Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Nippon Safes Inc. - Three’s Company

By Torch

In my previous post, we took a gander at the manual and discussed the history of the developers, but not much was said about the game itself, so let’s get cracking (literally) on that.

I start off as Doug Nuts. (So no quiz-based character selection as of yet.) He’s underground in what looks like a sewer and has seemingly huffed and puffed his way through a brick wall and is now facing something that looks suspiciously like a bank vault.

Who exactly is this “BANK” sign intended for?
I bet you’re dying to see where this is going, but let’s pause for a moment, to talk a little bit about the interface. It’s fairly simple; When I press and hold the right mouse button, this menu appears:

I move the mouse to the action I want to perform, and release the button. The mouse pointer changes shape to reflect the selected action, and I can click whatever I want to perform the action on. The actions are from left to right: “Open” - “Look” - “Take” and “Speak”.

There’s no separate inventory. When you pick up an item, it’s added to the action menu, and you select it the same way as the actions. Oh and if I pick an action and then mouseover an area of interest, the name/description will only show if the action in question can be performed on this specific area. If I want to simply use an item, I click it on myself.

That seems to be all there is to it. For now, at least.

Having mastered the interface, I check my surroundings. Near Doug is a toolbox. When I open it, I find a pack of plastic explosives and a detonator, which I take. The bank wall has a conspicuously square-looking hole, that seems a great fit for my explosives. I insert them and try using the detonator. As mentioned, this is done by selecting it and clicking it on Doug. He’s not too keen on blowing himself up, so I move him into an alcove off to the left of the screen and try again.

Success! The wall blows up and leaves a big, gaping hole for Doug to enter. However, as I approach…

So my detonation precedes me

Fastest game over ever?

Well, that took all of 5 minutes. So how do we restore….. Oh wait, it’s not over.

You talkin’ ta me? Fuhgeddaboudit. And so on.

I’ve now magically ( or rather programmatically ) turned in to Dino, the discarded boxer. He’s looking for a job and has decided to try his luck in a fancy looking office.

May want to drop the lollipop when going in for a job interview.
Also, please somebody decipher that Mitsushita slogan for me

There’s no way to interact with the door or buzzer besides looking at it, so I can’t get into the building, but a shady looking guy appears and starts ogling the sports car that’s parked on the sidewalk, for some reason. When I talk to him, Dino, not being the sharpest knife in the drawer, asks the man if he needs any help getting into “his” car.

I only dress like this to hide from the police. Did I say police? I meant the sun!
Long story short (ok, it wasn’t very long to begin with) Dino rips the door off the hinges and the world’s most over-the-top car alarm goes off. And as with Doug, the police in this town are either psychic or getting paid by the arrest.

I thought this was the kind of door that opens downwards

Either way Dino is taken away as well.

They took my lollipoooop!

I’m starting to see a pattern here. I’m guessing we’re off to meet Donna next.

I’m fairly certain she had more hair on the box cover. And less cane

But no! Just when I think I have the game figured out, it subverts my expectation like an episode of Game of Thrones. I’m not controlling Donna at all, but some old guy in a trenchcoat. Ok, let’s see where this takes us. I’m on a street with two nearby hotspots, the most inviting of which is the “Hot Sushi” venue. According to the poster on the outside, that’s where I’ll find Donna. As I enter, however, I’m violently kicked out again by Mr. T. or some relative.

We can’t all be as classy as you

For some reason this guy can only jump to move around. I guess the budget didn’t have room for a walking animation. Anyway, all attempts at re-entry ends with me being kicked out again, so I decide to check “Honest Chan’s” booth on the left side of the screen instead.

To Deano, who was wondering if the game would avoid racial stereotypes: That’s a nope

Honest Chan is running a pawn shop. He only has 2 items of interest to our guy, though: A rubber mouse and a tie. I really have no idea why I was kicked out, but maybe it would help if I was wearing a tie…?

Yeah, that green tie with yellow dots practically reeks of class

It’s quite possible that I figured out this next puzzle because there’s not much else to do at this point, but basically the tie costs 100 yen and the mouse is 200. My guy doesn’t have any money, but he is carrying an amulet. Chan won’t accept this as a trade-in for the tie, but he’ll give me the rubber mouse for it. By now I was plotting an elaborate scheme, where I would wind up the mouse and send it into the Hot sushi, making the bouncer chase it and then sneak in…. Ok, that wasn’t really very elaborate. But I the only thing I can do with the mouse is trade it in with Chan again.

What’s your business model, exactly?

So in other words, he’ll give me a 200 yen item for my amulet, but not a 100 yen item. And then I trade in a 200 yen item for a 100. Makes perfect sense… Regardless, my newly acquired green/yellow polka dotted tie has a hidden bonus modifier of +5 to class, which is apparently sufficient to enter the “Hot sushi”.

