Sega Ages Ichidant-R (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 18.10.2019

Review for Sega Ages Ichidant-R on Nintendo Switch

Those reading this and were fans of Sega in the early '90s, probably have heard of Bonanza Bros. That arcade title, ported to the Mega Drive/Genesis early in its life-cycle, was quite iconic back in its day, and a well-known first party Sega title that keeps coming back in compilations, and even recently on the Mega Drive Mini. Fewer people, if any outside of Japan, will know that this received spin-offs in the form of Puzzle & Action: Tant-R and Puzzle and Action: Ichidant-R, which from here on out will simply be refered to as Ichidant-R for the sake of simplicity. In fact, if it wasn't for the Japanese Mega Drive port of Tant-R being the subject of an episode of the Japanese TV-show Game Center CX, this reviewer would have probably never even heard of those spin-offs. Yet, in 2019, the second of those titles, Ichidant-R releases in the west for the very first time, as non-Japanese audiences can bask in its influential nature that likely inspired many other games of its kind that came later.

Now, media on the game, advertisements, and even the full title suggests that this is a puzzle game, at least in some part. However, in the strictest sense of the term as it has come to be accepted nowadays, this is not a puzzle game, as it has nothing to do with the likes of Tetris, Puyo Puyo, Panel de Pon, or even Sega's own Columns. Rather, Ichidant-R plays like a collection of mini-games the kind of which you could totally expect to see in a Mario Party title, minus the Nintendo theme. The flow of is as follows: the Princess was abducted by the evil king and to save said princess, the player has to travel through four fortresses, each having guards inside that have to be defeated one by one in order to move through. Those guards must be vanquished by... playing and winning a fixed number of mini-games. Those mini-games are to be selected from a rather slow moving roulette, so that the player may try to get a particular one on purpose. Some stages may have multiple guards to fight through, which means more mini-games to win in order to move on to the next stage.

The concept of the mini-games present is very simple and features gameplay ideas that will be very familiar. Things such as having to count the amount of people aboard a passing train... or memorising a certain pattern to reproduce it, kind of like Milton Bradley' classic electronic memory game, Simon. They always come with a kind of comical twist to them, either situational or visual. Some of them can be harder than others, purely and simply, while some may just cater more or less to your own specific skills. All of them however require their own specific task to be performed a set number of times, to meet a quota and claim the victory. Therefore, picking the right mini-games from the roulette to get through the guards more easily will be key to succeeding at saving the princess - however this only works to an extent because, games that do not get selected by the player stay on the roulette until the end of the stage.

Screenshot for Sega Ages Ichidant-R on Nintendo Switch

On later stages where multiple guards are in the way, a situation may crop up where the mini-games that the player would rather avoid are the only ones left. Every now and then a lucky panel will appear in place of a selectable puzzle on the roulette though, which if selected will grant the player an extra life, however this comes at the cost of getting to play a random mini-game afterwards instead of being able to pick one that is familiar enough to the player. Likewise, completing a stage initiates a bonus game where the player has to collect enough bags of gold to earn an extra life. Those concepts were very common in arcade games of the day, especially the trivia quiz titles that were popular in Japan in the early '90s like Capcom World: Adventure Quiz, for example, where themes instead of mini-games have to be picked from.

There are only 20 mini-games in total, and their difficulty does not appear to increase as one gets closer to the end. Rather, more guards get in the way at each passing stage and the quota of tasks to be fulfilled in each mini-game increases. However, right from the start, Ichidant-R displays adaptive difficulty, whereupon if the player is doing too well at a mini-game, it will adapt the difficulty accordingly. Conversely, if after ramping it up a notch the player simply can't handle it anymore, the difficulty will get dialled back down as well - but of course not before losing a life, because the purpose here was indeed to swallow down credits.

Indeed, this is very much an arcade game at heart. Therefore, everything is time based, so that a single player can't spend too much time at the same machine, keeping other paying customers from pouring in their own credits as well. So that means there's a deadly countdown to every single mini-game found therein, with an ominous beeping sound warning of the timer running out when it gets close to zero.

