Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!

#133 – Casino Kid

It’s gambling that’s wrapped up loosely in an RPG.

Dark and sparkly, just like a real casino.

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 8/6/19 – 8/10/19
Difficulty: 3/10
My Difficulty: 3/10
My Video: Casino Kid Ending

Today we have our first NES gambling game. I’m a little surprised that there aren’t that many of these games on the console. It seems like they would be more plentiful as gambling is quite popular. My guess is that they are too simple to make a full game from, and most people would rather have the thrill of putting money on the line in the hopes of a big payday. From glancing through the short list of gambling games, replicating a huge day at the casino seems to be the common approach. This is what Casino Kid does, using two casino games combined with some light RPG elements. It’s an interesting idea for a game, so let’s take a look and see how it shakes out.

Casino Kid was both developed and published by Sofel. The Famicom release is named $1,000,000 Kid: Maboroshi no Teiou Hen and is based on the manga 100 Man $ Kid which ran from 1986-1988. The game was released in Japan in January 1989. The NES release was localized to Casino Kid in October 1989. It appears the Famicom and NES releases are significantly different. The Famicom version follows the manga, while the NES version has those references removed and contains somewhat simplified gameplay. The NES would later receive an exclusive sequel Casino Kid II in 1993.

In this game, you play the role of the Casino Kid. You step foot inside a prominent casino with only $500. By playing multiple rounds of Blackjack and Poker against several dealers, you earn $1 million dollars and the right to square off against the Casino King. Win against him to become the new Casino King and win the game.

Lots of hustle and bustle here.

Casino Kid starts off looking like a top down RPG. You need to walk around the casino looking for opponents to play. Use the D-pad to walk and press A to talk to someone. There is only one active blackjack dealer and one active poker player at a time. Blackjack dealers appear behind tables and you have to talk to them from across the table, while poker players are just standing around. Talking to the wrong one gets you brushed off, however, sometimes the person will give you a hint to where you might find the opponent you need to play next. Tourists and casino workers also give you some basic hints about the names and personalities of the different players. While walking around, you can press Select to see how much money you have and your password for later play. Passwords in this game are 30 characters long, all capital A-Z. Lengthy, but not bad.

Walking around the casino for your next matchup is just window dressing for the meat of the gameplay, which are the games of blackjack and poker. The screen layout and basic betting structure is the same for both games. Your cards are on the bottom of the screen and the opponent’s cards are at the top. The middle of the screen contains a picture of your opponent along with a textbox for dialog. Below that is the amount of money your opponent has, the current bet, and your total money. Each matchup has a specific betting range. For instance, the first opponent establishes a betting range of $10-$100. During betting, you press either Left or Right to choose the amount of your chip. In the example case, you can choose from either a $10 chip or a $100 chip. Then you can press Up or Down to either add or remove chips for your bet. You will press A to place your bet.

First, let’s cover blackjack, quick and dirty style. Your goal is to have a higher point value in your hand of cards than the dealer without going over 21. The face value of each card is its point value. Jacks, queens, and kings are worth 10. Aces are worth 11 if the total would be under 21, otherwise it counts as 1. First you place your bet, then the dealer gives you two cards face up, and the dealer gets one card face up and the other face down. Casino Kid shows your total in the corner of your hand of cards. You can decide if you want to Hit and get another card or Stand and go with what you have. If you stand, the dealer plays his or her hand. The dealer always hits on 16 or lower and stands on 17 or higher. Either player loses when going over 21, otherwise the higher value wins and earns the bet. Getting the same total is called a push and no money is exchanged. If you are dealt both an Ace and a 10-point value card, that is considered blackjack and you win automatically. Blackjacks are paid 3 to 2 in this game, meaning you earn your wager plus an additional 50%.

Some of the people walking around give you tips.

There are some additional choices you can make during blackjack in certain situations. If you are dealt two identical cards, you can decide to Split hands. This lets you play two hands at the same time against the same dealer hand. You must play one hand all the way before playing the second hand. If you split Aces, you are only allowed to draw one additional card. If you win both hands, you effectively double your original wager. I believe you can get the additional payout if you get blackjack on a split hand as well. The double down option lets you double your bet while hitting only one card. A common double down situation is a 11-point hand with a high probability of getting a 10-point card on your extra card. A third option is surrender. Immediately and only after the initial deal, you can surrender your hand and forfeit half of your initial wager. I never used this option but it can be helpful to limit your loss if you have a high probability of losing your hand if you tried to play.

Now let’s talk about Poker. Your goal is to get a better five-card hand than your opponent. There are many variants of Poker, but in Casino Kid you play five-card draw. At the start of every hand, both players put a little bit of money into the pot, called ante. Each player is dealt five cards face down. You get to see your cards. Next is a round of betting. Players alternate first move here every hand. You can either place a bet or fold your hand. The opponent can either call the bet and chip in the same amount, raise the bet by throwing more money in, or folding their hand to quit. If play continues, you choose which cards you want to hold and you are dealt replacement cards for the others. You can see how many cards your opponent chooses to hold. Armed with that knowledge, there’s another round of betting before revealing hands. The best hand wins all the money in the pot.

