Within any medium, there are those true pinnacles of awful that garner a renown with enthusiasts. Video games are no different but the levels of atrocity when scraping the bottom of the barrel are truly something to behold. There are the legendary ‘kusoge’ (a Japanese term for “shitty game”) like Super Monkey Daiboken and Takeshi’s Challenge, to western eyesores like Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing and Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust. There is one game that gets overlooked, however, one that has been a mystery until now.
Hong Kong 97 was a bootleg Super Famicom game that came out in 1995, as the following generation was already underway. The game is often ignored from the famous kusoge lists due to the nature of bootlegs never being considered for such ‘honours’. From developer HappySoft, the game became something of a cult phenomenon online due to its awful and short gameplay, horrendous looping music, gross story and awkward usage of photo cutouts. Those who played it were quick to call it a travesty and the king of video game garbage. The game hit mainstream prominence thanks to YouTuber James Rolfe, The Angry Video Game Nerd. He released his review in 2015 and that was when Hong Kong 97 became something gamers were made aware of.
Cut to over 20 years since the game released and we are getting details directly from the man who created it. News website South China Morning Post was able to find the director, who was willing to speak frankly about a game that was not only bad but grossly offensive. Yoshihisa Kurosawa (or known as Kowloon Kurosawa) was the main man behind development and took the time to finally answer long-standing questions on his ‘disasterpiece’.
Kurosawa explains that the entire purpose of Hong Kong 97 was his way to tell off an industry he started to dislike, particularly Nintendo. He expresses that he set out to make an awful game that had no merit by saying: “My goal was to make the worst game possible”.
Kurosawa had dreams of becoming a game designer but told SCMP that he hated that games at the time were too child-friendly. The time frame didn’t allow for indie games and individual designers, thus stifling creativity within the medium. It was a Nintendo and Sega business in the east and they had set up a standard for the industry he was not happy with. While in Hong Kong, Kurosawa found his solution by discovering a device that could copy Super Famicom games to floppy discs. With this in hand, he could finally respond to the industry he believed was dogged by “ethical standards” by making his own offensive game. It is even believed he even went so far to include an image of a real dead body in the game over screen.
A screenshot from the game’s opening which displayed Kurosawa’s feelings.
The rest of the article goes into Kurosawa’s rationale for the game, his inspirations and how Hong Kong’s transfer of sovereignty became the focus of his ire. Kurosawa noted how the game became a reality with the help of a friend who was an employee at Enix. The two completed Hong Kong 97 after a drunken night of programming and designing only finishing a “tenth” of what Kurosawa intended. The game didn’t make much noise until a decade later when Kurosawa’s ROM was found online. That was when the legend of Hong Kong 97 spread across forums and message boards placing it among the true kusoge.
Over the last ten years, Kurosawa was constantly bombarded with questions on Facebook over the game. It was because of the attention that he finally decided to talk to the press in order to get the story out. He did end up working within the industry but those details are scarce. These days he works on underground travel magazine Six Samana and on documentaries.
There is a lot more detail about Kurosawa’s journey to creating a gaming legend, so we highly recommend you check out the article from SCMP. He does end off by noting that he wishes many would just forget about the game. He admits there was little else than just creating a vulgar and awful game for the sake of it.
This is one legend that finally gets put to rest. Now if only we could get Takeshi Kitano to talk about Takeshi’s Challenge. Hearing how he came up with that giant middle finger to the player should be a fun read.