Money Idol Exchanger

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It's only called Money Idol Exchanger in the Japanese version. Why, I'll never know.

     Put a schoolgirl in an anime and you're bound to attract two audiences: other schoolgirls, and Japanese salarymen. These two forces explain pretty much every single phenomenon in any such anime you can think of. Just think about it: Neon Genesis Evangelion had cute penguins, Sailor Moon had lesbians, and Ranma had, well, Ranma.

      As far as I can tell, Exchanger is a Neo Geo game dedicated solely to this principle. You have your basic magical, transforming schoolgirls. You have your basic magical, transforming villains. And they all fight to see which side can exchange money the fastest. It's an ingenious concept, really. Salarymen who watch those kind of shows probably fantasize about them anyway, why not take that extra step and give the heroine a boring office job? And did I mention that they give the characters' measurements?

I can understand listing blood type, but this is just crazy.

      And then the best part comes: the characters. How can you possibly make good characters with a theme like this? Sure, the villains in Sailor Moon would take an alien chick, give her a gun that shot out Hello Kitty keychains and a blade fashioned from an eggplant, and she'd take on the whole frickin' nation of Japan and win. But what about a game based on money? The answer is actually quite simple. Make them wealthy, stuck up, European, or any combination of the above. Some of them are just ridiculous, in that cool Japanese way. What kind of name is Debtmiser for a money exchanger? How can you strike fear into the hearts of your opponents with a name like Cherrybiter? And what the hell is Eldylabor, anyway?

      But I digress. Despite its odd plot, its gameplay is actually quite good. The gameplay is quite unique. I think they stated it best in the tutorial:

"Explain the rules. I'll teach you how to changes. / You can change that if when you have 5 coins. / You can do that over two coins. / If they are tied lengthwise or crosswise. / But not diagonally. Sorry. / We say 'Change,' so. / They will stay on a screen changing to another coins, / If they are both 500-coin. / The position of coin's appearance. / It is changed in the light down side." And so forth.
In layman's terms, that means it's a lot like Tetris Attack, only much, much different. Your character moves coins around by picking them up and dropping them onto an upside-down Puyo Puyo playing area of sorts. You can only hold one type of coin at a time, but you can hold as many coins as you want. Getting a combination doesn't make the coins completely disappear, it just makes them "Rank Up" into the coin type above them. Five ones make a five, two fives make a ten, five tens make a fifty, and so on up until two 500s, when both coins completely disappear. As for the resemblance to Tetris Attack, if when you changes, you can still move other coins around causing larger than normal combos. Of course, the computer takes advantage of this in vs. mode by its incredibly cheap ability to move its counter ten times faster than any sane man could.

SD-shounen-rainbow-star-power goodness. I think I'm gonna be sick.

      Graphics aren't especially good, but they don't need to be for a puzzle game like this. However, the last three seconds of the intro sequence is pretty cool. It may be fruity, but back in the day, it was the closest thing to FMV on the Neo Geo we had. Kinda like Resident Evil 2 on the Nintendo 64, except for the fact that it was five years ago, so it was cool rather than pathetic.

      One final point: Money Idol Exchanger also has a drama CD. I don't know Japanese, so I'm not going to bother buying it, but if anyone out there has it, send me an e-mail with plot details. Even after playing through the game seven times and knowing all the characters, I still can't figure out what the heck is going on.

      Overall, Money Idol Exchanger is a very good game. I wouldn't buy it, considering that Neo Geo games tend to be upwards of $100 apiece, but it's worth the quarter if you can ever find it in the arcades.

Rating: 4/5

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