Casino Games Review

Developer: Tonka Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 1989 Also On: None

I’ve never really been all that fond of “casino” games that try to recreate playing slots, cards and what have you on your television. Part of the whole draw to gambling is the ability to win money and thus have more of it. When you put this into a video game where you’re not actually winning anything other than a game, the goal is nonexistent. Still, I suppose it is somewhat entertaining to win imaginary money and become an imaginary millionaire, as long as the game itself is well organized and keeps your interest. I’ve played a few modern games of this type, and they tend to recreate everything nicely. But, back in the 8-Bit days this wasn’t so easy and usually led to disaster and complete boredom. For the NES there were a few titles, only one of which was really worth anyone’s time and isn’t even that good. For the Master System, only one such title was released. Here it is, Casino Games.

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Graphically, Casino Games is quite impressive, one of the best shows of the SMS’ color scheme and tons of detail. The title screen comes right at you with neon signs along a street that looks like Vegas or Atlantic City. For the game proper you have what I guess you could call “cut scenes” between games where you see these women who help you around. One at the information desk where you can save your game, another when you pick the games you want to play and so forth.

For the games, you are treated to different table layouts, different players, a slot machine and a pinball game. The woman was reused for the Blackjack and Baccarat table, so I’m going to take off just a bit for that. The slot machine is your basic design, nothing special there, and the pinball game is pretty weak, it’s nothing too extravagant. In fact, having played a lot of pinball for awhile, it looks like this particular casino purchased this model in 1965 or on sale. Still, it doesn’t look bad necessarily; there is a lot of detail and it’s easy to tell where everything is. Most 8-Bit pinball games weren’t very good because it’s so difficult to recreate a pinball game in a video game since you technically can’t see everything in the playing field all of the time.

I’d say they did a great job here, just wish it was a bit more flashy. It’s colorful, just kind of drab. Now the greatest graphical displays you’ll see in the game are by far the two endings. One is easy to get because you simply have to lose and thus the other is obvious. The “bankrupt” scene is wonderful, I think it made me depressed for the poor 8-Bit loser myself for a couple of days. He gets this awful, miserable look on his face as his chin drops and his eyes droop, and then it cuts to a scene of him walking in an empty street, head down, and then he kicks a can. The winning scene is just as good, if not better, you get to see your happy little man with all his cash hanging out next to a pool with some girls and so forth. Really a great job with this, two of the most impressive 8-Bit endings I’ve ever seen. Overall, I’d have to say great job with the graphics here, a little work should have been done on the mentioned areas, but otherwise good.

The sound is of a mixed variety. The title screen track is excellent, seems to definitely recreate that “casino” feeling to me; a very upbeat, almost “New Orleans Jazz” kind of theme. The intro themes while you set up your name and get ready to play are nice too, fitting. They don’t sound like your playing yet, just kind of calm and relaxed before things get intense. Well, as intense as they can for imaginary money. When you get to the actual games, my opinion is mixed. For the Poker theme, they programmed this strange, “Depression Era Big Band” song that really doesn’t feel like it should be there. It’s not bad, very well programmed, it just doesn’t fit the game.

The Blackjack theme is a bit too jumpy, more of a carnival or saloon song than a casino tune, plus it’s a lot shorter than most of the other songs. The Baccarat theme isn’t quite fitting either, it’s very childish in tempo and sound. I didn’t like it at all. For a game that was 007’s favorite (as the manual says), it certainly doesn’t seem that way. The slot machine arrangement is nice, very well done and the pinball theme works well too.
The ending themes, depending on which one you get, are excellently put. The sound effects are all very good, the only exception being the strange, “bird tweet” sound of the pinball. It sounds like one of those little plastic pinball games you’d get for a dollar at the dollar store. Overall, decent with the sound, but some work was needed.

The gameplay is where the graphics kind of lose their flavor because if
there’s one thing that cannot be overcome, regardless of how good a video
game looks, it’s the actual game. Casino Games isn’t a bad game, don’t get
me wrong, it’s just hard to make something like this entertaining without a
lot of variety. Remember, you’re not actually winning anything here, okay,
you get that programmers? First off, let me say this game has one of the
greatest interfaces I’ve ever come across. It’s incredibly simple to exit
and enter any game you like and the controls are very intuitive for
everything. Nice job with that.

As for the game itself, here’s how it plays out. First, after signing in, or
continuing from where you left off (only accessible if you’ve made at least
$1000), you go to a game selection screen. You can choose one of three card
games, one of five slot machines and then a pinball game. The pinball game
is only for “taking a break,” so I’ll get to that a bit later. The three
card games are Poker, Blackjack and Baccarat. Poker is obvious I’d say, but
you can select from one of four players to play against. Though they are set
up almost as though they’re progressively harder, I’d have to say it didn’t
seem so to me. They all seemed pretty easy, for the most part. To test this,
I constantly raised the bet, regardless of how crappy my hand was, and each
player seemed to fold with the same frequency as the others.

