Casino Kid

aCasino Kid USA 188x266 Casino Kid NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotDeveloper: Sofel

 October 1989
US Cartridge ID: NES-KP-USA

Players:  1
Genre: Gambling
Supported Peripherals: Controller

ROM Size: 1 megabit
Mapper: UNROM (128k PRG)

Requires Flash10

Sofel, a company known in Japan for PC business application development rather than video games, released their first American NES title, Casino Kid, in 1989. The player is the titular Casino Kid, a fresh face at the Golden Crumbs (a mock of the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas), with $500 in pocket and a dream to become the KingCasino Kid USA 001 256x2241 Casino Kid NES Nintendo Review Screenshot of the Casino. If the Kid is able to outsmart his sixteen waiting opponents at poker and blackjack, he’ll get the rare opportunity to challenge the Casino King.

Casino Kid is not a typical gambling simulation game, but rather actively seeks to recreate the atmosphere and personal interactions in a casino. Unlike Vegas Dream where all gameplay takes place at a table, much of Casino Kid involves walking around the casino floor speaking with the Crumb’s patrons and staff. In a top-down view similar to that of Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior, the Casino Kid can speak with bunny girls to find out where potential opponents are located in the casino, and patrons will offer advice on how to read the poker dealers’ reactions.

The game’s unique presentation is easily its strong point. The order in which the player can take on opponents is relatively strict, and is dependent on how much money has been accrued.  Each card shark has a unique personality, and these Casino Kid USA 070 256x224 Casino Kid NES Nintendo Review Screenshotshine through during the gambling scenes. When cards are dealt, the opponent will often react in a way that betrays their hand – for example, the finely mustachioed Joseph, a distinguished gentleman, is terrible at veiling his emotions in poker. If he gets useless cards, his crazed wide-eyed shout, “What is this hand!?” will provide a not-so-subtle hint to the player on how to play the hand. All of this is made even quirkier by the awkward translations that run rampant through the game’s text – character lines are always comprehensible, but the misspellings and butchered phrasings tend to make the game even more endearing than it’d otherwise be. These colorful characters go a long way to dispelling the feeling of sterility that gambling games tend to suffer from. The casino is quite large, however, and it can be frustrating trying to find where the next available opponent is, since they all look identical in the overhead map view.

The table games are handled well, though poker fares far better than blackjack. This isn’t really a fault of Casino Kid‘s play mechanics – poker tends to require more skill and less Casino Kid USA 076 256x224 Casino Kid NES Nintendo Review Screenshotluck, making it the more interesting of the two table games on offer. The computer player sometimes gets some amazing (seemingly unfair) hands, but most of the time the difficulty keeps itself appropriate and balanced, and the game moves at a fast clip, avoiding any down time during heated matchups.

Casino Kid‘s graphics are well done, featuring large, anime-style portraits that convey emotion, well-rendered and easy to identify cards, and a gaudy but attractive overhead map. The music is good, but repeated far too often, making it grow stale after a few extended play-sessions.

The original Japanese version is strikingly different from American version, making it an interesting novelty for fans of Casino Kid.  In addition to poker and blackjack, the game also offers roulette and slots. The Japanese version provides a free play mode that allows the player to practice any of the games free of Casino Kid USA 037 256x224 Casino Kid NES Nintendo Review Screenshotthe story trappings, graphics that have a much heavier anime influence over them, and gambling that takes place between different casinos, rather than the sole venue featured in the domestic release.

While it may not sit amongst the NES great heavyweights, Casino Kid is loaded with charm and fun. Having a unique feel all unto itself, Casino Kid is a prime example of how funny writing and creative thinking can make a piece of gaming software become so much more than the sum of its individual parts.

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