We are dedicating almost an entire Editor's Note to a character's name. Wonders never cease!
For the mascot of this game, we're sticking with the Patoraco spelling.
The main reason we went for Patoraco is because of a precedent- it's the one used in the arcade version of Puchi Carat.
As far as we are aware is the first time it was printed in English.
So there.
Also, this is our contribution to Chic Pixel's #PuzzleMonth. We're timely!
Finally, we must namedrop Ultra Powerful Pal of Gaming Hell, HokutoNoShock, who is almost certainly a bigger Cleopatra Fortune fan than us. He was helpful in a few bits, so ta.


Puzzle games!

They published quite a few of them!

And here's another one!

Well... Nearly. Taito can't take all the credit- it's a collaborative effort with Natsume, who worked on parts of the game/software/character design. Natsume and Taito have a pretty close connection- Taito published games by them in the NES era like Power Blade and Shadow of the Ninja, and Natsume developed a few games using Taito IPs like Don Doko Don 2, The Ninja Warriors Again and their most famous team-up, Pocky & Rocky... But this is a bit different, as Taito had a lot more involvement in its creation. Anyway, released in 1996 on Taito's it's-not-a-Neo-Geo-honest-lads F3 System, Cleopatra Fortune comes in a period of Taito's history where they were pumping out a lot more puzzle games than normal, with a few of them taking a base set by other games and messing with them (and then Landmaker which is something else entirely). Puchi Carat (and Arkanoid Returns too, I guess) took on Breakout, Pop n' Pop is Puyo Puyo but upside-down and with Space Invaders... In Cleopatra Fortune's case, it's a good ol' fashioned Tetris-style drop-them-blocks-in-the-pit kinda deal.

Fortunately, Taito and Natsume didn't see fit to add too many bells and whistles to Cleopatra Fortune- it's a relatively lean game, with only three types of block to worry about, all of which can be destroyed by lining them up in a row. First, the standard stone blocks- coming in single-block and two-block varieties- are your bread and butter, as every other type of piece has one attached, the ones you'll be destroying by lining up in a row. The valuables- single-block gems and two-block ornate sarcophagi- can be lined up, but this can be difficult to set up, so you're best destroying them the other way- burying them. Completely surround jewels and sarcophagi with blocks, so that no part of the structure is exposed to the open, and they'll explode. Finally, the mummies (again, in one-or-two-block size) are introduced much later in the game, can also be lined up, but can't be destroyed just by burying them- you have to bury them with valuables. Reach certain level milestones (the game's level increases every eight items dropped in the pit, which can speed up or slow down the game depending on the level) and and you'll get a pyramid item that will destroy all of the type of block it touches, which probably gives you a breather. Naturally, if the blocks obstruct the column where new blocks come in at the top of the screen, the game is over.

That's your lot! No matching colours to worry about, no special items beyond the pyramid one, nothing like that. Hell, the game even only has one button (for moving blocks clockwise) so it's nothing particularly advanced or complex. That's one of its strengths, though- it's relatively easy to get into it. It eases you in if you start on Easy, and once you learn the easiest ways to bury junk, you'll soon be scanning the pit in the short time you have to find a gap to plug in and destroy the valuables to give yourself some breathing room. Unlike Tetris, the blocks adhere to gravity, so burying a bunch of valuables will probably open up opportunities for chain reactions by shifting the blocks about, which feels pretty rewarding, and encourages you to keep at it. Also in its favour is the sound- it's a simple thing, but the loud CLUNK when blocks hit the floor is satisfying (especially during a combo) and the standard background music (Shinin' Queen) is excellent and is probably stuck in your head now (you're welcome). It's maybe not as strong on the visual side, but it has its moments- the stock-photo backgrounds actually work here (unlike in Bubble Memories on the same hardware) and aren't distracting, and the little animations for Patoraco and the mummies (especially when they shrug their shoulders like "Yeah, we're clutterin' up your pit, what you gonna do about it?") add a bit of charm to the game.

