Throughout the lifespan of the original Playstation many games were haphazardly published just to see what would stick and what wouldn’t. When it came time to make room for Playstation 2 games, many stores were all too happy to bundle together the games left unsold from the previous console and hand them off with almost any purchase. Buying a bunch of bananas for $1.99? Here are your included 45 Playstation games that nobody else wants. And that is how my Playstation collection grew from a well cultivated dozen games to over 100 within a matter of months, back in 2002.
More often than not the games were worth less than the disc they were printed on. Sometimes I found myself feeling pity for the poor souls who labored their lives away on these things. I know someone tried really hard to make a dream come true with these games, but they’re so far from playable it’s kind of sad. But sometimes, sometimes, there would be a game that would completely amaze me and kept me entertained for hours on end. One of the latter that truly stands out in my mind is Top Shop (or Board Game Top Shop if you’re being pedantic).
Top Shop was originally released in Japan as Tenant Wars, which I think is a far more apt title, in 1999 before being brought out of Japan by our good friends at A1 games and Agetec. Top Shop allows you to play alone with AI or against up to six real people. In a way Top Shop feels heavily inspired by Monopoly, except shrunken down and shoved into a shopping mall where you purchase and maintain stock and upgrades to a retail store. You can choose between Free or Story modes, Free mode being my favorite, and the object is fairly basic; earn as much money as you possibly can while forcing your opponent(s) into bankruptcy.
There are eight different maps, or should I say malls, to choose from with 44 different styles of stores. Each store has their own unique products to stock. The player, in free mode, can also choose from 11 different avatars to play. The anime style, even though I’m not a fan of anime, is cutesy and fun. The graphics looks really good, and still hold up today, mostly due to the 2D nature of the game.
To start the player will roll a pencil as a sort of die and from there you either move as many spaces along or you may trigger a random event where you choose a card. Landing on an empty space will allow the player to purchase that space and build a retail store within. While sometimes difficult, but not impossible, purchasing up to four adjacent spaces will allow the store to be expanded into a much larger retail store, offering much better, aka expensive, merchandise. Landing on a space that is already occupied by a store will force the player to purchase at least one, but no more than two, products from the store, after items are purchased from either player or AI stores, the items must be restocked, if stock runs completely out the store is shut down and that space becomes available for purchase once more.
Each mall has different tiers and to help navigate this are both elevator and escalator spaces. Landing on an escalator will move the player up to the next tier. The elevator can be used to choose which floor you wish to be moved to. One thing that is very important is remembering to stop by the bank and collect the payments from all the purchases made in your store by other players. In the bank you can collect your payments as well as trade in points, earned when making purchases from other shops, for special bonuses that will help you seal the fate of your greedy fellow shop owners.
I honestly didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I purchased Top Shop. I never really got into virtual Monopoly or any other board games on consoles, to be honest, but something about Top Shop drew me in, and to be honest I’ve played this game far more than I care to admit. The replay value is remarkably high as well. With so many different stores and mall settings to choose from, as well as with how long a single game can be played and played enjoyably throughout. Top Shop truly and utterly blew me away with how such an unassuming game could be so much fun and to a slight degree addictive. Whether it’s played alone with the AI or using the multi-tap to play with family and friends I think Top Shop is a worthwhile purchase.