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Haunted Casino (Saturn) artwork

Haunted Casino (Saturn) review

"These garments are handed over to the very approving imp in exchange for heaving stacks of chips nearly as abundant as those newly revealed pleasure globes until at last your bankrupt beauty goes down with a hilariously inept video of the poor lass being sucked into a black hole, presumably in search of some pants."

No gaming collection is truly complete without bowing down in supplication to the Sega Saturn, that mighty hoard of import classics whose old-school awesomeness are matched only by their equally outrageous price tags. Lurking beneath the copies of Keio Yugekitai and Cotton Boomerang, however, is a seamy underbelly of softcore porn games that sometimes cost even more, games like this unusually themed but typically wretched adult gambling sim that artlessly fuses pixelated FMVs, tedious exploration and downright unfair gameplay with a veritable onslaught of supple, Satanic skin. Even ignoring the cost to one's immoral immortal soul it's often almost insultingly expensive, placing it well beneath my notice until encountering a complete set almost as cheap as the card-flinging floozies.

As a hardened gaming investigator, my duty was clear: to stoically endure the horrors and hussies of the Haunted Casino, a gothic manse where demonic temptresses deal decks for souls and a lecherous imp offers both occasional support and frequent mockery. Taking a page from The 7th Guest handbook of multimedia fluff, only without any of the cool effects like phantoms beckoning you down hallways or gore-spattered paintings, this casino of the carnal requires you to creep through a series of grainy prerendered rooms and corridors while occasionally examining something in order to get from game to game. Sometimes you'll need to uncover a key in order to progress to the next area, or pick up an optional spell that's supposed to help you win a hand; occasionally you might even get locked in a coffin by an ambulatory skeleton and forced to pay the imp to let you out – but most of your time is merely spent sitting through painfully slow animations wandering along the same lifeless passage for the tenth time and then opening yet another creaky door. Thanks to these unskippable transitions and an unhealthy amount of loading it almost seems to take more time crawling to your next opponent than subsequently stripping off her skivvies.

That's not to say that this game lacks for nubile nudity, far from it; there is in fact an almost obscene amount of obscenity. A typical match with one of the seven available dealers is divided into three separate rounds wherein she starts out in corsets and colorful gowns before being reduced to filmy, silken underthings that leave nothing to the imagination until they too are cast aside to reveal naught but cold, creamy flesh for the final battle. These garments are handed over to the very approving imp in exchange for heaving stacks of chips nearly as abundant as those newly revealed pleasure globes until at last your bankrupt beauty goes down with a hilariously inept video of the poor lass being sucked into a black hole, presumably in search of some pants. Shockingly enough the developer actually seems to have put an unusual amount of effort into this – every girl sports a varied selection of different poses and facial expressions for each round in addition to occasional close-up shots and frequent voiced dialogue that's a mixture of Japanese, Engrish and, uh, moans. They're not the sort of moans associated with rotting revenants clawing their way free from the bosom of the earth, either. Unfortunately even a horde of lurching zombies would have displayed more lifelike animation; the current frame simply changes quickly with noticeable ghosting to imply movement. The supernatural theme makes for some pretty outlandish character designs as well, with the ubiquitous catgirl being joined by a mermaid, to say nothing of all the pointy elf ears, feathery wings, and carefully placed tails.

"Sexy dynamite."

In a rather less shocking revelation, however, the actual gambling is basically a tacked-on afterthought that makes precious little use of the whole "casino from Hell" premise, with only three games to play other than the one-time appearance of a roulette wheel: standard, boring blackjack or poker along with a simple guess as to whether the next card will make the value of your hand higher or lower than a specific amount. Yet fittingly enough for a gaming house run by chaotic demonspawn, the computer blatantly cheats – at times you're simply not allowed to win regardless of your choices, forcing you to continually bet the minimum amount until the AI eventually decides to play normally again. Well, that or watch helplessly as your opponent buys back her clothes, knocking you back to the previous round while that damned imp gives you the evil eye. I'm sure this would have been extremely frustrating on an actual Saturn console without the equally unfair advantage of save states, but two can play at that game.

Whether through perseverance or underhanded trickery, the act of banishing your opponent to the Abyss subsequently lets you select from a wide variety of pictures and movies for later viewing; these are huge spreads in high resolution that feature copious scrolling and zooming, and they're actually sort of impressive – well, for a bunch of leggy devil women clad in nothing but heels, that is. Maybe you're into that sort of thing. The thought of watching some elfin eryines from the Pit coyly cupping her cartoonish curves is hardly compelling to one such as myself; why, the mere thought of it makes me want to shrug my shoulders with manly indifference before donning protective plate mail and delivering a holy smite attack up to three times per day. Besides, I've experienced the PC-9801.

For a far superior gallery of paranormal paramours I'd instead recommend the Atlus romance Imadoki no Vampire, which replaces nudity and naughtiness with good, clean throat-biting and has the further benefit of actually being fun to play. This game, while certainly unique, is fit only for Japanese perverts and shifty Saturn fiends, therefore I'll be passing along my copy to fellow staffer Zigfried for Christmas as per his yearly letter to Satan.



sho's avatar
Staff review by Sho (October 27, 2010)

Sho enjoys classic video games, black comedy, and poking people until they explode -- figuratively or otherwise. He also writes a bit.

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zigfried posted October 27, 2010:

Fantastic review, and the HOle bit at the end left me speechless. Fortunately I can still type and no one else wants to actually talk to me right now.

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CoarseDragon posted October 27, 2010:

Um, yes, tastefully done.
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sho posted October 28, 2010:

That's me, Mr. Taste.

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