Screenshot for Sega Ages Ichidant-R on Nintendo Switch

This really is only there to make the player panic even when he or she still has ample time to finish. That is not to say that there aren't plenty of situations where the mini-game will be completed with only one second or even a flat zero remaining on the counter of course! The challenge that Ichidant-R offers is, even by the arcade standards of its time, quite brutal towards the end, at least on the default normal difficulty setting. However, as far as this Sega Ages release is concerned, the incentive to put in another credit upon a Game Over when it is not real money being inserted into a machine but simply a free button press away, is entirely different. This one, unlike many other arcade games of its time, enforces no limit on how many continues can be had from putting in another coin, so anyone can just keep trying until they 'git gud.'

It is a very linear affair, and sadly, after the novelty effect of the mini-games present is gone, its own nature limits its lasting appeal in single player mode - but thankfully multiplayer is included, both locally and even against other human players online in this Sega Ages release, making this a lot more interesting today than it has perhaps ever been before. It is different from something like Mario Party of course, but this released long before Nintendo's own take on the genre, and some sources of inspiration can be found herein. The Pencil Sharpener mini-game for example will remind strongly of Mecha Fly Guy from the original Mario Party, where the player had to infamously rotate the control stick as quickly as possible for a specific amount of time to win, leading to hand injuries for good measure. Similarly, mini-games in Ichidant-R have short sounding names that the announcer shouts out like "Which Switch," "Miss Shadow," or "Mister Conductor."

Screenshot for Sega Ages Ichidant-R on Nintendo Switch

This is also remindful of Mario Party's naming scheme. The focus here, however, is very different from Mario Party, since the only purpose of mini-games is to vanquish guards that are in the way to get to the princess and save her, and not to win coins or get to stars on a complicated board. This Sega Ages release on Switch includes both the original arcade title, for the first time available in English, as well as its Japanese Mega Drive port, which unfortunately remains untranslated. Both versions included look and sound rather similar, and both run at the same native resolution, rather poorly up-scaled in sharp pixel mode, by the way, since shimmering is visible on horizontally scrolling sections, especially in the Mega Drive version where colour dithering is used profusely. However, the arcade version running on the Mega Drive based System C board offers more colours and includes PCM sampled voice clips which sound obviously a lot clearer than their Mega Drive counterpart.

The latter however has more game modes on offer. A Quest mode features prominently in that one, in which a bit more story goes on about the abduction of the princess, and a world map can be travelled on foot as the hero tries to save her. Random encounters occur against guards akin to those found in the regular arcade mode, however they are still fought by playing the same mini-games so the experience is still fairly similar, but just presented in a different manner. It is a very light RPG with a quirky concept of battles then. In addition to this, the Mega Drive version adds a competitive mode for multiplayer up to four people, as opposed to just two in the arcade version, but where players duke it out on a board game, trying to get to the end before the others as they roll a roulette that determines the amount of squares they travel on each turn. Again, maybe, a precursor idea to Mario Party's boards? Who knows... Lastly the 'Free' mode lets you pick any mini-game and practice it to your heart's content.

Screenshot for Sega Ages Ichidant-R on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Ichidant-R was, in many ways, a precursor to the party and mini-game collection titles of today, but tailored for the arcades. To finally be able to play it in English is a treat for any SEGA fan, especially in multiplayer. The amount of mini-games on offer however is pretty low, even if this was a step up from the even lower number of mini-games in its predecessor, Tant-R, which means it does feel a bit repetitive when played in solo. Then, really, M2 has gotten gamers used to better scaling options for titles using the resolution of the Mega Drive, namely in the Castlevania and Contra collections that Konami has up on the eShop right now, so there's really no excuse for not offering the same options here.

Also known as

Sega Ages - Puzzle & Action: Ichidant-R

Developer

M2

Publisher

SEGA

Genre

Party

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date 17.10.2019   North America release date 17.10.2019   Japan release date 17.10.2019   Australian release date 17.10.2019   

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