Title: NAKAYAMA Miho no Tokimeki High School
Genre: Adventure (??)
Designer: Donno (There's a code to show the game credits, but it requires you to hit Select about 165 times and I have never done it correctly)
Released by: Nintendo
Release Date: December 1, 1987
Japanese level: 3
MSRP: 3500 yen
Current Price: 500 yen

Somehow I am beginning to get the idea that people think I'm weird. Not because of my wild hamster all-night raves, not because of my hanging out in Japan for a year or so - but because of my ravings about how ahead of its time the Disk System and its games were. Well, this disk proves me right - within the Disk System's library lies the foundation for every "idol" and "love simulation" game ever made!

Even if you're not extremely into the weird side of video games, you might have heard of series like Konami's Tokimeki Memorial or Sakura Taisen. These games take the sort of standard adventure format and use it to make a simulation of your love life, starting at some arbitrary date (the first day of high school, maybe) and letting you loose to try to, um, you know, get a little closer to the girl of your dreams via conversations and actions. Of course there are obstacles like heartthrob guys who girls are instantly attracted to, and ugly or bossy girls who get in the way of the special thing you've got going.

Oh, now look, you've made Miho cry
The otaku goods of the 90s began here in the 80s. In this pioneering game, not only do you get a chance to make it with da girlies (in a non Leisure Suit Larry style, but you know what I mean), but you get a chance at every high schooler's dream woman - ravishing 80s teen pop idol NAKAYAMA Miho!

The game begins with your character, whose family has just moved to the area, entering his new school for the first time. After class, you accidentially run into a conservative-looking girl wearing glasses. She introduces herself as Mizuho, but you can't help but notice her striking resemblance to your dream pop idol Cher (I mean Miho, of course). You pick up a good-luck charm Mizuho dropped to give back to her, then make a startling revelation - your photographer brother took a picture of Miho carrying the exact same charm!

SLAM! True love is not without pain
You go to the music room to confront her with this evidence - and this is where the true challenge of the game begins. Most of the game uses the familiar walkaround graphic adventure system. You can choose from commands like Move and Take from a side window, and interact with objects on the main screen with a pointer. Conversations and the results of your actions are printed out on the bottom window.

What makes this game so much harder than others of its ilk is the complicated conversation system. In the music room you have to reveal to the girl that you know she's really an 80s Japanese pop idol, but you have to break the news lightly to her so she doesn't break down and leave the school. So, at each crossroads in your chat you can choose between three to four things to say. For example, you can be upfront and say "I know your secret, Miho" or beat around the bush and say "There's something really important I need to tell you". In addition, you sometimes can also choose what expression you make while you say your choice. Obviously apologizing to a girl while grinning wildly is a bad idea, but looking suitably sad could have a more desirable result.

If your confession goes well with Miho, she'll ask you to keep her true identity a secret so she can continue going to a normal high school, and so the bizarre love story begins. Your high school is populated with the kind of characters that should be familiar to everyone - the domineering rich girl Erika and her entourage of giggling lackeys, your dopey friend Sadakichi who will never get a girl in his life, strict (but secretly perverted) teachers - and they all get in the way of your true love.

The first true test of fate comes before your first date with Miho. After making the plans, Erika kidnaps you and makes you go to her birthday party. At her mansion, not only are you forced to "confess" your love to Erika, but you are locked in her house! After escaping (and avoiding Erika's attack dog), you are too late for your date with Miho, and she cusses you out over the phone... and that is that? You're fooled into thinking that the game's over, but eventually Miho finds out the truth and meets with you again.

This is one hard conversation to get past - if you say one "wrong" thing, Miho breaks into tears and says that she "can't bear to see your face anymore" - Game Over. You're allowed infinite chances to complete the conversation, but after awhile you are reduced to trying out every option on the list, which is no fun at all. A woman's heart is a complex thing...

This game was probably much more palatable in 1987. Miho-chan was actually a star at the time, for one (now she's Tiffany-level). More importantly, the game gives you phone numbers from time to time. These were real numbers, and you could call them to get hints, advance the plot, and hear Miho's sanguine voice. These numbers don't work anymore, of course (you can't even dial them; the area codes have changed), but I think it's a neat idea and I'm surprised other games haven't tried this out.

Tokimeki High School is certainly worth trying out, at least. I'll wait to finish it until I find a walkthrough, though, as conversations near the end get quite frustrating. It's more linear than other Famicom adventures, and takes place in a more modern setting, allowing even beginning Japanese readers to understand it fairly easily from the start.

This game was one of several Nintendo published on special blue disks, meant for use on the Disk Fax contest machines. Players who finished the game and entered the contest had a chance to win a special videotape and phone card set. Unlike the other FDS contest prizes I have never ever seen one of these. I'd chalk that up more to Famicom gamers not wanting to actually keep something like that than to any real "value" to collectors, though...