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire, but for the benefit of those unfamiliar, allow me to explain a little further.
Mahjong solitaire, also sometimes known as Shanghai solitaire, is a simple game that uses mahjong tiles spread out on the table in various aesthetically pleasing arrangements, usually several “layers” of tiles deep. Your aim is to remove all the tiles from the table by picking up pairs of matching “free” tiles — these are tiles that can be slid out from the arrangement sideways without disturbing any others. Clear the table and you win; get into a situation where there are no further possible moves and you lose.
In Bishoujo Battle Mahjong Solitaire, much like Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire before it, you’re against the clock. Each level has a fairly generous time limit to begin with, and you get more time back with every match you make — but as you progress through the game, the arrangements get more complicated, requiring more “thinking time”, and you also may find yourself wanting to pursue the time bonuses in order to compete on the game’s online leaderboards.
For those frustrated by either the ability to get “stuck” or the time limit, Bishoujo Battle Mahjong Solitaire provides an optional easy mode you can activate in the options menu if you so desire; this removes the scoring and time systems altogether and instead allows you to use “hints” and “shuffles” to make your life a bit easier. The former highlights a match you can make right now, while the latter rearranges the remaining tiles on the table to get you out of a sticky situation. If you prefer a simpler puzzling experience without any pressure, the option is there; just note that you can’t compete on the leaderboards in this mode.
Bishoujo Battle Mahjong Solitaire unfolds in bite-sized chunks. When you play, you pick a character and then one of their available costumes. You’ll then have three rounds of mahjong solitaire to play, the third and final of which will reward you with a new outfit for the girl you chose.
Unlike in Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire, where the outfits were all for the same pose, in Bishoujo Battle Mahjong Solitaire, a costume change is also usually accompanied by a change in pose, too. To this end, rather than providing the simple “curtain of light” being drawn across the character to gradually reveal the new outfit as in Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire, Bishoujo Battle Mahjong Solitaire makes use of a visually appealing and dynamic “optic camouflage” sort of effect that gives you hints of the girl’s new look before finally revealing it on completion of the stage.
The ultimate aim of the game is, as you might expect, to see all the girls in all their different outfits — there are also two characters to unlock once you’ve seen everything the starting cast has to offer.
It’s worth noting that given the background of the character designs in this game, the overall vibe is markedly less lewd than Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire; the various outfits for the girls are, for the most part, designed to be visually striking and “cool” rather than overtly sexy — that said, there is the odd bit of fanservice in there in the form of maid outfits and the like.
The game also lacks voice, unlike its predecessor. This is likely due to the fact that Rick G Earth was also unvoiced outside of Japan due to those ever-troublesome copyright and licensing issues. It’s not a huge deal — the Pretty Girls never had much to say beyond making provocative noises as you progressed through their stages — but it does leave Bishoujo Battle Mahjong Solitaire feeling a bit quieter than its predecessor.
One area where it is noticeably weaker is the music. While Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire featured a wide variety of music, with several unique tracks for each girl, Bishoujo Battle Mahjong Solitaire features more generic music that is applied to all the girls — one for their initial two stages, then a second, more intense number for their “changing” stage.
The music tracks are very good, to be fair — it’s just a shame there aren’t more of them. And since the game once again makes use of freely available, royalty-free music — this time by the excellent MusMus — it would have been a relatively simple matter to add a few more songs to the mix, as budget would not have been a constraint.
Ultimately, most of the things you can say about Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire also apply to Bishoujo Battle Mahjong Solitaire. It’s a solidly implemented, slickly presented take on a classic casual puzzle game, and a great title to have available at a moment’s notice for handheld play on the Switch — once again, it particularly shines if played on touchscreen with a nice stylus.
Should you buy a copy if you already have Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire? Sure! You get more puzzles, more girls, more outfits and some new music — albeit not nearly enough of the latter. Plus, y’know, it’s a fiver; that’s pocket change these days.
As for newcomers to Zoo and eastasiasoft’s lineup of appealing casual games? This is as good a place to start as any. Just don’t blame me if you find yourself burning the midnight oil trying to blast through a particularly tricky tile arrangement — I’ve been there and I know how easily it happens!
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