Review by TheSAMMIES

Reviewed: 03/10/14

And when I played my hand, I looked like a joker. Turn around, fate must have woke her...

…’Cause Lady Luck, she was waiting outside the door.

Know those lyrics? They’re from the song Winning, by Santana. It’s a beautiful song, one that is a real good companion piece to Birdy Soft’s Joker, an adventure game set in the old west, a setting that is very unusual for a Japanese adventure game. If you’re up for something a bit off the beaten path, then Joker should have you covered. The writers at Birdy Soft always were a creative bunch and tried very hard to get their games to stand out next to all the other Japanese adventure games out at the time.

Of note, Joker is technically a hentai game. It only barely counts, though. The nudity is very mild and doesn’t come up too often. The sex scenes give you a lot of sexual options, but are hardly graphic, and are over in the blink of an eye. Don’t let the fact that this game has a couple of really minor sex scenes in it scare you off. Joker is a game that you play for the story and the characters more than the sex.

Story- Joker’s main character is a man with the nickname Wild. He lives in a Native American village and is fairly liked there. Part of the reason why is because the village was nearly hit by something called The Great Disaster, possibly the most vaguely named apocalypse ever. Wild’s father sacrificed himself to stop The Great Disaster and the village was eternally grateful.

Wild meets a mysterious girl named Laura. She’s a diviner, a special kind of magic woman that can see into the future through magical means. Wild takes a liking to Laura and they become friends. Wild and Laura hang out together and build their relationship while the village elder starts to feel a dark presence coming forward. He believes that it could be The Great Disaster.

The village elder consults Laura on the matter and asks her to see into the future. She tries her best, but something is blocking her magic, preventing her from seeing past a certain time. The village goes into a panic and sends out Wild on a quest to try to prevent The Great Disaster. Wild’s journey takes him all over the place. He meets outlaws, lawmen, prostitutes, and many other characters on his adventure.

Joker’s story is very different as far as Japanese adventure games go. It has a few anime cliches going on, like mysterious girls that can see the future and the savior of a community being an outsider, but it probably won’t bother you at all. There are a few plot twists in there that I don’t want to spoil, but I assure you, Joker has some quality storytelling and is a great example of the kind of talent Birdy Soft had as a developer.

Presentation- Joker’s graphics and CG art look pretty typical of PC98 games. It’s all anime style. Some of the Native Americans look a little off, but that’s really not much of a concern. The music isn’t spectacular either, being mostly quiet or unmemorable. Joker as a whole, is pretty below average as far as presentation goes, so don’t get your hopes up too high. The best part about Joker is its story, but there is a good reason why this game didn’t get a perfect 10/10 score.

Gameplay- Part of what makes Joker such a good game is that there is a lot of exploration and the game gives you a lot of different choices when examining areas. Normal hentai adventures are pretty linear, offering only a handful of commands, usually “look”, “talk”, “move”, “think”, and if you’re lucky “touch”. Joker uses context based commands. Each individual room has its own set of commands for you to go through, giving the world a very unique feel. A great example is that you can buy a drink in some places. Obviously other places won’t have any drinks for you to buy, so it isn’t always an option.

The varied options make Joker’s world feel a lot richer than many other settings. By the time the game’s over, you’ll feel like you might have lived in that village and that you really did go on a spectacular adventure in the old west. It’s an amazing feeling to have a world that begs you to become emotionally attached to it and it really lends itself well to Joker’s story.

Most of the game consists of roaming around town and talking to people. Talk to the right people about the right topics, and you’ll gather information. You might also stumble upon a clue, or at least something that will help you solve the mystery of The Great Disaster. At its heart, Joker is a mystery story, so if you enjoy those kind of games, then you’ll love this.

Well I had a dream and it turned to dust. What I thought was love, well it must have been lust…

Joker’s only problem is that it is a little on the short side. It only took me a couple of days to finish it, so it probably won’t take you too long to complete it either. Granted, I played in marathon bursts to do it, but I still completed it fairly quick. If you don’t mind short games and could go for a very unique detective style game, then you’ll have to try this. It’s awesome.

Cool Fact- Talking to a preacher saves your game. It’s a pun, that you’ve been saved when you talk to him. A very clever pun, actually.

Also Try- Another good adventure game by Birdy Soft is My Eyes!, which takes the same “story first, sex as an afterthought” approach that Joker has. It’s a beautiful game too with a delightfully insane plot about telepathic orcas, terrorists, and a strong message to anyone who plays it.

Rating: 9

Product Release: Joker (JP, 09/05/91)

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