Hi, it’s me, the spendthrift who wasted his money on PC Engine “gems” like Gambler Jikochuushinha (part 2) and Graduation Album (no relation to the better-known Graduation series). I’ve returned from my adventures in the Japanese wild with yet another piece of early ’90s nostalgia: Mami Inoue, subtitled “Kono Hoshi ni Tatta Hitori no Kimi”. It’s also subtitled “Je ne l’oublierai jamais, ma petite fille Mami” because the Japanese understand that games with foreign titles are DEEP and IMPORTANT. Von gut und bose!
Basically, Mami Inoue is a graphic adventure like Shadowgate, except that this one is terrible and focuses primarily on ridiculous poses by then-idol Mami, who later voiced Arle in Puyo Puyo Tsuu before going on to pose for pictures like this. The adventure starts with our male hero waking up in bed, because a lot of Japanese designers have this crazy notion that stories should start with the hero in bed, which is only interesting when dealing with a hero like Syd. You get to name this character — presumably with your own name — because this story is all about living out some sick twisted fantasy where Mami Inoue is your platonic best friend. That’s supposed to be a good thing, but Mami is one really boring girl.
“Oh that looks nice!”
“Oh I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
Pretend those are in Japanese and you’ve got a pretty good idea what her personality is like. But SHE’S A POP IDOL, so personality doesn’t matter. Like it or not, you’ll go to school and meet up with some schoolmates, one of whom is the moderately attractive Mami. You’ll know that you’re looking at Mami and not some random schoolgirl because . . .
ONE: Whenever you see Mami, the chimes of heaven ring.
TWO: She’s represented by digitized photographic images. Everyone else is a crudely-drawn cartoon.
So as you play this Super CD that uses chip music (except for one excruciatingly long and badly-photoshopped karaoke sequence) while performing such thrilling actions as LOOKing, TALKing, and THINKing. On one of the scripted adventure paths, you get to listen to your class’s entire roll call from top to bottom. Then you enjoy the excitement of looking at the clock over and over to advance the “story”, because staring at the clock is the ONLY way to make time pass. It’s kind of like Shenmue, except that this one doesn’t include an awesome port of Space Harrier to kill the time.
Like most graphic adventures, Mami Inoue includes a bunch of puzzles. At one point, you find some misshapen dynamite (which looks more like a tube of toothpaste). When you reach a dead end in some underground tunnels, after you look and think and talk a few times, Mami suggests you use the dynamite. After talking a few more times, you agree… but can’t light the dynamite. Fortunately, Mami gives you a lighter. What’s she doing with a lighter? It’s her father’s, of course! Having the answers handed to me is not a gratifying feeling.
Another one of the shitty puzzles is a dark room. You saw something run into the room, but you can’t see anything because it’s dark. Most people would know how to handle this situation, but Hudson Soft thinks you’re an idiot. This time, Mami’s not much help. After a lot of thinking and talking and fruitlessly looking in the dark, you finally get the option to flip the fucking light switch. All so you can find some dumb fucking cat. Meanwhile, Mami stands there with a ridiculous space alien hairstyle that makes her look like she’s got tentacles sprouting from her head.
“Oh wow now it’s not dark!”
Once you’ve turned on the lights, you get to spend several turns staring at a white bedsheet, trying to figure out what’s under it. Eventually, you get the option to actually lift the bedsheet, which reveals a basket. A FUCKING BASKET. When I spend twenty turns to uncover a hidden object, I want to find something cool, like a battlemace or silver arrow.
The only good thing going for Mami Inoue is its wacky unpredictability. For the first three playthroughs, you never know what’s going to happen next — maybe you’ll join a detective club (solving the mystery earns you an absurd photo of Mami in tweed) or maybe you’ll go back in time and lead Geisha Mami through feudal Japan on the back of a dinosaur, where she gets to terrorize elitist samurai instead of being raped by them. Although historically inaccurate, that’s the coolest part.
Or maybe that’s really dumb, just like all the rest.