Despite the ease of getting into it, the game can get tough, although it kinda takes its time- the opening 20 or so levels are a bit slow (personally I like starting on Normal) and mummies don't show up until 40. One errant mummy can screw you over, though- if you bury them without valuables by mistake, you're going to have to dig to get it out in the open to make it right, which can be tricky when you're trying to get rid of jewels and the like- and while tidying the pit is all well and good, the real points are in massive chain reactions. However, these are a bit harder to set up than you might think, as while you'll sometimes get a 2 or 3 chain just shifting blocks about after burying junk, your methods of removing blocks from the pit, be it lining them up in a row or burying valuables, will probably take up more room than you'd expect. Furthermore, while there's only three basic block types, the arrangement of them can make placing them tricky, especially later when arrangements like Mummy-Block-Gem in a row or the dreaded Sarcophagus-with-a-block-on-its-side start to show up. In essence, the game takes a little time to get going, but once it does, slip-ups become far more dangerous.

The other thing related to difficulty is when the game goes into panic mode- where the music changes and Patoraco starts wishing someone else was playing instead- things go bad fast. A good point of comparison is Puyo Puyo- in that game, when it comes down to the wire, if you're lucky with blob colours you can hang in there for a little while. In Cleopatra Fortune, you don't have very much time at all to set something, anything up to clear some space. On the one hand, it's nice that the game adds a bit of tension for when things are cutting it close, but at the same time, it highlights a slight issue with the controls. When a block hits the floor, there's that satisfying CLUNK sound, but unless you were holding Down you get a short period to move it before it sets in place- the block changes colour as a visual cue for this. However, when the blocks are near the top, sometimes it feels like that short period just doesn't happen and a block gets placed where you really don't want it. It doesn't happen often, but it feels like this could've been tightened up a little bit to get players in a pinch a bit more of a chance.

With that said, I suppose I've got a soft spot for Cleopatra Fortune. It's a game I just kinda clicked with, because it really nails that feeling of making destroying blocks fun. Yes, there's a few foibles here and there, but for the most part it does what it does pretty well. It's a game I find myself not playing for a while, then going back to it and having a few rounds. The satisfying sound effects and neat burial mechanics make it a nice game to cool off with, and while I still find it a bit of a struggle to get really advanced with my chain reactions (if you want to see that kind of thing, there's an exploit in the random block generator that means with two credits, you can counterstop the game, basically breaking the score) it really nails the joy of destroying blocks with only little blips of frustration. Probably why I kinda find it relaxing, in a way!

Not as good for two-player as Puyo Puyo, though. Sorry!

For being a game about burying riches, Cleopatra Fortune is awarded...

In a sentence, Cleopatra Fortune is...
Just a solid puzzler, and I'm OK with that.

And now, it's that time, folks!

To begin, a little bit about the ending of the game- yes, there is one, and there's actually two different ones to see.

The single player game ends when you reach the end of Level 99- a silver pyramid item will appear that, wherever it lands, will destroy everything in your pit. What happens next can change- beat the game using at least one continue, and you get the Congratulations image on the left, and a staff roll that includes various pictures of Patoraco in her normal outfit, repeated (hover your mouse over to see one of them). If you clear the game on one credit, though, you get the image on the right (only in Japan!) and the staff roll remains the same but some pictures are replaced by the hidden 'cosplay' pictures of Patoraco that can appear if you rack up enough Perfects. It's only a slight difference, but it's still something, isn't it?

... And it is at this point that we ask you for help. I've seen several videos that show these extra Patoraco pictures during gameplay after achieving multiple Perfects but have absolutely no idea how to get them to appear. Every time I rack up the same number or try to get as many Perfects as quickly as possible, it just loops the normal pictures. I've tried cranking the difficulty up, reaching a certain number of Blocks destroyed, beating the game then trying again, making the Block/Level number a prime number (no seriously) and I've come up with nothing.

If you know what needs to be done to get the cosplay pictures to appear, please email me!

We hope you can help us solve this mystery.

Anyway, back to the actual credits- we're showing the 'bad' ending here 'cause you gotta earn the proper one, ya gutless punks- let's see if there's any notable names in there. The biggest one from the Natsume side is probably Moriyuki Kanaya- he's the closest link to Taito, as he was a programmer for the Master System port of Sagaia/Darius II. Also notable is Kana Hirano, who worked on design and art for Tetris Plus. Looking at the Taito crew, Mihoko Sudoh also worked on instruction design for Bubble Symphony and 'design works' for RayStorm (the arcade-history page also mentions Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon but I'm gonna guess that's someone else) and finally, Yoshihisa Nagata whose long list of credits include programming on The Ninja Warriors and producer on Pop n' Pop. Phew!

Just a little note about game regions to make here, and how the F3 System deals with 'em.

