The SEGA AGES series has been one of the Nintendo Switch’s more delightful little treats, each new entry either introducing me to an unfamiliar franchise or reacquainting me with a much-loved experience from my childhood. Puzzle and Action: Ichidant-R very much falls into that first category, a 1994 release that never made it outside of Japan and to be honest something I had never even heard of. It’s a curious choice, to say the least, especially following more familiar classics like Sonic the Hedgehog, Out Run and Columns II. Could we have been missing out on a secret gem?
SEGA AGES Ichidant-R is essentially a mini-game collection consisting of twenty unique experiences that will test everything including your memory, puzzle-solving ability, reactions, timing and more. The games themselves feel like a mix between the mini-games of a Mario Party title and the wackiness of the WarioWare series in that they’re relatively short and easy to pick up layered in a charming and often weird coating. You’ll find yourself rotating train tracks, shuffling frogs on lily pads, matching rice crackers and trying to locate Dracula behind a series of different styled doors to name a few.
There are two versions of SEGA AGES Ichidant-R included, the first being its arcade release. Here you’ll chase down the evil princess-kidnapping king through several fortresses each with an enemy or small group of enemies to take down. To do this you’ll have to successfully pass four mini-games, which adjust in difficulty based on how well you’re doing. Continue to do succeed at the car braking mini-game for example and the area you need to stop in will shrink. As you progress the number of times you’ll need to pass each mini-game will increase too.
Fail to meet the goal of a mini-game and you’ll lose a life forcing you to try again. Lose all your lives and its game over (unless you decide to throw in another credit). Once you’ve chosen a mini-game, you’re stuck attempting it until you’re eventually successful. Since some games are definitely easier than others I’d vary between passing one first time and bleeding lives on another. If this were a real arcade machine I’d likely be annoyed throwing so many lives away on a single mini-game. Fortunate for me then that you’re free to use all the credits you want.
The arcade version offers two-player support, the pair of you playing simultaneously in split-screen. So long as one of you manages to pass a mini-game you’ll be able to continue. Scores are recorded for those who want to monitor who is on top though.
Also included is the Mega Drive version, which offers a few features, not found in the arcade release. The first is a Quest Mode, an adventure that features a world to explore and light RPG elements. At its core, you’re still very much completing mini-games but nonetheless it’s still an interesting combination you’re not likely to see anywhere else. Rather surprisingly this version caters up to four players, a rarity especially for a Mega Drive game. Competitive Mode pits the group against each other on a board-game racing to the finish while Free Play lets you choose freely what to play.
The arcade version is an interesting curiosity but lacks long-term appeal. Thankfully the addition of the Mega Drive alternative definitely makes this a more appealing package overall especially with the inclusion of four-player modes. Of course, if you’re not a fan of mini-game compilations then SEGA AGES Ichidant-R will do little to change that view. It’s also worth noting that the while the arcade release is translated to English, the Mega Drive one is strictly Japanese. It makes navigating the menus less than ideal and understanding what is happening in the Quest Mode practically impossible. It’s a shame – albeit totally understandable given the work needed to translate the game – but at the same time doesn’t prevent you from enjoying what it has to offer. If anything it can be kind of fun trying to get your head around where everything is and what certain options do.
With only twenty mini-games it won’t take long to see everything there is in SEGA AGES Ichidant-R. This lead to the arcade version growing repetitive, especially later on where you’re forced to play bigger groups of mini-games. Thankfully that isn’t the case playing multiplayer since the added competition keeps things exciting.
SEGA AGES Ichidant-R is a strange game, but one that I’m glad has finally found its way outside Japan. At the end of the day, this is just a small collection of mini-games – albeit a fun one – but its fascinating presentation and surprisingly competitive multiplayer options make this an unknown worth exploring.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by SEGA