SNES A Day 194: Vegas Stakes

Approximate Release Month: May 1993
Genre: Casino
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Publisher: Nintendo

Vegas Stakes stands out from other casino video games by integrating elements from adventure games with the gambling.

For example, there’s a story with characters! You are on a road trip to Las Vegas with four friends in a quest to become multimillionaires. Each of your friends has their own personality and will offer advice when asked during gameplay. The game implies that each character is better at different games, but I’m not sure if that’s just flavor or if it is correct.

The most stand-out feature of Vegas Stakes is the random events that pop up during gameplay. While you’re playing, you have a chance to trigger a short dialog with a casino patron. The first one I got while playing for review was where a man came up to me at the blackjack table and asked if I wanted to buy a watch for $200. It wasn’t shady at all, so of course I bought it. A few hands, later a man came up and wanted to buy the watch from me for a thousand dollars. Most events will have randomly selected positive or negative outcomes, so it’s always a gamble.

I really like these encounters. Casino games are dry experiences, so anything that lets it stand out benefits Vegas Stakes. A pickpocket stealing a couple thousand from your wallet is more singularly memorable than almost anything else that can happen in these kinds of games. I wish there were a wider variety of events that popped up, though. They repeat too much.

Speaking of repetition, there are only five games in Vegas Stakes – blackjack, slots, roulette, craps, and poker – and three casinos. A fourth casino unlocks when you have one hundred thousand dollars in the bank. Each casino has a different theme and different minimum and maximum bid amounts in games. Going to a new, swankier casino is the only progression in the game. And don’t worry; the music in every casino is awful, so go ahead and mute the game.

You already know if you like the games included here. I am not especially familiar with the games other than blackjack and slots, but all five seem like decent adaptations of the real-life games. They move quickly and without annoying extraneous animations and time-wasting. Blackjack in Vegas Stakes taught me the rules of the game when I was a child, so it’s great that it is still a blast to play. Roulette deserves a special mention for making it easy to trivialize the game. Make a save, put it all on red, and see if you double your money. When you max out the money counter, you win the game.

There aren’t many games like Vegas Stakes in the Super Nintendo’s North American library, so if you’re wanting to play a 16-bit gambling game it’s one of the only choices you have. At least it’s a good choice.

Next week: Let’s try to answer the most pressing question of our time: Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego? 

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