Monday, 13 May 2019

Game 108: Nippon Safes, Inc. (1992) - Introduction

Written by Torch

Doesn’t look very safe to me

Two years after my first ever playthrough for The Adventure Gamer, I’m finally up for another. Quite the gap, but - surprise! - we’re still doing games from 1992! We sure are taking our time here, or perhaps 1992 was just a particularly bountiful year. Either way, the next game up is Nippon Safes, Inc. This game was developed by Dynabyte software, an Italian game creator. I couldn’t find a lot of information about this company, but running a couple of Italian wikis through Google translate helped a little.

Dynabyte. I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that it’s a portmanteau of dynamite and byte

Dynabyte made 6 games in all, of which 3 were adventure games. Nippon was the first in 1992, followed by Tequila & Boom Boom - a cartoonish western themed adventure named starring anthropomorphic animals - in 1994, and finally Big Red Adventure in 1995 ( 1997 on Amiga ).

Can you spot the KGB agent? ( It’s a trick question. They’re all KBG agents )

Big Red is a direct sequel to Nippon, but I doubt Tequila is related. Not sure how they’d make that work… In 1997 they either changed their name to Ludomedia or disbanded and then created a new company named Ludomedia, I can’t tell for sure. Either way they went out of business the same year, so I guess it doesn’t matter much.

Logos from ‘95-97 Can’t put my finger on it, but it’s like they didn’t fully commit to the new company name

That’s pretty much all I could dig up about Dynabyte, so if any Italian readers see this and know more, please feel free to chip in.

So let’s get back to the game at hand. I read about Nippon Safes Inc. in an Amiga magazine many years ago, and the cartoony graphics kind of caught my eye, but that’s the extent of my familiarity with this game, so I’ll start off by checking out the manual, to see what I can expect.

The story begins like this: “In the most disreputable parts of the Japanese metropolis of Tyoko,a shady character wanders around looking suspicious. What can this mysterious person be up to?”

Talk about suspense building.. To help me learn more about this mysterious character, I will be able to control the dynamic trio of….

“DOUG NUTS. He is an electronics genius who uses his knowledge for not exactly a lawful purpose (with meagre results). His career as an electronics engineer at Oxford ended abruptly when he was caught fiddling the results of the exams stored in the faculty computer. After moving to Japan, the homeland of electronics, he has problems with the law each time one of his breaking in gadgets doesn't work quite like it was meant to.”

“DINO FAGIOLI. A former boxer of Italian origin, basically a good and honest soul,often falls into the traps set by people taking advantage of the fact that he tends not to think very hard. After a series of defeats in the boxing world, he boarded a ship bound for Japan as a deckhand. After getting into the umpteenth scrape he was thrown off the ship in Tyoko, where he is trying to make ends meet.”

“DONNA FATALE. A variety actress, she abandoned a promising career as a ballet dancer to follow the path of the glittering world of show business. She arrived in Tyoko dazzled by the promises of a self-styled impressario who, after having squandered all her possessions, left her to a life on the border of legality.”

Ok, so brains, brawn and… show tunes? How’s that for diversity? According to the manual, these guys are linked together, and I’ll be able to play them either one at a time, or I can alternate between them. This is referred to as something called the “Parallaction system”. Yes, “parallaction”. As in... “parallel action”. These Dynabyte guys seem to have a thing for wordplay. You may also have noticed that the name of the city where the action takes place is “Tyoko”. That’s not a typo ( or a tyopo - sorry, couldn’t resist ). The manual states that the city of Tyoko is located “somewhere not better identified half way between Tokyo and Kyoto as the crow flies.”

Easily one of the safest mountains to climb

In general, the manual has a certain… let’s call it “Lost in translation” vibe to it. In addition to character introductions, it also contains a test quiz, to help me decide which of the characters I should play. Hmm.. I thought I’m supposed to play them all eventually? Anyway, here’s an example question:


I bring out all my artistic gifts. NA
Nothing.I would feel out of place. NE
Ever heard the one about the airship? WA

It doesn’t say how this helps me decide on a character though. Each answer corresponds to a 2-letter combination, and there are 6 questions so I can end up with a “word” like NARAKIWANAHO. I have no idea how this will help me with such an all-important decision, but hopefully we’ll find out when I actually start playing the game.

Lastly, the manual contains some information (fun facts) about Japan that may or may not be related to copy protection, including but not limited to Japanese written language, the geisha, fish, public baths, hotels and railways. This is actually a fairly interesting and a fun read, both for its content and for the sometimes strange English. Take this section about the subway trains:

To understand just how crowded they are, you should know that most stations have "oshiya", or throwers-in. These are people charged with pushing the passengers inside the carriages. Each passenger is determined to get in, in order to reach his place of work on time, but the doors of the carriages will not work until until everyone has either got in or out. Since the other passengers are far to well-bred to interfere, these "oshiya" with their impecabble white gloves, help the poor devil make up his mind.

Having read through the manual, I feel ready to take on the game itself. The game is listed as working in ScummVM with a “Good” support level, but in for authenticity, I’ll be playing in Dosbox.

Tough call, but I’ll probably go for japanese engr… soll...sorry! English!

So join me next time as I make my way through the thriving metropolis of Tyo… wait, what?

So it WAS a tyopo after all

Anyway, prepare for a barrage of “safe”-related puns ( or maybe it’s better to Nipp(on) the whole thing in the bud ) as we explore the cartoony world of bank robberies and who knows what other crimes in an imaginary Japanese city.

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 50 CAPs in return. It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it.


  1. 100% agree that most of the humour will be lost in translation from the Italian original, since most of the references and wordplay will only work for us Italians... (FWIW, I played the game in the 90s and quite liked it actually)

    As for Dynabyte, it seems that most of the programmers went to work for another software company (VirtualEdge) still located in the same Italian city of Genoa, but sadly they would not make other videogames.

    You will also find inside the game a cameo of the two lead programmers, Massimo Magnasciutti and Paolo Costabel, as Max & Kos (I will not say anything else to avoid spoilers).

    Happy gaming!

  2. No clue about this game, so I'll guess 45. With a punny name like Doug Nuts, I have high hopes.

  3. a 50 from me, hopefully the comedy and the puzzles are good!

  4. Hmmmm... Not sure about this one. I'll be the pessimistic one and go for 42.

  5. Things Italy is know for:
    Great Food: Yes!
    Exciting cars: Yes!
    Cutting edge fashion: Yes!
    Working Electrical systems: No!
    Any kind of electronics: No!
    Game design and software: Not looking good with the previous 2

    I will be optimistic go with 52.

    1. Actually, the Olivetti corporation is Italian. They have been a significant European electronics company for a long time, and were still going strong when this game came out. So there's certainly room for optimism.

      I tried playing this once, years ago. Couldn't quite get into it, for whatever reason. Curious to read more!

  6. Three different characters playing in parallel? Wonder if they were trying to capitalize on the Maniac Mansion style, or just came up with the idea on their own? Should be interesting.

    I'll guess 44. It looks like it might be fun, but I feel like the bad translation may hurt some of the puzzles, depending on how essential the text is. If the manual is any indication, it may be pretty rough...

  7. I remember this got good reviews at the time, but this was from the same magazines which thought Curse of Enchantia was the pinnacle of graphic adventueres, so.... Let's go for 42.

    My gut instinct is that the jokes are going to fall flat due to both translation issues, and generally being aimed at a far different audience than we have today. I can see lots of potential for racial stereotypes coming out -- it'll be interesting if they manage to avoid that.

  8. I'm even more pessimistic, will go for 41.

  9. I had a demo of this from an Amiga mag at the time. I remember it being very bad - 39.