I feel a weird urge to take a pick to that middle square on the dance floor

The establishment is empty, which is really no surprise, given their very specific dress code requirement. I can talk to the bartender though, and try to order a drink or get some “informations”.

I just now noticed that the glass in my guy’s spectacles are different colors

More specifically, I can ask about all the members of the dynamic trio.

Who could they be?

If I pick the top 2 choices, the bartender will give me the names of Doug and Dino, but the third choice prompts Donna to come out on stage for a …. Ok, let’s be generous and call it a dance.

It’s mostly just walking back and forth on stage

After a short while, Donna announces that she’ll perform the show that made her famous: “The bottle show”. I don’t know what that entails, but it’s a fair guess that it’s not family friendly entertainment, because soon after the announcement

How did you get in without a tie?

So Donna joins the prison gang.

Gender stereotypes: Check

I guess this whole thing has been an intro/tutorial, and the real game is about to start. I’m presented with a sweet sequence of some guy drawing the characters, them coming “alive” and walking around the set of the development studio or something. It’s a nice addition, but I had to crank up the CPU cycles on Dosbox, because on the default setting the drawing process was excruciatingly slow.

Look at them go

Check the exhaust pipe on the computer. This must be Glorious
Olga 35 (5 CAPs for the first commenter to get the reference)

Yes yes, we get it. They’re all stereotypes

After the intro animation is over, I get to the character selection screen

I think I just now realized that all their names start with a ‘D’

Now, I honestly don’t fully understand the point of this next screen. If you recall my intro post, I mention the quiz, where you’re supposed to answer questions to choose the character whose personality you most connect with. The responses to each question will yield a syllable, matching the ones on display in the screenshot. I figured if I put all my responses together, I could input a word or something, and the game would suggest to most suitable character (to start with).

On this screen, however, the mouse pointer is not displayed, and I can’t type anything besides the numbers 1-3. If I press one of them, I start that character’s chapter. So what’s the point of the quiz? Or this screen at all? If anybody knows how this is supposed to work, and I’m doing something wrong, please let me know in the comments.

For now, I picked Doug. Because reasons.

Sure I do. I just gave it 4 chains on Brigadvisor

I start with Doug having just been released from jail. His inventory contains a key, a letter and 1000 yen. So far I’ve found no way to examine inventory items, so I have no idea what kind of key it is. If I select the letter, I can read it by clicking it on Doug.

The letter is from someone who calls himself Dr. Ki. He’s apparently the one who posted bail to get me out of prison. He wants me for a “delicate” job that requires maximum confidentiality. Doesn’t sound like a recipe for staying out of jail for too long. Regardless, it’s an adventure game, so what else can one do but go check out what the guy wants?

Unfortunately, the prison is a long way from the city, and the guard won’t call me a cab. I can leave the screen to the east, which brings me to a highway.

Too bad that impenetrable fence keeps Doug from walking somewhere a bit safer

Walking along (or rather on) the highway, I find 2 empty trashcans and a payphone. Oh, and a road-sign.

So now it’s Tyoko again?

After 3 screens, I come to a dead-end.

Maybe the eye would see farther if you were standing up

I try the payphone, but it needs some sort of token to make a call. There aren’t a lot of hotspots here, so after wandering around these 3 screens (4 with the prison area) for over half an hour, I’m starting to think I’ve encountered a bug or something. Sort of by chance I suddenly discover that I can also go south from the prison. Duh, don’t I feel stupid? In my defense, the hotspot for the exit text doesn’t overlap too well with the graphics that look like they could represent an exit. Oh well. Due south I find an abandoned food stand and a trash can with some actual trash. I can pick up an empty soda can and its tab (the thing that you pull up to get to the soda). Thinking Doug - being a veritable MacGyver of the underworld - could perhaps work some magic on the payphone with this, I head back there, and jackpot!

I bet MacGyver would’ve just built a phone

Shortly after, a cab pulls up. The driver is a pretty mean-looking guy, who’s worried that I can’t afford the ride, and that he’ll have to put me in hospital like the previous customer who couldn’t pay. I assure him that I’m good for it, and we get under way. After all, I’ve got 1000 yen in cash. After a while, though, the meter passes the 1000 yen mark. I run to Google, and it turns out 1000 yen is only about $9 USD. Ooops.

I’m just wondering if your meter might be susceptible to modification by soda can tab.

After a while we arrive at a familiar place, and I’m now facing a 2500 yen cab fare. Under threat of serious injury, I try to bargain with the cab driver.

