Sujin Taisen: Number Battles is a digital rerelease of the Japanese title, Suujin Taisen, which was released on Nintendo DS over two years ago in Japan. The game combines elements of classic games such as Mah-jong and Dominoes and mixes them with strategy elements to create a deeply rewarding puzzle experience with an albeit minimalistic story to add some flavour to the game.
There are three modes of gameplay available to the player: Story, Puzzle and Nintendo WFC, and each mode is pretty self-explanatory. Story mode has a simple map screen with various different boards waiting to be unlocked and with 30 different matches in total, each of increasing difficulty. Upon starting Story mode the player is offered a tutorial which explains the basics of Sujin Taisen – as this is the game’s first outing in the West, taking the tutorial is recommended as at first the game can be quite challenging. Story mode is placed in a classic “Ninja” setting with appropriate music to accompany gameplay, and the the player and CPU avatars match the scene perfectly.
At the start of each match each player is given five tiles and takes turns placing one tile down per turn. Each tile has a number between one and five and up to four “connectors” which are used to connect to other tiles to score points. There are four possible ways to score points in Sujin Taisen: sequential scoring is achieved by connecting numbers in a line of numerical order and is perhaps the easiest and most obvious way to score points. Matched scoring is achieved by matching numbers of the same value with higher scores for more matches. Looped scoring is achieved by forming loops of tiles using the connectors and finally forming a complete group of tiles with no loose connectors makes big points. Players can only connect to tiles of their own colour or “rainbow tiles” which any player can connect to. The first few levels in the game are quite gentle but after this brief honeymoon period the game gets difficult quickly.
As the game progresses special rules are added to boards and various items and other advantages such as score-increasing areas are introduced, all of which add to the strategic gameplay needed to progress in this game. Items have various effects such as changing the colour of a tile and adding extra connectors to a tile.
Puzzle mode offers a different spin on the game and has two different difficulty modes with 40 puzzles to solve. Each puzzle requires that player reach a certain score with a limited amount of tiles. Like story mode the initial stages are pretty easy but things soon become quite challenging.
Wi-fi connection mode is a very welcome feature in the game and allows the player to battle online in two, three and four person battles. There are also friendly matches and team battles to be played, all in all a very thorough online mode if not somewhat sparsely populated right now – get playing people!
Sujin Taisen is a strong game based on its strategic gameplay alone and the visuals only enhance the overall package further. While not breathtaking by any means the simple graphics and animations are stylishly presented in a way that makes the game feel like a pretty high quality title. The music too serves to enhance the gaming experience by offering pleasantly “Asian-sounding” music to fit the theme of the game in the over-world map and subdued tones during puzzles as not to distract from the game itself. If anything some more variety in music would have been nice but this really is only a minuscule critique for an otherwise great game.
As an added bonus the game also has a History function that allows players to relive previous battles and pick up on good strategies used by opponents – the game can store a total of eight puzzle battles. There is also a records option that stores statistics such as total playing time and stages cleared as well as more detailed information such as the player’s online rating and the amount of medals earned in story mode.
Overall Sujin Taisen: Number Battles is perhaps one of the strongest titles on the DSiWare service yet. It’s truly a mark of sound reasoning on Nintendo’s part to allow Western gamers to enjoy this solid puzzling experience and for 500 points this really does seem like quite a bargain – this game could easily be found on store shelves for full price!