Technically, Cleopatra Fortune wasn't released in English. The F3 system used region locking, so only Japanese carts could be played on Japanese systems, etc. Looking at Arcade Otaku's F3 games list shows Cleopatra Fortune was only ever a Japanese cart. However, by forcing the game into play on an English motherboard- either via a modified F3 system that lets you select region, or using cheats in MAME- you'll find the English version. Aside from stuff like the tutorial and menus being in English, here are the differences between the versions:

* Different legal notices on boot-up- Japan, US, World
* The Japanese version has an advert for the X-55 Data Station (a karaoke/games console hybrid- here's some info and an advert) in its attract mode (which can be switched off), the US version has 'Winners Don't Do Drugs' and 'Recycle It, Don't Trash It!' adverts instead, and the World version has nothing.
* The Test Modes have different options: the Japanese one has an option for the X-55 Data Station advertisement, the US one has Play Price and Buy-In options, and the World one replaces those with individual coin chute options
* All non-Japanese versions of the game remove the following:
* The green banner with Japanese text underneath the title screen
* The bouncing text and numbers that appear after you create a chain reaction
* The mini-tutorial that appears after you start a game on Easy
* This text box that appears when a Pyramid item is spawned
* The Congratulations picture used for the second/one-credit ending (it uses the one from the standard ending instead)

Next, let's talk about home conversions.

The first home port was for the Sega Saturn, released in 1997 only in Japan, and it's a bit of a rarity for the system. If you look at the prices for it online, anyway (Be cheap! You can get it for less! You just gotta wait it out). Anyway, this was ported by Natsume and Taito themselves, and is mostly identical to the arcade game- same appearance, same fonts, everything. That doesn't sound important, but it will be when we get to the other ports. As well as the Arcade mode and some standard options (including a clock on the options screen- I don't know if it unlocks anything secret at certain times of the day, though!) it adds a new mode, Mystery. A bit like the Quest Mode in Puzlow Kids, you have a pre-arranged board and a set number of pieces to accomplish a specific task, ranging from 'make the board nice and tidy' to 'get a certain number of chain reactions'. They can get quite tough, so if you're struggling, scoot down to the bottom of this page. If you're looking for just a straight, faithful port of the arcade game (and that includes Patoraco's artwork- this is the only non-emulated version where she's not redrawn) with a nice extra mode, then this is your only option, really. Some might find it a bit lightweight though, so please don't expect much more than what's here.

Next, the Playstation port was handled at least partly by Altron, and it's really weird. Released in the three main territories (2001 in Japan published by Altron themselves, 2001 in the EU published by Midas, and 2003 in the US published by Mud Duck Productions), it has the same features as the Saturn port- the arcade mode plus Mystery- with an extra Time Attack Mode (complete 10 stages within 10 minutes and get ranked accordingly) and the option to change the tint of the pit background. It's also the first version of the game to let you rotate the pieces counter-clockwise! As you can see, though, the graphics have been redone from scratch, including Patoraco herself (and this includes her Perfect pictures). Also, Patoraco's voice is new (and like her appearance in Puchi Carat, she ends almost every sentence with 'desu' or 'desuka'. Better or worse than 'de geso'? You decide).

Despite those additions, this isn't the best version of the game. Everything feels a little bit off- while it's commendable that all the graphics have been redone, they look very bitty and unrefined compared to the smooth graphics of the arcade release, and the music and sound effects aren't nearly as good either. Also, the game feels a bit more sluggish- the blocks don't move as smoothly, and neither do the transition graphics. Critically, the controls are a lot looser- blocks take longer to slot into place and so if you're used to the timing of the arcade version, you'll probably move blocks without meaning to here, which can be infuriating. However, there is one change for the better- before a block appears on-screen, you can see it on the top of the screen as a transparent block, which is pretty handy. Overall, though, this isn't as good as most of the other releases, so unless you really want Mystery Mode in English, perhaps you should skip this one.

Weirdest of all, the US version had a few changes! For a start, the box is terribly generic- it's now a Sarcophagus and the title has been changed to (Cleopatra's Fortune, though the title screen in-game remains unchanged). No Patoraco on the cover? Then how d'ya know it's a Taito game, eh? Even more interesting is Patoraco has been removed from the game itself... Sort-of. She's still serving as mascot, but the artwork of her that appears in Arcade Mode when you get a perfect has been removed for some reason (even though it's still in the Mystery Mode). How strange.

