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Saturday, June 1, 2013

Retro Review: Vegas Dream NES

Vegas Stakes is one of my favorite games so it’s seems weird I didn’t know about the predecessor until a few years back even though Vegas Dream was released for the NES back in 1988. At this point it's been 25 years if 8-bit gambling goodness.

The concept of Vegas dream is pretty simple, you’re in Vegas to win money. You encounter people and events, but all of it is to your ultimate goal of getting as rich as possible at the casino’s expense.

Controls are simple and intuitive, I didn’t notice a lag or delay but it’s not the sort of game you’d notice it in anyway. 

It doesn’t look great and it doesn’t look horrible. They’re pretty standard NES level graphics, though given that’s there’s very little movement taking place in the game they could probably look a lot better. Overall they don’t really add anything to the game and they don’t really take anything away from it either.

There’s not a lot for random sounds or ambient noise, there are some minor sounds when you make menu selections and when you win at a slot machine, but most of the sounds in the game is in the form of musical themes. Each game has its own theme song and things like the news cast and the marriage have their own individual melodies as well. The music isn’t fantastic but it isn’t bad either. My biggest complaint it that it over uses the high tones a bit.


You’re not going to make your fortune in Vegas by simply standing around hoping the $700 your start off with is going to attract some companions into your pocket,  so naturally the gameplay is largely made up  of playing gambling games.   You have 4 choices on your road to fortune, Blackjack, Roulette, Slots and Keno. Once you select a game you’re presented with a dealer/game attendant who seems to randomly be a man with a square hair cut or a woman with a bob, except in Keno which is always the same girl.

Blackjack plays like any digital Blackjack game I’ve ever played. Place a bet trying to get 21 failing that just beat the dealer’s hand.  It uses standard rules and options, double downs, splits, and insurance. I made most of my fortune in the game making ridiculous black jack bets so I’d say they odds are pretty in your favor, but there’s plenty of times I hit a 5 game losing streak so it doesn’t baby you either.

Roulette is roulette. Pick a number, a group of numbers, or a color and hope for the best.  Roulette doesn’t do you any favors no matter which bet I made I always seemed to be picking the wrong thing. In the session I played for this review I tried maybe 15 bets of varying types and not a one of them paid. As in real life though, if you’re lucky Roulette really pays off.

Slots come in 2 flavors Pot-O-Gold and Jack Pot Bar. Pot-O-Gold comes in multiple Denominations ranging from $1 a line to $100 a line. You can bet on one two or three lines that pay left to right, no diagonals or the other crazy stuff we’re used to now.  Seems to have pretty normal slot machine odds, I didn’t win a million and I didn’t lose my shirt either. Jack Pot bar only has one pay line, right in the center which you can make a $1, $5, $25, $50 or $100 bet on. Odds aren’t as good as on the Pot-O-Gold machines, but when you do win it pays well.

Unlike the other games, keno is always hosted by a girl who looks suspiciously similar to Fuijiko from Lupin III.  Pseudo Fujiko takes the bet you choose (your select it yourself so it can be in any amount from $1 up)  on the amount of numbers you choose from 1-15. You get paid based on the quantity of numbers you hit out of the numbers you selected,  IE. 1/1 is a winner, 2/15 is not.

If navigating the waters of Vegas gambling isn’t enough, you also have to deal the denizens of The Hal Palace Casino in a variety of interactions.  Sometimes is in the form of hotel staff informing you you’ve  got a phone call or a visitor which can result in big pay offs, or more often than not (at least in my case) a fall down the stairs or a chandelier to the head.  In fact in my game I feel down the stairs at least 5 times, several times because of the mysterious phone call and once due to an “accident” at the bar where it’s heavily implied my character got drunk and fell down the stairs. Injuries while hilarious are $200 a pop for hospital bills so it can add up pretty quickly, but often times  the payoff is $5000, so it’s worth the gamble if you’re far enough into the game where a $200 loss isn’t going to bankrupt you.

 Another common interaction is Marriage.  Mr.James  (Ms. Sophie if you’re playing a male) will decide he’s in love with you and wants to marry you after a single date in the hotel bar. If you agree to his proposal it can either result in a con where he takes $200 from you or a $5000 wedding gift from the hotel. Also interestingly even after you’re married Mr. James will date and marry you again in a seemingly endless loop. We got married 4 times in my game and only once was conned obviously YMMV.

The other interactions pop up a little less frequently, a waitress who spills a drink on you and either steals your wallet or gets you a pay-out from the hotel. A man who takes you to the bar to buy stocks, a man who buys you drinks to celebrate your luck (which is how I ended up on that drunken trip down the stairs), and a young man who’ll sometimes ask for change or sometimes ask for $200 with his watch as collateral. Frankly the game is a bit racist as with those last two interactions the guy who approaches is black and it’s more often than not it’s a con. I only got a payout once in the watch scenario, including in previous play sessions, and it was only for $1000 so not really a great gamble.

Naturally, as with any trip to Vegas you risk ending up completely penniless.  If that happens you get one last chance spin on the Jack Pot Bar Slot. If you win some cash you get to keep gambling. If you don’t it’s game over and you’re back at the airport on your way back to wherever it is you came from shamed and sad. If your luck in gambling holds up and you don’t get conned too many times you’ll eventually hit $10million, which is the winning point for the game. When you win you get a small ending scene which shows you being a jerk to what we can assume are your servants at your mansion before heading out to a show. Because that’s the ultimate Vegas dream, finding people poorer than you to belittle! 

 Winning is actually pretty difficult to do in one sitting unless you’re A) insanely lucky or B) playing via emulator and using save states.  So there’s a handy password feature you can use after each big win to make sure you’re never totally at the mercy of mere luck or  in case you don’t feel like doing 8 bit gambling  for endless hours. Unfortunately, The passwords are 26 characters longs consisting of numbers, letters and symbols, so copy everything down carefully  and it’s very easy to get one character wrong and lose your hours of masterful blackjack playing forever. 

Vegas Dream is nowhere near as fun as its much beloved (by me) sequel, Vegas Stakes. But it is decent NES gambling goodness. The random interactions really give it a fun twist as opposed to playing something like Caesars palace, but there are definitely things that could have made it a better game. I personally would have really liked to have seen a Poker option.  I think if I were rating  this back in 1988 when it were new I’d have probably given it a 3 or 4 but by today’s standards I give it a 2. It’s fun, it’s playable, but after you’re over the amusement of falling down the stairs and entering sham marriages, there are better options for gambling games out there.


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