Morita Shogi is a Japanese chess game released by Taito. In a previous effort of mine I tried out the best chess applications for the iPhone. Seeing a Japanese chess relased by a major developer such as Taito made me jump right on it to learn more.
Japanese chess or Shogi has a lot in common with the chess played in the West. You move pieces called koma. There are eight different koma: King, Rook, Bishop, Gold, Silver, Knight, Lance and Pawn. A big difference between Shogi and chess is the fact that you can choose either to move your koma or replace one that has been captured when it is your turn to move. Another big difference is the fact that in Shogi you can promote most of your pieces when they move into the opponent’s camp. The koma then receive a + to the name, for example Bishop B becomes +B. A promoted koma behaves differently with a new movement pattern. You can choose not to promote as well as some koma have quite good movement patterns in their original form. Thankfully you get to see possible movement of any koma you select during your turn so you won’t have to memorise all the patterns. The aim of Shogi is the same as in chess: get the opponent in check, and checkmate.
You have three different game modes: single match versus cpu, tournament versus cpu and local pass and play multiplayer for two humans. The game keeps track of your progress, and has quite a hefty achievement system. There are six levels of difficulty ranging from practise to Meijin that is really hard. The iPhone has to think for longer times the harder it is. Still on the hardest difficulty it can make moves within 10 seconds.
That Morita Shogi is a Japanese game translated into English is quite evident. Not only by looking at the fact that the menu options aren’t descriptive as they usually are in ordinary chess applications, for example type 1 board in Morita is shown in graphic like a wooden board in Shredder Chess. Another is the translation errors, and the most evident one is the grossary instead of glossary in the rule book.
I have enjoyed playing Morita Shogi quite a bit, as it is challenging and feels fresh to me who has played quite a lot of chess in the past six months. If I could choose a couple of things I really want to add it would be the ability to play in portrait mode. To me it feels a bit clunky playing a chess application in landscape mode. And the ability to let your own music play when you start the application.
Presentation and graphics
Morita Shogi has a high level of polish with a definite Japanese flair and elegance. The board, and koma look great and are easy to distinguish. A wide variety of customization options let you choose the look of the board, background and koma. Some concern has been raised about not having Kanji on the koma instead of the English lettering. I would have liked an option to use Kanji as it is played in Japan.
I think that the menus need some work as you get to choose from types 1-7 for example when it comes to choosing the look of the board. Would have been much more user friendly to have descriptive options such as steel, wood etcetera. Same goes for the controls, either type 1 or type 2. Why not call one drag to move, and the other tap to move.
Having the rules illustrated within the game is really good, and has helped me as a newbie to Shogi understand some of the tactics involved. A proper look at spelling and grammar would have been a wise move.
Big downer as it just features some basic movement sounds. No music, and fades out my own upon starting the game. Games without own music should at least permit playing audio to keep playing in my opinion.
There are two control options, either drag your tile to the new postion or tap where it should go. In my opinion it is much more precise to use the tap option.
The AI plays really well, and I find it hard to beat at intermediate but then I am new to the intricate strategies of Shogi. I think even seasoned players will get a good challenge out of the AI.
With the tournament mode and long list of achievements this is one Shogi game you can play for a long time. Local multiplayer by sharing the same device is a neat feature but to really add game life it needs some kind of online multiplayer.
Morita Shogi saves your game upon exit, and it keeps meticulous records of your performance. That is something I have really enjoyed in regular chess applications, seeing my progression as I face harder levels of opposition.
If you are a chess player looking for something in the same vein to challenge you I recommend you to try Morita Shogi. If you are totally new to Shogi $7.99 is on the expensive side, even though it is full featured with an illustrated rulebook included.
Morita Shogi $7.99