One of my newest addictions has been Shanghai, which is a form of solitaire that uses Mahjong tiles. When you match 2 tiles, they get removed from the board, and the goal is to clear all of them. You can’t just remove the first matching tiles you see though, because you can put yourself in a position where no more moves are available. It’s a really simple concept that can be quite fun and somewhat relaxing.
The first version of the game I played was called Shanghai Mini for the Neo Geo Pocket Color. Well actually it was an emulator on the Raspberry Pi. It was a really well-designed version of the game that offered several different gameplay modes. Practice would let you practice (duh!) on any unlocked stage. The two player mode would let you square off against another NGPC owner via the link cable, or a challenging CPU opponent.
Where the game truly shined though was in its Tournament Mode. This had you facing a series of opponents, and you would have to solve their puzzle before moving on to the next one. A timer is introduced in this mode which keeps things interesting and also adds to the challenge. I usually hate timers in other genres such as platformers, but it actually fits quite well here. There are 12 opponents in total, and it will take some time to defeat them all. A fantastic puzzle game that I would definitely recommend!
After playing through that game, I wanted to see if there were any available on the 3DS eShop. There was only one entitled Shanghai Mahjong. This came out 16 years after Shanghai Mini, but somehow feels like it came out 16 years before it. It also seems like a lazy mobile port at the same time. For starters, you can only use the touch screen in this game. The 3DS has all kinds of buttons and a d-pad that does absolutely nothing here. The only control to use besides the touch screen is the circle pad, which zooms in on an area of the board.
Another issue is that it is incredibly short. There are only 5 boards to play through, and you can complete all of them in less than an hour. You won’t find any extra gameplay modes or any kind of difficulty selection to mess with either. There is an option screen on the main menu, but all that does is let you turn the sound effects on or off, or view the credits. The other option is the leaderboard, which lets you view the fastest clear times on your copy of the game.
Anyone looking to get into Mahjong Solitaire should definitely check out Shanghai Mini on the Neo Geo Pocket Color. You may be tempted to get Shanghai Mahjong on the 3DS solely because it is on a current system and is the only one available, but I would recommend passing on it. There are much better ways to spend 8 bucks.