Release: September 13, 1988 | Developer: Jaleco | Publisher: Jaleco
Developed specifically for the Family Computer by Jaleco, the Japanese Maniac Mansion was released a full two years before the Nintendo Entertainment System version and is actually a drastically different game.
There are a few notable differences, many of which make the Japanese game function a lot more like a prototype than the ‘finished’ version we got in North America.
In the Japanese M, for instance, for instance, there is no screen scrolling. The game takes place entirely on single screens, much like The Legend of Zelda. This makes the wider, multi-screen rooms in the original PC version (and the later NES version) needed to be condensed into single screens, muddling some puzzles. Unsurprisingly, the Japanese version also has some more risqué graphics; organs and body parts in jars, a mummy pin-up poster, and a nude statue to name a few.
While many of these variations are minor annoyances at worst, there is one missing feature that makes the game near-unplayable. In both the PC and NES versions, when you move the cursor over an object you can interact with the name of the object pops up on-screen. The Famicom version of Maniac Mansion has no such indicator, making finding interactive objects a tiresome and repetitive slog of clicking every pixel on the screen.
Fortunately Jaleco would turn in a far superior version for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1990, making this bizarre Japanese only port of the game a singular curiosity.