Standalone WiiWare Review: Yakuman Wii

Yakuman Wii is a Mahjong game published by Nintendo. Not only does it have Mii support, but it also has WiFi play with up to three other human players and AI to pick up the slack. If you can read Japanese and don’t know riichi mahjong rules, there’s a Mii of a Japanese Mahjong champion who’s happy to teach; otherwise you can find out how to play many places online.

When playing a local match it’s quite similar to Mahjong Taikai Wii (the disc-based Mahjong Tournament game from Koei) in the lack of time limit and the control scheme. Tile selections are made using the d-pad and A button with no pointer support at all. This appears to be the norm for console-based Mahjong games, but it’s not clear why pointer support couldn’t have been implemented as an option.

When playing online you have a time limit to decide your move which gets shorter if (like me) your luck runs poorly and you end up losing points. It puts extra pressure on individual players, but does ensure the game keeps moving at a decent pace.

Miis are used to represent players and you can change (and earn extra) Mii clothing and tile/playfield colour in the config screen. What is weird is that whilst the human players use Miis, the AI doesn’t: instead they are more slick looking, like the characters in Family Ski. I guess this could be to distinguish them as AI, but it’s still an odd choice; especially since this is a Nintendo title. AI players have a rating in stars which appears to represent their skill level. You get to pick them to make up your opposition in single-player mode to increase the level of challenge; online they seem to get chosen based upon the skill of the human players which is represented by a Dr. Mario-style ranking that goes up/down depending on how well you do in online matches.

In addition to the core Mahjong game there’s also a series of quizzes from the Mahjong sensei giving you various hands and asking you to choose the tile that fits whatever query/scenario he’s positing. If my Japanese comprehension was better (or existed) then I’d enjoy it better, but it’s an interesting diversion nonetheless.

It would be nice if Nintendo localised this and I’ve written to Nintendo support suggesting that they do so since there are Mahjong players outside of Japan, however this is extremely unlikely to happen so the best way to play this is to get it from the Japanese Wii Shop. Indeed I’d say if you’re a rabid Mahjong player this game alone is reason enough to buy a Japanese Wii even if you play nothing else!