Review: Vegas Stakes (SNES)

In this review, we try not to lose our shirt in the SNES game Vegas Stakes. We find out how well this gambling game plays.

This game was released in 1993.

The game opens with you and four friends on a car trip to Las Vegas. The goal is to simply have fun while in Vegas (so far as the intro scene is concerned). When you arrive at the Golden Paradise casino and hotel, you can enter your name, choose a “partner”, and head to any casino you like (including the one you are in at the beginning).

In total, there are four casinos and a fifth unlockable bonus casino. The casinos, in order of limits, are: The Hideaway, Golden Paradise, The Buffalo Head, The 2020, and Laural Palace.

Each casino has its own theme. The Hideaway has a sort of run down backroom theme to it. This also has the lowest betting limits. As your partner says when you are about to enter it, this is a casino of last resort. If you are about to lose everything, you can gradually build yourself back up here (though this isn’t to be taken as an “easy” casino by any means).

The Golden Paradise is a pretty good casino to start with. The amount of money you start with ($1000) is fairly suitable for the stakes in question. It allows you to make pretty solid gains if you hit it big, but also gives you risk of losing a bunch quick. Definitely try your luck here before you try and hit other casinos.

The Buffalo Head ramps up the stakes a little. It’s definitely for those who managed to net some cash and are looking to move the stakes up early on instead of sticking to their game for the longer haul. It has a western theme to it.

The 2020 features a Sci-Fi atmosphere and, once again, ups the stakes again. This is the casino to go to once you’ve got a nice chunk of change. It is the casino that you want to go to to try and earn as much money as possible without unlocking the final casino.

The final casino is the Laural Palace. The big thing about this casino is the fact that you finally get to access no limit games. It’s an amazing way to win lots of money quick. The downside is that you are rubbing shoulders with other high rollers who also have a huge amount of cash. The other rule about this casino is the fact that it is locked until you win $1 million. If you earn $1 million, you earn the famous “high roller” status. You earn a new complimentary hotel room in the process. This is the casino you’ll be in towards the end of the game.

If at any point in time you lose all of your money, it is game over. The thing to remember is the fact that you can save your game at any time, so you can always go back to the last save. The thing to remember is that you have to leave whatever game you are playing to go back to the hotel just to save. Once you go back to the casino, you start a new game instead of leaving off where you left the table (your cash on hand is what is saved).

In terms of games, what is offered is Blackjack, Slots, Roulette, Craps, Poker. For those wondering, Poker is 7 Card Stud. The first four are definitely games of chance while the last one revolves around skill.

Blackjack is pretty straight forward. You face off against the house and try not to go over 21. Standard Blackjack rules apply.

Slots features a standard slot machine that permits you to bet 5 different options. These options are the middle row, top row, bottom row, and both diagonal. It’s a lot of single button pressing for most players.

Roulette offers standard Roulette rules. You can bet in a number of standard ways and hope you win with the number the ball lands on.

Craps is a somewhat more complex game with betting on the roll of a pair of dice. Some bets are removed from the table after a single roll while others stay on the table until you win.

For me, the most interesting game of the whole lot is poker. Clearly, this game was made before Texas Holdem rose to fame (game was made in the early 90s and Holdem rose to fame in the 2000s). Still, there is plenty of action to be had here.

The standard poker hands and hand rankings poker players know applies here (pairs, three of a kind, flush, straight, full house, etc.). You square off with four other players and the dealer chip moves around the table as you would expect. Players bet in the blinds and then get three cards. The first two cards face down while the third one is visible to all players. A round of betting occurs and players get a fourth card face up. From there, a 5th and 6th card is distributed face up after subsequent rounds of betting. An additional round of betting takes place before players get their final card faced down. After a final round of betting, players reveal their hands. Whoever has the best 5 card combination with their 7 cards wins the pot.

You can bet, raise or fold. If you raise, other players have the option of calling your bet. If another player raises, the original raiser has another opportunity to raise again. Betting stops when everyone calls or all but one player folds. In no limit, you can bet whatever you want, but there is a minimum raise to contend with should you choose to raise.

One factor that really makes this game great is the fact that you can see players animated expressions. Some players wear their emotions on their shoulders while others only give off quick subtle hints on occasion. A few players don’t show any emotion at all.

In addition to this, some players have different playing styles. Some players are very aggressive and bet in almost every hand. Johnny is a good example of high emotion and betting high most hands. Despite his “poor me” attitude, Richard is actually a very conservative player. It can be difficult to pull chips away from him given that he has a tendancy of playing fairly tight compared to other players.