The last of the non-emulated versions, the Dreamcast port was released in the same year as the Playstation port (about a month later, actually) but, unfortunately for those expecting a port of Cleopatra Fortune Plus, it came out almost a year before that one (despite what MAME says). It's actually a spruced-up port of the Playstation version. Most of the weirdness of that version is gone here- the game runs a bit smoother, the resolution jump between the two machines means the spritework is a lot better, and as this port only made it to Japan, there's no atrocious PAL conversion to contend with. Aside from those fixes, and Patoraco's mug-shot on the VMU which changes depending on your in-game performance, this has the same content as the PS1 release- so that means counter-clockwise spinning and Mystery Mode & Time Attack, etc.. If you want a home port that's not emulated, this isn't too bad, but it's still not quite as good as the arcade original. If you ask me.

Finally, emulation. The arcade version of Cleopatra Fortune was included in Taito Memories Joukan (PS2, Japan-only- it's the one with the blue cover) and Taito Legends 2 (PS2/Xbox/PC, US, Europe and Korea only). Something to bear in mind is that while Taito Legends 2 on the Xbox and PC are their own entities by Empire Oxford (with menus based on the first Taito Legends, and mostly ROMs in a box, to the point where you can move each game's data folder into MAME and it'll work), Taito Legends 2 on the PS2 is essentially one of the Taito Memories collections, done by Taito, with a different game list and using English ROMs. However, while the PS2 version of Cleopatra Fortune has ever-so-slightly worse-sounding music (as it uses canned sound instead of directly emulating the F3 hardware's sound), the Xbox version is missing transparency effects for the pit's background (as it was in earlier revisions of MAME, if I recall) and the PC version doesn't let you configure a button for Up if you play on a keyboard, so you can only select Easy Mode with a joypad (ta to reader Jake M for the correction). Ha!

And for reference, all versions of the collection with the Taito Legends 2 name use the English version as explained above.

... But wait! There's some mobile ports too! Two, in fact. The first, shown above, was part of the same same series that has the mobile port of The Fairyland Story, the Gameselection service for J PHONE-brand phones in 2002. As with TFLS, this port is small. Very small. Obviously, we can't play this, as mobile emulation is a mythic thing spoken of only in hushed tones in crowded taverns in lands far from here (translation: if you think I know how to do it you are wrong, very wrong) so the most I can do is link you to an archived version of the Gameselection range again so you can see some of the other ports like Puzznic and Pop n' Pop.

It was then ported a second time in 2005- this one was created in BREW and released for the i-mode, EX Web and Yahoo Mobile game services, although I couldn't tell you what phone models they're on. Obviously the three years between this and the last port mean the screen's a bit bigger, and it also has nicer graphics. Here's the official Taito page (one of three, for i-mode, EZ Web and Yahoo Mobile versions) and there's also a GameScreenArea article that has its release as 2005 instead of 2004. At first, I thought the one on Taito's page was a different port entirely due to the different title screen, but it turns out that's just the splash screen (and a cute one too) and Taito's site has the actual title screen. Phew!

Next, let's talk about Cleopatra Fortune's arcade-only sequel!

Cleopatra Fortune Plus was released in 2002 for Sega's NAOMI hardware (based heavily on the Dreamcast, which is why so many games on the hardware were ported pretty quickly to the ol' DC... But not in this case), but only a GD-ROM version exists. It isn't so much a sequel to Cleopatra Fortune as a follow-up to the PS1 and Dreamcast ports of the game. This is obviously because rather than Natsume, Taito partnered with Altron to make this one, and since they helped make the home ports, it's closer to those- mostly the DC version- than the F3 original.

The game certainly looks nicer, but as the title suggests, the changes aren't too sweeping- this is closer to an upgrade, really. For a start, there's now three modes of play for solo players. Story is the main mode, involving Patoraco and a purple-haired rival, but it's close to the original game. New this time are five different jewel colours, and destroying each fills the corresponding meter on the right side of the screen- when one fills up, you'll get a special orb similar to the pyramid orbs, but these ones have to be buried like jewels to take effect, ranging from separating blocks into single units, destroying jewels, or sweeping the entire board clean. There's also occasional special blocks made by your rival, like t-shaped blocks and a stone three times the size of a normal one, and a Jewel Meter that serves as a score multiplier- keep destroying jewels/sarcophagi to keep the multiplier at the max of x5. Endless Mode is the same as Story but without an end (obviously), while Time Attack removes all jewel-related meters and asks you to reach Level 10 in the fastest time possible, just like the home ports of the original game.

