Welcome back folks (BCTE here), hop into your time machines and set your dials back to the nineties. I don't know what you may have been going through personally, but I do know that so many great gaming machines were vying for supremacy. Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, TurboGrafx-16, Sega Saturn, Sony Playstation...the nineties are where most of my fondest gaming memories stem from. Having given up being a hardcore gamer for at least a good five years, going through this project with Vtd reminded me why I was such an avid gamer. It's not just about playing a game and saying "LOL, this game suks" or "WOWEE!! Best game EVAR! 100/10"...no, video games are a lot more than that. Analysts can hypothesize all they want in regards to whether video games are truly a work of art or discredit them as little more than a hobby suitable for a frat boy, but most of them haven't truly kept up with the gaming scene. Now video games are primarily cool because Snoop Dog has a PSP or because they're being popularized by some actor or T.V. personality. However, things were very different only a few years ago.
That's where people like me, Vtd, and many others come in, who for years were stereotyped and labeled as the devoted Star Wars nerd or snooty comic book fanboy...and while some of my kin are truly like that, others just see video games as something of a study. You analyze them, you find out what truly makes them tick, and you create your own brand of justice using the information highway (places like the internet for example). However, we at GS go out of our way when it comes to covering classic video games because we want to take things to the next level, and that is perhaps an understatement. Otherwise, we wouldn't even BOTHER talking about this next game, Motoko-chan no Wonder Kitchen, a Super Famicom game released near the System's glorious demise (and by glorious, I mean an unforgettable experience in many gamers hearts forever because of its years of excellence) and towards the turn of the millennium.
The Super Famicom (or SNES) is known for its fun platformers, so-so shmups, marvelous roleplaying games, and nearly everything in-between, but what about COOKING games? Much like "Bemani" or music and/or dance games, cooking sims aren't widely known outside of the staple franchises and didn't really catch on during the days of the ol' SNES. Ever since I heard about games like "I am the Chef" (also known as Ore no Ryouri) released for the Sony Playstation, I wondered if there was ever a game released for the SNES with even a minuscule grasp of the genre. Well, SFC gamers have all the luck, don't they? There was one released...sorta, and it's one of supposedly two games on the system with any significant cooking sim elements.
For whatever reason, Nintendo thought it would be a good idea to create a game that revolves around a popular food topping/condiment producing corporation (that also deals in pharmaceuticals, drinks, and other things) called Ajinomoto. You see, the two companies made a special pact that lets Nintendo primarily handle the development and borrow the Ajinomoto brand name goods and mascots to make something that is a a bit of a peculiarity. If you were a fan of Ajinomoto products, you could mail order a copy of this bad boy and tell all your friends that you bought a game about mayonnaise and that you are "teh uberness". What!? Mayonnaise!!? I kid you not, so as Naruto (in his English dub) likes to say: "Believe it!"
As the game alludes to, you will take the role of Motoko-chan, a delightful young chef who KNOWS that Ajinomoto brand mayonnaise is better than all the rest and is a good topping for pretty much everything...period. Anything else is uncivilized. As fate would have it though, before you can whip up some savory dishes, you need to know a little about Motoko's world. She doesn't live in the suburbs of London or near the mean streets of New Jersey, she lives in a world filled with magic and make-believe. You will find that the ingredients you need to make your dishes have been whisked away to other dimensions filled with fairies, jungle creatures, witches, and other things so with your magical click-n-pick glove, animal friends and a bit of your imagination, you'll have to track the goodies down.
For an obvious promotional goodie geared for young aspiring iron chefs, I have to admit that the game is a little fun and certainly reels you in with its colorful backdrops and occasional sounds. All the locations are simple enough in their design, though a few things in this game will surprise you. Never before have I seen a 16-bit SNES/SFC rainbow as beautiful as the one I've encountered in this game, with its colors cleverly reflecting and wavering on the oceans' surface. If that isn't enough, watch "Motoko-chan and the Seven Dwarfs" dance their way out of a scene or watch a penguin swim alongside a pirate ship. Heck, if you're good enough, you can even catch a cameo of the viruses from Dr. Mario! Nearly everything has a simple and effective little ditty that plays since the game is mostly silent by default. Heck, as strange as it sounds, you'd be surprised to know how cool it is to pick up a bottle of mayonnaise just to hear the cool ditty that plays when you do. Bizarre? Of course. Out of the ordinary? Sure...Japan loves them some weirdness.
The gameplay is more or less a standard text-adventure game with three cooking segments (where you use various utensils and food items) ranging from novice, intermediate, and advanced. As mentioned before, your primary task is to waltz into imaginative worlds looking for the ingredients you need to make your dishes. Most objects within a scene can be interacted with and that only adds to the fun. The game also has a side game where you can play against the computer in a bout of Reversi (or Othello for some). As you progress, an old man will tell you the history of mayonnaise and where Ajinomoto stands in the condiments industry. He'll tell you things such as how Ajinomoto turned "Mahonaisse" into "Mayonnaise" and how the judges and pie charts agree that Ajinomoto is the best, as well as "trivia" questions. None of it really plays a role in your performance, but it is a little humorous nonetheless. In the end, you can cook. Without Japanese knowledge, it may seem intimidating, but overall, it's incredibly easy and the game walks you through each step with failure conveniently taken out of the equation. Afterwards, the game pretty much ends on its own.
From a skeptics perspective, I would have to say this game is relatively pointless. It's relatively short, it's not particularly deep, and it doesn't really showcase anything that the system can do, not to mention what little the game does attempt to delve into in regards to the cooking sim genre (if it even has its own genre) is what most would call paperweight. Still, what little Motoko-chan no Wonder Kitchen does provides is quite charming and this game would make a great gift for the wee ones if it wasn't so darn expensive these days (after all, its a safe yet hands-on approach to cooking...sorta). At the end of the day, I bought one heck of a collectors item at a price most would cringe at, but I can honestly say I've blown my money on worst things...don't EVEN let me get started on what that may be. Nintendo never ceases to amaze me...
- Written by Bel Cain The Eternal -