Some characters are actually some of the people you came to the casino with (never your partner). Other players are just opponents that can appear anywhere. Players like Johnny and Quicksilver are good examples of this. A few characters are specific to the casino. This includes the cyborg-like character in the 2020, Mr. Nice in the Laural Palace, and the cowboy in the Buffalo Head.

Generally speaking, players are fairly aggressive in this game. The going theme is that most players feel like they have a hand and keep themselves in the hand for longer periods of time. Sometimes, players will go to the very end and are willing to call with a pair of 5’s unless someone has a higher pair in their revealed cards. In spite this, it is certainly possible to bluff your way to a pot, but it requires very specific circumstances to pull off. Generally speaking, a fairly conservative approach can be a winning angle.

While the facial expressions do spice things up, there is one element that really spices up the action in every game across the board: chance encounters. People will occasionally interrupt you and ask if you’d like to buy into something or help them out. Sometimes, they are honest people in need of last minute help or investment. Other times, they are people looking to scam you out of cash. While there is plenty of risk in helping people out, there can be huge payoffs for helping out the right person. It is more than possible to earn high roller status largely thanks to helping certain people out (even if the payoff makes no sense for the casino in question).

You obviously need to choose your people wisely. The people who are selling diamonds to you are almost always looking to scam you with what is actually a worthless glass gem. The people who are looking for pointers can either take what the learned and come back later to thank you with a huge payoff. Sometimes, however, they are just pick-pockets trying lift half of your wad. Even safe bets have a certain level of risk. You can even bet on a race for some extra side cash.

In this game, there is a winning total. If you net $10 million (the game simply displays all 9’s in this case), you win the game. You can then proceed to do whatever you want. This is probably the weirdest element in the game. You write in what you want to do, then, at the end of the credits, the game will tell you what you will do. I thought this might be something the game should’ve asked you once you hit $1 million. At the winning amount, it just seems like a last minute thing tacked on. Still, not a huge deal given how many hours you spend building up to it in the first place.

There is one flaw in this game, and that comes late in the game. If you manage to earn more than twice the money than the default amount players get in Laural Palace, the save system can be abused. On the first bet, you move all in right at the beginning. Almost every time, all players will call with their whole stack. The worst case is that you lose half of your cash, but are left with 1 opponent. After this, you move all in on the next hand for a coin flip chance to at the most, quadruple up. If this fails, you simple load the game back up and keep doing this until you finally win. After this, the risk drops and you keep doing this until you reach the $10 million goal. Still, considering where you start, this takes a long time to get to.

Generally speaking, this game does appeal to those who are a fan of games of chance because there are 4 games to try. However, if you are more into games that involve some skill along with luck, Poker is where you’ll spend all your time at. It appeals to people who haven’t played gambling games before because you can read the rules any time while at a game. The revealing of faces is a huge feature that gives the game a sense of realism. The addition of random encounters as well really helps spice things up further and keeps the repetition at bay. While the save game feature can be abused late in the game, there’s still plenty of gameplay to be had where this isn’t a factor. Solid gameplay as far as I’m concerned.

Graphics drew some criticism. This was a bit of a surprise to me because part of the graphics was the facial expressions during poker. There is also small amounts of animation built into almost everything. It’s not exactly just a series of stills as some seem to have said. The card size also didn’t bother me. Could the numbers be bigger? Sure, but it didn’t bother me personally. I thought it wasn’t bad.

Audio was also something that drew criticism from others. I can agree that the loops in the music could have been longer, but the repetition didn’t bother me. I was more focused on the game itself than the music. I think the repetition only gets to you after several hours of play as your focus shifts between the game and the music enough times. If you take breaks, this isn’t as big of a problem. The sound effects are about as good as it gets for a casino game. If you win big, you’ll even hear people clapping. There are ways audio could be improved, but it was pretty solid.

Overall, this was a very solid game to play. If you like games of chance, you do have 4 games to choose from. Otherwise, you can head over to the poker table to try and defeat your opponents. The mini-stories you get from your opponents really added some personality to the game. The random encounters also added life to the casino itself. The facial expressions around the poker table were very innovative. The game is approachable with rules at the ready if you ever get lost. The game will also challenge you at times as you try and get lost chips back. While the save system can be exploited at the end and the ending wasn’t the most well thought out aspect of the game, there is still many hours of play to be had.

Both audio and video drew criticism. It wasn’t as bad because there is small amounts of animation thrown in. The facial expressions, were a big factor in allowing me to give this game praise. The loops in the music could have been longer, but only become a factor in repetition if you play for several hours at a time.

So, if you are after a solid gambling game, this is definitely a good choice whether you are new to gambling or have some experience.

Furthest point in game: Earned $10 million on two separate occasions (separate by years), so beat the game in poker.

General gameplay: 23/25
Replay value: 9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 88%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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