Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Shanghai II

Hudson Soft / Activision

Shanghai II comes through in the ways that most players would expect a Shanghai CD sequel to: it offers multiple stack sets and tile types, red book music, and, well, fancier dragon art. The first element, I believe, is the one that will be of greatest significance to people who view the HuCard original as simple and dated. You can still play with standard pile arrangements and typical tile-face designs...

...but you can also change things up quite a bit.

Not being an enormous Shanghai fan, I was more interested in S2's soundtrack than in any of that variety-in-gameplay stuff. The tunes are certainly very nice, especially the Scorpion/Panther track, but they don't get me pumped up or bring me into the experience like the best of the HuCard numbers do. So, disappointed with the music, I was essentially left to reap whatever enjoyment I could from the tile fields themselves.

This didn't turn out to be such a bad thing. It's pretty common to pick away randomly at matching tiles and make a quick, painless first-time run through a given Shanghai board, but here you sometimes encounter devious arrangements that require a little more forethought and experimentation, and conquering these challenging setups can feel very satisfying.

While its music doesn't quite have the chip soundtrack's magic, Shanghai II greatly improves upon its predecessor in every other respect. Of course, since you can probably buy them both for a combined cost of under ten bucks, there really isn't any need to choose between them.

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