The ranking of hands in poker, from best to worst, are royal flush, straight flush, four of a kind, full house, flush, straight, three of a kind, two pair, one pair, and high card. You may know what all of these terms mean already. If not, many of these hands are self-explanatory but I’ll review a few of the others just in case. A full house is a three of a kind and a pair together. A straight occurs when all five cards are in ascending rank. For example, a 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 is a straight. The ace can either be the low card or high card but doesn’t wrap around. A flush is when all five cards are the same suit. A straight flush then is when you get both a straight and a flush. A royal flush is a straight flush with an Ace, King, Queen, Jack, and 10. Usually the type of hand determines the winner. Ties are broken using the remaining cards in the hand. For example, if both players have a pair of 5’s, whoever has the next highest card is the winner. While uncommon is it possible to tie outright, in which case each player gets their half of the pot back.

Anything you can do to win money faster is worth it.

In both blackjack and poker, there is a hidden menu. Press Select during either placing a bet in blackjack or placing your ante in poker. Your options here are to Bet All Money or Final Hand. Bet All Money does just that, up to either your max or your opponent’s max. However, your opponent may not let you bet everything. Final Hand means you play out that last hand and then go back to the casino floor. You get to keep your winnings as well as maintain your opponent’s cash stash. There may be some strategy here in stopping early to have a better shot at winning a different game. A better use of the Final Hand is to get back to the floor so you can get your password for later if you decide to quit mid-game.

This was my first time playing Casino Kid. I do like card games a little bit. I’m pretty sure when I tested my copy at least I found an opponent and played a few hands before switching to something else. This is a common cart that is only worth a few dollars. The sequel, however, was an uncommon, late release and is much more valuable.

My playthrough of the game ended up being more tedious than fun. Once you’ve played a little bit of blackjack and poker, you’ve seen everything the game has to offer. Beating the game became a test of optimization for me. To that end, my efforts started out poorly. Poker ended up being fairly manageable. Even without making max bets all the time, betting twice per round goes a long way toward exchanging money quickly. After several hands, my opponent offered to go all in and bet everything, to which I gladly agreed. In blackjack, this situation never happens. In fact, for some opponents, the max bet is so small that you have to win about 50 more hands than the dealer to empty them of cash. You can try counting cards to help your odds, but the better option in my mind is the Bet All Money option in the Select menu. After playing awhile, the dealer will accept your request and now your fate rests in one or two hands. I was totally fine with that. The sad thing is that I wasn’t aware of that option until roughly halfway through the game, so I wasted a lot of time. I read the manual before playing these games, but I need to revisit them after playing some because I often end up missing these little tips to speed things up. Armed with a better game plan, I made short work of the rest of the game.

Every once in a while you get extremely lucky.

After playing eight rounds of blackjack and eight rounds of poker, you finally earn the million dollars and get to face off against the king of the casino in poker. This is a long, drawn out match to the bitter end for a couple of reasons. You are unable to bet everything you have, no matter what the situation. This is what sped up the other poker matches. Early poker opponents wore their emotions on their sleeve to where you can figure out if they have a good hand or not. Even later opponents sometimes have a tell in that they can show opposite emotion in trying to bluff you. You don’t get that with the king. You need to make smart bets, fold when hands are bad, and go for broke when you get something good. It took me over 30 minutes to finally overcome the king and beat the game. While it started looking bad at times, I did have a little unexpected help. I ended up getting a royal flush one time, dealt straight up. The odds of that are so low that I felt the game was taking pity on me and did it on purpose. I caught it on video so I have proof it happened. If only I could have that luck for real!

Casino Kid is a fine gambling simulation to play for fun, but offers little beyond that. The graphics are pretty good. Character portraits are a nice touch, and the playing cards are clear to read. One little thing I noticed was that some people in the casino are purely background elements and you have to get an eye for them so you don’t wait around hoping they will walk out of your way. The music is pretty good, in step with the presentation. Controls are accurate, though betting can be cumbersome since you need to switch chip size to place a precise bet. The core gameplay is solid. Betting rounds are done well in poker and there are all the different options in blackjack. The major issue I had with beating the game is that it drags on a long time. I finished the game in maybe 6-8 hours but it’s a lot of repetition. I would have liked pick up and play options to jump straight into the cards. These are fun poker and blackjack games but there’s some rigamarole just to get to playing. This game tries to be something of a gambling RPG, but history would prove that gambling works better as a mini-game in an RPG, making Casino Kid feel quite outdated. You can’t blame them for trying something different though.

#133 – Casino Kid

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