Pretty much just the first Trump Boy, hastily reissued to take advantage of the 4-Player Adapter.
Some publishers really weren’t afraid to double down on mediocrity when it came to Game Boy. We’re a year and a half into the system’s life, and this is our second sequel to a previous Game Boy title—the first, of course, being Boxxle II. Trump Boy II seems a wildly unlikely candidate to join the rapid-sequel club. This speedy follow-up is made even more bizarre by the fact that it adds so little to the original.
As in the first Trump Boy, you can select from three different card game modes, one of which is exactly the same as a selection in the previous release. This time, Sevens (also known as Parliament) takes the place of Nervous Breakdown, and Page One—which is essentially Uno, and which we saw in Coconuts Japan’s unimaginatively titled Card Game—replaces Speed. So really, it’s more like Trump Boy 1⅔ than a proper Trump Boy II. If you really like card games on monochrome video consoles, Trump Boy II should be totally irresistible. Otherwise, though, this might be the single least essential Game Boy release to date.
Trump Boy II isn’t terrible, mind you. It’s merely profoundly redundant, and the subject matter at hand didn’t precisely cry out to be reiterated so soon.
So what’s here?
First, there’s Daifugou, also known as Millionaire. We arguably see the most meaningful visual change in this particular mode, as it’s the one time we constantly see anything resembling characters on-screen during play. The proverbial cover mascot (Trump Boy himself) once again fails to make an appearance in-game. For that matter, we also don’t see any of this game’s other cover mascots in action, either. Instead, Millionaire mode offers a wide range of cartoon-style competitors to play against, presumably ranging from “weak” to “strong” challengers the further you advance from upper-left corner to lower-right. I say this assuming that a droopy middle-ager is probably much better at card games than, say, a monkey or a shiba inu. Then again, you never know.
But none of these in-game portraits even vaguely resembles the characters depicted in the cover art, which is one of those wonderful clay model diorama photos Japanese publishers did so well back in the 8-bit days. On the box, you can see what appear to be clay renditions of the royal card portraits—a King, a Queen, Trump Boy as the Jack, and a wizard as the Ace—all molded somewhat inexplicably into a rendition of Mt. Rushmore. None of these portraits appear as the in-game character sprites.
The same problem that affected the original Trump Boy’s rendition of Millionaire holds true here: The computer seems to hold an unfair advantage, ganging up on the player four-to-one. Being able to select your opponent could be meant as a way to mitigate that somewhat, but the best way to even up the odds is to go all-in on four-player mode; that’ll reduce the number of CPU opponents to just one. (Note that I haven’t tried this myself yet, but I have to assume the lone computer player still cheats.)
The object of Millionaire is to clear out your hand as quickly as possible by playing a card of a higher value than the last card to have been placed. Play proceeds in sequence from one player to the next in line. The sooner your empty out your hand, the more points you’re awarded. You gain points (or lose them) depending on how quickly you clear your hand, and the game is structured a bit like real-world economics. That is to say, winners have an easier time continuing a winning streak than losers do pulling themselves out of the hole.
More enjoyable (and egalitarian) is Page One, which we last saw in Card Game as “U.S.A. Page One.” Here, as there, it’s basically the same game as Uno. Play advances around the table, with players attempting to match either the suit or value of a card in their hand to the card currently in play. That is, if a nine of spades is face-up on the pile, you need to play either a nine or a spade in order for it to count as a valid action. Make a match and the play advances to the next person; if you lack the ability to place a matching card on the stack, you have to draw a card from the deck to add to your hand.
The first player to clear their hand wins, with one small wrinkle: Before you play your next to last card, you have to call “Page One” (by pressing a specific button combo) in order to indicate you’re down to your final card. If you fail to call before you play, you’re penalized with a stiff five-card draw. Since your goal is to clean out your hand, that’s a huge setback.
There are a few other rules to keep Page One lively, including special cards that force the next player to skip a turn or draw extra cards. You can also use specific cards to reverse the direction of play or change the current suit of the active card. Unlike Card Game’s take on the game, Trump Boy II allows you to change the value of these special cards at the beginning of a match.
And finally, there’s Parliament, or Sevens. In this game, your goal is—predictably, at this point—to be the first to clear your hand of cards. Here, however, you don’t have to deal with draw penalties. Instead, an entire deck is handed out to four players at once, and all four of the deck’s 7s are placed in the middle.
Play advances by turns, as each player attempts to place a card adjacent to one on the table. It’s like competitive Solitaire played from the inside-out—you can only play a card of the same suit as a card on the table. So, from the 7 of Hearts you can play 6 or 8 of Hearts. Play the 8 of Hearts and your next play will have to be either the 6 or 9 of Hearts. And so on.
If you can’t make a match, you’re forced to pass, and after three passes, your next miss forces you to fold. Under certain circumstances, you can play an Ace or a King and create an additional front from which to make matches, but otherwise it’s all a fairly direct and simple Solitaire variant. And that’s it. That’s all of Trump Boy II: Three card games, a little more enjoyable than the series’ first pass and with a host of charming cartoon characters (and, potentially, three other humans) to play against. Thankfully, even Pack-In Video must have realized three’s a crowd, because we never saw a Trump Boy III.