Vegas Dream

Vegas Dream - CBS Sony Group Inc. 1988, HAL America Inc. 1988

This installment of Retro Neko is going to cover my first experience with gambling, the NES game Vegas Dream. One of the groups responsible for this game was HAL Laboratories, the same people who would later bring us a cute little puffball named Kirby.

When my sister and I were kids, we often rented video games at a little shop called Network Video, who ran a rental special "3 games, 3 days, 3 dollars". Mom and Dad would pick us up from elementary school (so we'd get there early for a better selection) and we'd each pick out one game to play for the weekend. The third game had to be a compromise, and often we'd settle on something we could play together. Which led to our first experience with Vegas Dream.

The graphics aren't too bad for an 8-bit title, although the background music can be pretty grating after a while. The gambling mechanics aren't the best, but it's a fun multi-player title. And the NPC interactions (see below) really add a fun angle to the game. Of course, the game version "One Spot" is pure gambling with none of the NPC nonsense.

Vegas Dream offers four different gambling games at the HAL Palace Casino for up to four players: Blackjack, Roulette, Slots, and Keno. I don't know whether the odds are good or not in the gambling games, but you don't lose all your money (you start with $700) right away. As long as you keep your bets reasonable, you won't go broke for a while. If you do start losing, other players can lend you some of their winnings.

Blackjack is your standard make 21 card game. It offers a Double-Down option if your cards total less then 10. You can "split" your bet if you get two of the same card. You can purchase insurance if the dealer gets an Ace on their faceup card. The dealer will hit on 16 and stand on 17. And the game mechanics aren't that great - since the game doesn't keep track of which cards have been played, you seem to get an unusually high number of face cards and very few of the low numbers. This means your hand will go over 21 a lot.

Roulette offers a lot of betting options. You can bet on a single number, red/black, 0 or 00, even or odd, as well as ranges of numbers. Obviously the riskier bets (like individual numbers) have better payoff.

Slots are pretty straightforward. You've got both Pot-o-Gold and Jackpot Bar options ranging from $1 to $100.

Keno is a random number selection game. You can pick 1 to 15 numbers on a grid of 80. The dealer will then call out 15 random numbers. The higher percentage of your numbers that hit, the better your prize. For example, hitting 5 numbers when you picked 6 is much better than hitting 5 numbers when you picked 15. I never did very well on this one.

If you're player 1 (or the only player) and you lose all your money, the HAL Palace Casino will give you one last shot to win it all back. A pull of the slots lever will decide your fate: will you go home an unfortunate loser, or will Lady Luck be on your side? Once I hit three triple BARs and won a huge sum of money at this stage, so it can be done. More often than not, however, you'll find yourself at the Game Over screen.

To be honest, the gambling aspect isn't that great on its own. The real fun of Vegas Dream comes from the NPC interactions. Every few turns, a random person will approach you with a request. Maybe it's a man who lost everything and asks for a $200 loan, offering his watch as collateral. Maybe a gentleman offers you a good deal on stocks. Perhaps someone is waiting to meet you in the hotel lobby. After every scenario, you're given the option to answer yes or no. After your answer, the game cuts to a news report where you learn whether or not you made the right decision (you can immediately tell based on the music). There's always a risk involved here, because the outcomes always vary. Sometimes the man with the watch will hit it big and give you some of the winnings; other times you learn that the watch was stolen. The stocks that paid off well last time might flop this time. Sometimes the guest in the lobby gives you an inheritance, other times a chandelier falls on your head. One interaction always goes badly: the waitress who spills drinks on you is always bad news. I've never once seen anything good come from letting her dry-clean your jacket.

From time to time, an NPC will invite you to play a game of skill (like a hand of Blackjack).

There are two NPC scenarios that are a bit more flashy than the others. One involves a person inviting you to see a show with them. If you attend, you're treated to an 8-bit image of Vegas Showgirls. In the other flashy scenario, someone of the opposite gender falls in love with your character. They'll start by inviting you for drinks, then ask to meet you again. Before long, you'll have the option to visit one of Vegas's quickie wedding chapels. As with most scenarios, you'll watch a news report afterwards telling you whether you made the right choice to attend the show or get married. Sometimes you can earn big rewards from these events (like receiving a fancy diamond ring at the wedding or winning the raffle at the show), but other times you'll lose quite a bit to a con artist.

Vegas Dream is password-driven, so you can quit at any time by copying down a very LONG password and keying it back in. I don't know of any specific passwords that will give you untold riches, but there is a definite way to cheat the system using any password. All you need do is switch the 17th and 18th characters in your password. Suddenly your bank will be overflowing with cash. It's not as thrilling as winning it yourself, but you'll get the chance to watch the ending and credits this way.

I can't say whether this is as fun as going to the real Las Vegas, but at least you can satisfy your gambling itch and not worry about losing a cent. You can take other risks as well, and just shut the game off rather than face the consequences of being robbed or having part of the hotel's decor smash on your head. So go see a show! Get hitched to a complete stranger! Bet all your savings on "Red" at Roulette!

After all, it's just a game...

Vegas Dream
NES cartridge (US)

neko BACK to Retro Neko
BACK to Articles