The other two card games, Blackjack and Baccarat, are relatively similar.
Everyone’s familiar with Blackjack, you have to get 21 with your hand. This
can be done in two cards, or perhaps even up to three or four, though rarely
five or more. Baccarat is kind of similar, and I have to say this is the
only game I’ve ever seen it in because I don’t believe it’s very popular.
It’s similar to Blackjack, you aim to get a score of 9 with your cards, it’s
just that the scoring for each card is a little different. Otherwise,
they’re essentially the same game, making the graphical switch I mentioned
above a bit more annoying since you almost feel like you’re playing the same
thing. All three of the card games progressively increase in the amount you
can bet the more you win. At first you can only bet $100 at the most, though
it does increase a bit during Poker if you raise the bet because of a good
hand. Until you get more, though, it is normally only that high.

The slot machine is essentially worthless. You can bet from $1 to $100 on
“different” machines, but there is no difference really, same look, same
action. The problem here is that you can only match going horizontally, not
diagonally. Thus, if you do win, it occurs perhaps once every ten pulls if
you’re lucky and you never get any money out of it. There’s just no reason
to play this stupid thing unless you want to get bankrupt quick and see the
funny ending for it. The frequency of winning on it is simply too low and
the chances are completely against you because of the horizontal matching

The pinball game is decent, just totally out of place and worthless. It’s
organized well and looks pretty good, it’s just that there’s really nothing
going on in it. You hit bumpers, hit targets and that’s it. All you
receive is points and not money, not that there are many gambling pinball
games out there, so why did they put this in here? If I wanted something to
do if I’m “tired of gambling,” as the manual states, I’d just save my game
and shut it off to play something more interesting. It would have been nice
if it had a secret area to access like “Pinball” for the NES or something to
achieve. As it stands this shouldn’t have been here at all, it’s pathetic.
In fact, what they should have done is add more gambling. Perhaps the
roulette wheel featured on the cover of the box that does not exist in the
game? Damn Sega, tricked me again. The only way to really win Casino Games
is to win one million dollars. Though the Poker can be kind of fun and the
other card games aren’t too bad either, you really only have the best chance
at Blackjack since you can continuously double your score, save and keep
going. Otherwise, unless you really, really want to spend months on this
game, there is no reason to play anything else. The ending is worth it,
however, so look for the secret code to start with 700K and go from there.

For an early 8-Bit casino game, Casino Games isn’t entirely creative. As you
can see, I couldn’t even do a word variation there for style, because even
the very title is generic. It looks good, sounds decent and has an excellent
interface and such, but there’s just nothing here that’s really unique other
than the bankrupt ending. Can’t say I’ve seen anything that awesome anywhere
else. I’d have to say this is not as good as Casino Kid for the NES, which
itself isn’t the greatest of games, but at least it’s set up in an “RPG”
fashion to give it some variety. Casino Games just has some things thrown
together. It was listed in the library as a “Family” title, only one of two,
and I think we know why. Had they thrown in a roulette wheel or some kind of
dice game or something it would have been a lot better. There’s just not
enough here to call it creative and absolutely no reason a family would want
to sit down and play this.

Due to the secret code where you can beat this game in under five minutes,
it has a bit of replay value, but I can’t judge it on that. Without it, or
perhaps even with it depending on who you are, there is no reason to want to
play this again. It lacks a two-player feature, and I can’t really think of
anyone that would want to play this alone for months on end to get to the
ending. Most people play cards together, not with a second-rate,
computer-controlled loser. The length is a bit much. If you sat down to play
this from the beginning with the $500 they give you at the start, it would
probably take you, factoring in occasional losses, around twelve hours
total. Considering this, and the fact that you would probably only play it
for half an hour tops during one sitting, it’s just not a good game to sit
down with. At least it has a password feature to come back, otherwise this
category would have scored into hell.

In conclusion, Casino Games is a pretty big disappointment, despite how good
it looks. All it need was a bit more variety and the elimination of that
damn pinball segment and it could have been a decent title. As it stands,
there is simply no family in existence who would have purchased this for a
night of family fun. Hey, let’s watch dad play Casino Games, by himself, as
we watch! Yay! No.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 6.5
Gameplay: 4.5
Creativity: 3
Replay Value/Game Length: 2.5
Final: 4.9
Written by Stan Review Guide

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