[I ♥ The PC Engine] Kato-chan Ken-chanPosted on May 22nd, 2009 3 comments
Release Date: 11/30/87
Price: 4500 yen
Media: HuCard (2 Mbit)
PC Engine FAN Score: 19.96 / 30.00
Kōgien: “A side-scrolling action game starring the Kato-chan Ken-chan comedy team. The characters are drawn oddly realistically, giving them a unique look. Performing some sort of action on the obstacles in the game leads too all sorts of results.”
Kato-chan Ken-chan and the TG16’s J.J. & Jeff are largely the same, with just a few graphical differences to eliminate the toilet humor. Instead of farting, the US version features a spray can as an auxiliary weapon, which inadvertently makes the game just a smidge easier since you don’t need to be facing backwards to fire the spray can at enemies.
The heroes of this game are real people, Cha Kato and Ken Shimura of Japanese comedy group The Drifters. At the time, the pair were heading up Kato-chan Ken-chan no Gokigen TV, a variety program running Saturdays at 8pm on the TBS network. This was the follow-up show from 8-ji da yo! Zen’in shugo, another variety show that ran from 1969 to 1985 and largely helped to define the zany lowbrow humor that most people tend to think of when they hear the words “Japanese television”. Gokigen TV is semi well-known in the US for being the first show to feature humorous home videos sent in by viewers, which led to Vin Di Bona licensing the concept for America’s Funniest Home Videos, a show I found breathlessly entertaining as a kid but wonder how I managed to take for so long nowadays.
Around the time this game came out, Gokigen TV was the number-one comedy on the tube, recording a 36.0% share with its 11/21/87 episode — the 4th best rating achieved by a variety show in Japanese history. The show lasted until 1992, by which time other variety series were kicking its arse in the 8pm Sunday time slot. Kato/Ken followed up immediately with another show, but that fizzled out in half a year, ending The Drifters’ 23-year stint at TBS. (The station dropped the Saturday variety timeslot entirely in 2008.)
Moving on to the game, the object is to control madcap detectives Kato/Ken (they did a detective spoof sketch pretty much once per episode of Gokigen TV) as they solve a kidnap caper, which for some reason involves going through 24 stages of platform Armageddon. It’s simple “athletic action” in the Wonder Boy tradition, and it’s pretty well made — nice-looking, incredibly difficult, and featuring a lot of the trademark gags seen on the show. (Those enormous faces are cute, too.)
Unlike Hudson’s Adventure Island (which came out on the Famicom less than a year before this), Kato-chan Ken-chan has a wealth of complexity to its stage design. You can jump on, kick, or fart/spray-can enemies, and stages can take place across multiple fields and even connect back and forth with each other. There are official Mario-style warp zones, tons of secret doors and such, keys to find, and so on and so forth. This takes a game that’s built to be hard from the start and makes it positively fiendish at the end. That, and the characters control just a wee bit differently from each other — Ken (aka “Jeff”) is a bit faster but skids around a lot more than Kato (aka “J.J.”).
The music rocks, of course. Hudson was firing on all pistons for these first few titles, I don’t know. Tell me this song doesn’t make you feel a little sad. Go ahead. I dare you to lie to me.
Here’s the latest TAS for the game. Prepare to see Ken Shimura do things that would probably send him to the hospital if he tried them out nowadays.
The track from JJ & Jeff you posted is certainly wonderful.
I always refer to JJ & Jeff as the bastard child of the Wonderboy 1 / Adventure Island series to piqué the interest of folks who would otherwise skip it.
Plus, you gotta love the corny names given to the enemies pictured in the manual..
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