Brace for impact

It’s only a flesh wound

So he ends up punching me in the stomach, DOESN’T take my 1000 yen, then drives off. Big whoop... The old guy in Donna’s intro was treated worse for not wearing a tie. Ok, let’s head into the “Hot Sushi” then, and get to the bottom of this whole letter-sending thing.

Apparently the tie requirement isn’t a thing anymore

The letter was sent from a Dr. Ki, but when I talk to the bartender, Doug asks for a Dr. Woo. So far naming consistency has not been the game’s strongest suit. Maybe Woo is his first name, and Ki his second, so Woo Ki? Er… sounds like a there could be a lawsuit somewhere in there…

There’s a guy sitting alone in a booth to the right, and hey! It’s our guy from before. With the cane. And the tie. He doesn’t want to talk initially, but I show him the letter, which makes him change his tune.

The guys at the table are cameos from some of the developers. Totally meta.

Dr. Woo-Ki is by his own account a collector of sacred objects, mostly statues, idols and stuff like that, but he’s missing a rare jade Buddha statue and wants me to steal it for him. If I refuse, he’ll un-bail me from jail. I don’t know a lot about Japanese law, but that doesn’t sound like something that should be possible. Oh well, plot devices and their little games. The Buddha is in the Saku-Rambo monastery, wherever that is. Only initiates are allowed inside, and the statue is kept in a safe. Alrighty then. We have a purpose. Guess it’s time to round off for now. Next time I’m hoping to get to the bottom of the greatest mystery of all: What’s the proper name of the city? “Tioko” or “Tyoko”?

Time played: 1t 20m
Inventory: 1000 yen, unidentified key, empty soda can.


  1. Regarding the Matsushita Corporation slogan, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" is a quote by Karl Marx. Obviously, the Corporation (not a big fan of socialism I suppose) inverted the meaning.

    1. Ah yes, that makes more sense. I just figured this was one of those weird italian-english lost-in-translation moments

  2. Regarding the intro screen: the version I played back in the 90s had you enter the result you got from the quiz in the game documentation, by selecting the various kanji. If you somehow got a wrong sequence, the game would not let you proceed (so it was a kind of copy protection). There are also three other copy protection questions inside the game proper (more or less at the middle of each chapter).
    My guess is that you are playing a hacked version which will let you skip the copy protection.

    1. Yes, you may be right. I'll try to make a note of whether or not I get any control questions as I get further in the game.

  3. So far the three characters seem to be following the precedent set in Fate of Atlantis (and more-or-less used again in Day of the Tentacle) of "Brain", "Brawn", and, uh, "Girl". Now I'm wondering how many other games followed that same formula; it feels like a common one from the era...

    1. Good point, it does seem like a thing now that you mention it.

    2. Doesn't that description fit with 3/4 of the Fantastic Four? (Brain = Mr. Fantastic, Brawn = Thing, Girl = Invisible Woman). Now it seems weirdly appropriate that Torch is playing this game...

    3. Uh oh! Mind blown. Existential crisis imminent.

      But what IS the 4th role, then? My first impulse was of course "Torch = Hot", but I guess that is usually already a feature of "Girl"..?

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. The 4th role would usually be the comedy relief/suave guy/cool-cat/smooth talker. My MCU knowledge is sucky but I think Hawk-eye/Ironing man/Thor would fit the bill there, with Captain Puerto Rico, the not so jolly green giant and black spandex fitting the other three.

    6. The relevant trope is "Beauty, Brains and Brawn" (and yes, that's a common pattern for three characters; another common one being Fighter, Wizard, Thief). The Fantastic Four, instead, is a Four Element Ensemble (especially in the Marvel 1602 series) and/or Four Temperament Ensemble. See also https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CastCalculus

  4. Is that guy with the cane Ripburger from Full Throttle? He did have a cane and kept some questionable company.

  5. First instance of a type of verb coin?

    Looks very similar to the interface in 7 Days a Skeptic and 6 Days a Sacrifice, which is a good one.

  6. Hey guys, I'm the Anonymous which posted the above two comments and the one in the Intro post :) First-time poster, long-time lurker, and so on.

    After having thought about it, I wanted to add something about the Dr. Ki - Woo mismatch. This one, I think, is a problem of the Italian - English translation.

    In Italian the word "chi" (pronounced "ki" with the hard c) means "who". So probably in Italian the man is called Dr. Ki, while in the English translation they decided to call him Dr. Woo, but somehow didn't translate all of the instances occurring inside the game.
    Moreover, his name is obviously a reference joke about another famous doctor who travels around in a police box...

    1. Thanks for the clarification. It makes sense that they might've forgotten to replace all the occurrences of his name.

  7. And about the "Glorious Olga" computer, that seems a reference to "KGB".

    1. Correct you are.
      More specifically it was mentioned in the manual as a joke. And the link to this is, of course, that I reviewed KGB for the blog.