Kuni-Chan’s Game Paradise

Released: 1991
Format: Sega GameGear

Kuni-Chan no Game Tengoku (Kuni-Chan’s Game Paradise) has so much history buried deep within its After Eight-shaped cartridge that it’s hard to know where to begin. The intro is a good place, I suppose – it’s set within the walls of Castle of Illusion, the very same place that Mickey Mouse visited. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the comparison shots to the right.

Mickey doesn’t feature, obviously, but other characters from Castle of Illusion are present. Mizrabel the witch resumes her role of being the baddie by stealing Kuni-Chan’s dress during a bizarre cut-scene, which leads her to play mini-games against the first three bosses from Castle of Illusion – the walking tree, giant chocolate bar and sinister clown. The games vary depending on which door you enter inside the castle – the middle door involves playing the board game ‘The Game of Life’ (which the Japanese apparently love) while another is based around a Japanese card game.

Occasionally you’ll get to play tennis or a variant of Columns too. These two may bear resemblance for some – they’re games also featured on Sega Game Pack 4 in 1, which was bundled with European GameGears from 1992 onwards. The sequel to Kuni-Chan no Game Tengoku features a racing game which is likewise present on Sega Game Pack 4 in 1, albeit with the sprites changed from go-karts to rally cars.

This means that Sega Game Pack 4 in 1 is compiled of the best bits from Kuni-Chan no Game Tengoku, with the exception of one game – Penalty Shootout. There is a rather decent bowling game on Kuni-Chan no Game Tengoku 2, but I’m guessing that Sega thought Penalty Shootout would make a better choice for the European market.

None of this information has raised your eyebrows so far? Well, here’s something to get your head around: this mini-game collection was also the first GameGear game to feature Sonic – as an umpire in the tennis game, no less – and not Sonic 1 as many may assume. I discovered this for myself by checking the Japanese release dates – Kuni-Chan no Game Tengoku was released on 22nd November 1991 while Sonic was released on 28th December 1991.

As Lloyd Grossman used to say on Through the Keyhole, let’s look at the facts:

  1. This game has the same setting and characters as Mickey Mouse: Castle of Illusion.
  2. Three of the mini-games were taken from the Kuni-Chan series and used in Sega Game Pack 4 in 1.
  3. It’s the first GameGear game to feature Sonic.

It’s games like this that make taking a chance on unheard of Japanese games listed on eBay worth the risk. We should also be grateful that the internet exists to share these findings – even the Sega magazines of the day overlooked this one.

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