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The Classic Concentration game show wasn’t particularly memorable for me during my childhood, but the video game version was because of the story behind it. Not the game’s story, but how I came to own the game. An eye exam ended and my ophthalmologist recommended an NES to help my poor hand/eye coordination. My now-late mother was all for anything that would do that, so we hit up a local pawn shop and picked up the system with three games – the Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt cart that every NES owner has had at least one copy of, Classic Concentration, and the Zapper light gun to play Duck Hunt. I’m not sure if that game did much to help my vision, but I remember my mother and I having a lot of fun playing with the dopey-looking characters. When she passed in ’09, I found the cartridge and decided to play the game again. While it’s not the game I most identify with her (that would be Vegas Stakes on the SNES – something I really should cover at some point), it’s the first game she and I ever played together and playing it without her brought about some good memories laughing at the character art and the fat-assed guy playing a piano to start the game.
The NES incarnation is about as accurate as you’re going to get for a representation of the show. It still pits one person against another in a match-two memory game with different prizes behind different numbered panels. Guessing the correct two panels with the same prize behind it gives you the prize – or you can get a wild card and instantly get that prize. The more prizes you (or your opponent) get, the more numbers are taken off of the puzzle behind the panels and that makes guessing the puzzle easier. Sometimes, you’ll get a giant icon that makes it a bit too easily – like a giant set of SHHHH lips. Ideally, you want to win with a fair amount of items on your side and the ability to guess the puzzle, but then you take the chance of making a mistake and allowing your rival to win. The best strategy is to try and guess the puzzle as soon as possible since there’s no penalty for being wrong and your next guess for a match could result in unlocking more pieces that make it a no-brainer.
The game replicates the show’s two out of three format perfectly and gives you GIF-worthy antics for every correct guess. Winning two rounds sends you to the winner’s circle where you can win a car. Surprisingly, they actually use a ton of real car names for this thing – but this was also the era of Sega flagrantly using Ferraris without legal permission to do, so it’s not like where wasn’t a precedent set to just take a chance and hope that your game slipped between the cracks. Here, you’ve got 35 seconds to match everything on the board – with I guess the grand prize being the remaining panel left on the board, or maybe you get to pick. I’ve never actually beaten this area. Mega Man 9? Sure – but beating the clock to win a fake car? That’s too much.
Replaying the game brought back a lot of good memories and it amazed me how well it’s held up. The pointer controls for selecting the pairs and typing are a bit iffy, but still work better than I figured they would and I enjoyed the wacky music. The character designs are even more ridiculous than I remember, and that made it more fun to lose out on items since it would be worth it for the comedy. If you’ve never seen the show, you don’t really need to in order to enjoy the game. If you like what you’ve seen, it only costs about $10 shipped on ebay and would likely cost a lot less if you found it in the wild at a flea market or thrift store – although that’s unlikely.