The Game: You control Polpo, the fleet-footed landlord of a bustling apartment building. Tenants come and tenants go, and as new ones move in you have to make sure they’re not getting on the nerves of their neighbors and potentially chasing away other paying tenants. You must also be wary of mischief-makers employed by a rival apartment complex, intruding on your property to drive your renters away. Successful management will lead to expansion of your apartment building, but losing track of what’s going on can leave you with an empty building, no matter how big it is. (Capcom, 2001)
Memories: In this era, where it seems like most new games fall into one of just a handful of popular genres (fighting, driving, first-person shooter, combat sim, etc.), it’s so refreshing to get a completely off-the-wall gem like this Japanese creation, which caught me completely off guard by (A) being translated to the U.S. market in the first place, and (B) being hilariously fun. The One Piece characters have a major cult following all their own in Japan, so this is just one of a series of games in that country. Over here, it’s a one-off oddity, but its simple, strategic, addictive style warrants repeat play.
First off, language/cultural barriers or no, some things about living in an apartment building are just universal, and One Piece Mansion nails them: a lady with a zillion cats in her apartment, that oaf who won’t turn down the stereo, the perpetually fighting couple…I think I’ve lived next door to all of these in real life, minus their bizarre, nearly-Seussian appearance in this game’s graphics. Visual indicators show how stressed out each tenant is, and it’s up to you to figure out which neighbor, or combination of neighbors, is raising a troubled tenant’s blood pressure. If you don’t figure it out and take measures to resolve the conflict, an apartment empties with a mighty bang!
As much as I like to swap out my standard PS1 controller for something more arcade-flavored, this is a game where you really need the shoulder buttons to be shoulder buttons. Spending a lot of time looking for your buttons on an alternate controller could cost you precious time in dealing with trouble tenants. So I’m actually making a rare recommendation to stick with the standard PS1 controller.