Money Puzzle Exchanger is a colorful arcade puzzle game where you combine pairs or groups of Japanese Yen coins in exchange for single coins of higher denominations in order to outlast a flow of coins, which threaten to overwhelm both you and your opponent. It offers fast, challenging gameplay and large, beautifully illustrated anime-style character backgrounds.
This version for the Nintendo Switch is an emulation. It’s published by Hamster Corporation, as part of their growing library of Neo Geo arcade game emulations available for the Nintendo Switch. It was originally released in 1997 in the arcade, which helps explain its gameplay and graphics, both of which I think import and arcade gamers will enjoy.
This game is like Tetris in a piggy bank. The screen is divided into two playing fields, with you on one side and your opponent on the other. You control a small character at the bottom of your side, moving left and right beneath seven columns of coins. In any column, you draw the closest coin toward your character with one button, and shoot it back into any column with another. If several of the same coins are lined-up closest to your character in a single column, you’ll draw all of them toward your character at one time. You can even continue to collect similar coins until you’re ready to shoot them back. This creates gameplay where you are building a stack of coins then throwing it back at another single coin or group of coins to combine them.
When enough coins of a lower denomination are grouped together horizontally and/or vertically to equal the value of the next-highest denomination, they disappear and are replaced by a single coin, which can then be paired with coins of its own denomination. For example, five 1-yen coins can combine to make a single 5-yen coin, which can then be combined with another 5-yen coin to make a single 10-yen coin. Coins come in 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, and 500-yen denominations.
There are also two special items that appear throughout the game. One eliminates every coin of a single denomination, and another exchanges every coin of a single denomination for coins of one denomination higher.
This is a challenging game. After the first few opponents in the main “VS COM” mode, you may have to take advantage of combos to win. You can draw the entire pool of coins in the play field one row closer to your character by tapping down on the joystick twice. At face value, it brings you closer to defeat, but it also gives you more coins to draw from and combine with, which can help you win if you can make combos. I think the combos are harder to make in this game than other puzzle games, like Pokémon Puzzle League (N64), but I found that when I worked furiously to combine columns of matching coins, combos can begin to avalanche on their own, especially since coins can combine in any group where they’re touching horizontally and/or vertically, even if they’re not in a straight line.
There are four selections to make before even starting the game. First, you can play the “Japanese Version ORIGINAL MODE”, which is the full game, but with the original Japanese text and coin graphics. Some Japanese coins actually have a hole in the center of them, like a doughnut, so the Japanese version of the game has this detail. Fortunately, it’s not a huge barrier to enjoy this version of the game if you don’t know any Japanese because there’s not much text to begin with. There’s also a “HI SCORE MODE” mode, where you try to get the highest score in one sitting with no game over, and a “CARAVAN MODE” where you try to get the highest score possible in five minutes. Lastly, there’s the “English Version ORIGINAL MODE”, which is just the full game in English.
Within either “ORIGINAL MODE”, there are three game modes. There’s “VS COM”, where you play against a series of increasingly difficult computer opponents, there’s “SOLO PLAY” where you rack a score without an opponent, and there’s “1P VS 2P” which, you guessed it, is you against another human (or pet if you’ve trained them well). One problem with “1P VS 2P” is that this game is an emulation, so there are no native options within the game to set up two individual Joy-Con units. Instead, you must exit the game and set up your Joy-Cons from the Controllers option of the Nintendo Switch system menu. I think this is a problem, and unfortunately, I think that many players will be searching online for how to do it, but at least it’s possible.
The graphics in this game are excellent, especially if you like Japanese-style illustrations or retro CD game systems. There are large, well-drawn characters in the opening cut scene (or arcade attract mode) and game backgrounds. I do think that the artwork was intended as a major attraction for this game. There are eight playable characters, but none of them do anything differently other than provide a different character background to be animated with big expressions of excitement or disappointment as you play.
The sound in this game is okay. At Nintendo Times, we call this “worth considering”. The soundtrack is small, but so is the game. Either way, I don’t think the sound will leave an impression on many players. There are some high-pitched squeals, moans, and Japanese voices in the game, but I think they work well with the anime-style graphics, even though the graphics are much better.
I mentioned a lot of good things about this game, but there are some issues. First, there’s the controller issue that I mentioned for the two-player mode, where I think many players will have difficulty setting up two controllers because there is no assistance from inside the game. Since the game is solely the arcade game, the game almost expects you to be using a NEO GEO arcade stick and buttons, which don’t exactly match up with the Joy-Con controller layout. There are no graphics for Nintendo Switch buttons inside the game, so early plays may involve touching buttons on the controller which don’t respond. (When is that ever good?) There’s also a serious problem with the in-game explanations that really don’t explain a whole lot. The “Engrish” instructions leave much to be desired and it was if I was warped back in time to the land of dysfunctional NES instruction booklets. Here’s an example of what you’re in for, “Explain the rules. I’ll teach you how to changes. You can change that if when you have 5 coins. You can do that over two coins…” There, now you know how to play!
The library of emulated Neo Geo games from Hamster on the Switch has become quite impressive. There are also a lot of options built into this version, like being able to have both the Japanese and English versions of the game, and two special modes for achieving a high score. There are also many other options inside the game, like changing the dimensions and orientation of the screen, changing the difficulty level of the game directly, and even a selection of screen filters, which simulate playing the game on an older display. The publisher did also include several online leaderboards, which is a great incentive to play, especially for arcade fans.
Overall, I think Money Puzzle Exchanger is a great game with memorable graphics and challenging gameplay. While there are a few puzzle games on the Nintendo Switch, I don’t think there are a ton quite like this one. For $7.99 it’s a great choice, especially if you have an affinity for Japanese culture.
Money Puzzle Exchanger was reviewed using a digital copy for Nintendo Switch purchased by Nintendo Times. A review copy was not provided.
Adam “McSNES” Martinez, gaming drop-out and FuncoLand ghost, has spent his entire life training to review games for YOU, the loyal readers of Nintendo Times. Adam is permanently banned from Final Fantasy XI: Online, his favorite game.