Flashback Attack: Vegas Dream
Title: Vegas Dream
Version Played: NES (1988)
Vegas Dream is sort of a weird game, even by today’s standards. Actually, especially by today’s standards. Part of what makes it so weird is the fact that it was developed by HAL Laboratories. That’s right, the guys that would go on to make Kirby, Earthbound and Super Smash Bros at one point in their past made what amounts to a gambling game.
The game has two different game modes, “Vegas Dream” and “One Spot,” both of which give the player $700 starting funds and lets them pick between four different kinds of Vegas games: blackjack, roulette, slot machines and keno. One Spot serves as a strict, games-only gamemode that simply lets you play the games on display.
Okay, so far so good…
Here’s where things get weird. “Vegas Dream” mode is essentially a story mode. A story mode in an NES game centered around Vegas gambling? Yeah… it’s about as clunky as you’d imagine and really amounts to little more than semi-interesting tidbits when you hit certain levels of cash.
For example, after you get about $5000, a random stranger walks up to you and offers you the option to invest in $200 stocks and you have to either say no or risk your money. As far as I can tell it’s totally random whether the stocks return any money or not.
Even weirder, though, is that at certain times the game gives you other options, like the ability to marry someone of the opposite sex who either turns out to provide you with more money or steals your money over the course of the rest of the game. Pretty much every scenario you run into has this random good/bad outcome, which for some reason is conveyed to you via a fake news report.
This is the man who will tell you the outcome of all your major life decisions.
Oh, and you “win” the story mode by reaching the arbitrary amount of $10 million. Keep in mind that you start out with $700, so you can imagine that legitimately reaching that amount of money is pretty difficult, actually.
Luckily, though, the game uses a password saving system, which is pretty easy to exploit: just get your password after every hand of blackjack, write it down, then bet all your money. Repeat if you win the hand, start over and put in password if you lose the hand. Even doing it this way is pretty tedious, though.
Mostly because the passwords are complicated as hell
But, does it stand the test of time?
Well, I think I’ve pretty much already answered that question in terms of content. Keeping in mind that the game came out in 1988, it’s a bit more forgivable because the mainstream definition of “what is a game” was still up in the air a little bit (as opposed to today, where we seem to think that games consist only of brown/gray modern first-person-shooters). So, maybe in its time the game was pretty enjoyable for what it is, but with age it’s grown into this really weird not-quite-a-game thing.
In terms of presentation, though, the visuals are pretty impressive for 1988, and surprisingly hold up fairly well. It’s just a shame that there’s really not that much to look at during the game since you’ll pretty much just be staring at one of four different screens for pretty much the entire time you’re playing.
Much like a real casino, actually
As far as the actual gameplay, well it’s pretty much just video game adaptations of popular casino games, so what can I really say about them? If you’re a fan of casino games in general, I’m sure you’d get some enjoyment out of this game. I’m not a big fan of them myself, and even I started to get a little addicted to Vegas Dream.
So overall, the game actually holds up really well over time, but mostly because its an electronic adaptation of popular casino games that haven’t changed in over 50 years. Which actually added to its appeal, because I pretty much knew how to play the game as soon as I loaded up the cartridge. Except Keno. I have no idea what the hell that is.
Flashback Attack is a weekly column that goes up every Friday, in which Matt Overstreet takes a look at some older games and tries to figure out if they've stood the test of time. Do you have a game you'd like to recommend? Leave a suggestion in the comments or e-mail Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.