The other major changes are the fact that you get two buttons- behold, the joys of counter-clockwise block spinning!- and that overall the game introduces new block types a lot quicker- Mummies start showing up from Level 6! Finally, the graphics are probably the best of any version- it's very colourful and bright, with lovely backgrounds and character artwork in particular. The controls also feel a smidgen better than the home versions... It's a shame this one wasn't ported, but if you're expecting a whole new game, it's not really that. Nothing added really changes the game significantly (unless you have to have that counter-clockwise button) but thankfully it doesn't kill it either. A curiosity for super-fans, I guess.

As every Taito character is contractually obliged to make at least one reappearance...

We've got three for you. One where Patoraco has another go at this 'puzzle' lark, and the others are... Well, you'll see.

Patoraco appears as a secret character in Taito's next puzzle game, Puchi Carat (basically competitive Breakout/Arkanoid with very light puzzle elements) which was released in arcades and ported to the Playstation and Game Boy Color. To unlock her in the arcade version, insert a coin then press the action button 3 times before pressing Start. She'll appear at the very top of the character select screen. In the Playstation port, either beat Story Mode in Arcade Mode in under 7 minutes using less than 5 continues with Game Level and Ball Speed set to Arcade, or enter the Options menu then exit it, and repeat 13 times (this method won't save to a Memory Card). Finally, in the Game Boy Color port, just beat Story Mode with every character. As she's not in the right game, her dialogue in the home ports gets a bit weird- she berates the player for selecting Easy Mode (and refuses to teach them the rules), constantly asks other characters where she is, and her Game Boy Color ending has her wind up in the modern world at an ancient Egyptian museum exhibit (thanks, Ragey's Puchi Carat Shrine!).

Patoraco has undergone a few changes since we last saw her. For a start, she actually speaks this time! And, er, she ends almost every line of dialogue with the word 'desu'. Not even Suiseiseki can compete with Patoraco's use of the word, something that's compounded by the fact that the cast of Puchi Carat will not shut the hell up. She also changes a few things about the game itself- her side of the screen will have jewels with hieroglyphics on them, and her paddle is carried by two mummies rather than wings like the other characters.

Many years later- the far-flung future of 2006- Patoraco returned for a cameo in Quiz Kirameki Star Road, an adaptation of the 1997 arcade game of the same name. Except the arcade game didn't have 'Quiz' in its title. In any case, as you can see from the screenshot above that we nicked through an open window from Gamekult, Patoraco is a bonus character you can quiz with. We don't know anything beyond that, though- not even how to unlcok her- as it's a quiz game entirely in Japanese, and as far as import games go, that's the sort of game that's pretty impenetrable for the likes of me. Just stare on in wonder. We have the FOOLISH FACTORY page to thank for this info, so give them a look.

Finally, in 2007, Patoraco was a selectable charcter in the i-mode mobile phone card game, タイトーハリキリ大富豪 (I'd normally go for the translated title, but this translatse to Taito Harikiri Millionaire and that can't be right, can it?) alongside Sayo-chan from Kiki Kaikai, Bubblun, anda monkey from... I'm not sure where I want to say the arcade version of Turn it Around!! but I can't be sure. Here's the official Taito page on the game where we nicked the screenshot above from, and here's an article on its release from Famitsu as while the game has a copyright date of 2005, most sources indicate it was released in 2006. Noticing a pattern here.

Disappointingly, Patoraco didn't appear in the otherwise crossover-friendly Pop n' Pop. If only she'd starred in a platform game instead, eh?

Just a little odd thing- I have this terrible habit of collecting pirate Game Boy carts wherever I see them.

This is one of them, and you'll probably need to click to zoom in for this...

... But you can see the box art of the Saturn version of Cleopatra Fortune in use here! Advertising Flipull, obv.

Before you leave, if you've got the Saturn, PS1 or Dreamcast home port... Why not give our Mystery Mode guide a look?

Using the Saturn version as its base, you'll conquer almost all the stages in this mode with our help! Isn't that nice?

So, is my Taito bias showing yet...?

Just wait till he starts talking about The New Zealand Story or Bubble Symphony, 'cause damn..