Hong Kong 97 (video game)
|Hong Kong 97|
Hong Kong 97[a] is an unlicensed shoot 'em up video game developed and published by HappySoft, a doujin game developer, for the Super Famicom. It was released in Japan in 1995, being sold as cartridges and floppy disks. Designed by the Japanese game journalist Kowloon Kurosawa, who claims the game is a satire to the video game industry, Hong Kong 97 was made in two days with the help of his friend.
The game takes place in China in 1997, during the handover of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom. Facing increased crime rate due to immigration from Mainland China, the Hong Kong government hires Chin, a super-powerful relative of Bruce Lee and a heroin addict, to kill the entire population of China; at the same time, the deceased Tong Shau Ping is resurrected by a secret project conducted by the Chinese government as an "ultimate weapon".[b] After defeating Tong Shau Ping, the game is repeated indefinitely until Chin dies. Hong Kong 97 sold around 30 copies due to its underground bootleg release, and it has since gained a cult following for its notoriously poor quality. In retrospect, it is considered by critics and journalists to be among the worst games ever made.
The player controls Chin, who must shoot and evade the Chinese populace and police officers moving downwards from the top of the screen. When shot, the enemies explode in mushroom clouds, leaving behind a flashing corpse and items for instant death or temporary invincibility. After a while, cars start appearing from the sides, moving horizontally across the screen as obstacles. After thirty enemies have been defeated by the player, the final boss, the "ultimate weapon" Tong Shau Ping[b] appears. Once he is defeated, the game repeats itself. The game shows static photos as the background, which alternate between pictures of Maoist propaganda, Guilin, the logo for Asia Television, the logo for Chinese Coca-Cola or Mao Zedong in monochrome.
Sporadically, a syringe appears as a power-up, which grants Chin temporal invincibility. The player has no health points: if Chin is hit by anything other than an item, the game is immediately over, unless Chin is under invincibility. The game over screen contains the superimposed words "CHIN IS DEAD!" in English and grammatically incorrect Chinese "陳死亡" (pinyin: Chén sǐ wáng)[c] over a still graphic image of a corpse. The game then goes to the credits (listing the Embassy of Canada as a cooperation partner) and back to the title screen.
Upon turning on the game, the first three measures of the chorus of an upbeat rock-style rendition of "I Love Beijing Tiananmen" can be heard, which loop endlessly throughout the game. The game has no other music or sound effects. It can be played in English, Japanese or traditional Chinese.
Hong Kong 97 begins with a short cutscene which places the game around the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997. People from Mainland China (described as "fuckin' ugly reds") started immigrating to Hong Kong and greatly increased the crime rate. As a countermeasure, the Hong Kong government (represented in-game by the governor Chris Patten) hires Chin, an unspecified relative of Bruce Lee, to "wipe out" all 1.2 billion of the "red communists" in China. Meanwhile, a secret project in Mainland China has succeeded in bringing Tong Shau Ping[b] back to life as the "ultimate weapon".
The Chinese translation of the game refers to Chin as "Mr. Chan" (Chinese: 陳先生; pinyin: Chén xiānshēng), alluding to the fact that a picture of Jackie Chan was used to depict the character. The back of the insert of the game notes that Chin is a heroin addict.
In January 2018, Yoshihisa "Kowloon" Kurosawa finally broke his silence on the development of the game to the South China Morning Post. He stated that his goal was to make the worst game possible as a mockery to the game industry. Since Kurosawa did not have much programming skill, he had an Enix employee help him out, with the game being made in two days. He later asked a friend with basic knowledge of English to translate the story into this language, as well as an exchange student from Hong Kong to translate it into Chinese. Kurosawa took the music, an audio clip from "I Love Beijing Tiananmen", from a second-hand LaserDisc he got in Shanghai Street, and the main character sprite, depicting Jackie Chan, was taken from a movie poster of Wheels on Meals, a 1984 Hong Kong martial arts film.
With the game completed, Kurosawa used a game backup device that could copy Super Famicom games onto floppy disks, which he found whilst wandering through the computer malls of Sham Shui Po. Due to game backup devices being illegal in Japan at the time, Kurosawa could only advertise his game through articles written under pseudonyms for underground gaming magazines. He set up a mail-order service to sell the game in floppy discs and cartridges, for ¥2,000 – ¥2,500 ($20–$25 in USD). It sold only about 30 copies, despite him having printed several hundred copies of the insert, which he later threw away. He eventually forgot about the game, until he became aware that it was gaining some unwanted attention in the late 2000s. Eventually, his Facebook account was discovered and was bombarded with questions about the game.
In an advertisement in the underground magazine Game Urara for another HappySoft title, The Story of Kamikuishiki Village, Hong Kong 97's poor quality is acknowledged, with the advert referring to the game as "dreadful" and "incomprehensible". It also claims that bootleg copies of the game were sold in Hong Kong and Bangkok.
In retrospective reviews, Hong Kong 97 was met with overwhelmingly negative reception, with many calling it one of the worst video games ever made.[d] The game has garnered a "so bad, it's good" cult following in Japan and Taiwan, as well as in Thailand.
- The Story of Kamikuishiki Village, another game published by HappySoft with controversial content
- Japanese: 香港97 (Hon Kon 97); Chinese: 香港97; pinyin: Xiānggǎng Jiǔqī; Cantonese Yale: Hēunggóng Gáuchāt
- Tong Shau Ping is a depiction of Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, who was still alive at the time of development; he died on 19 February 1997, a few months before the handover of Hong Kong, the game's backdrop.
- "Chén sǐ wáng" (陳死亡) can be interpreted as either "Chin is dead", or as a proper name, "Dead Chin".
- Shamdasani, Pavan (20 January 2018). "Developer of world's worst video game, Hong Kong 1997, ends silence to reveal its strange genesis and beg gamers to drop it". South China Morning Post. Hong Kong. Archived from the original on 21 April 2018. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
- Gault, Matthew (12 November 2019). "The True, Secret History of the Creepiest Cult Game Ever Made". Vice. Retrieved 21 March 2020.
- Plunkett, Luke (21 August 2012). "Racism, Violence & Madness Make This Awful Hong Kong Game One to Remember". Kotaku. New York City: Univision Communications. Archived from the original on 19 January 2018. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
- Lamy, Corentin (9 February 2018). "Laid, raté et raciste: l'invraisemblable épopée du "pire jeu vidéo du monde"" [Ugly, failed and racist: the incredible epic of the "worst video game in the world"]. Le Monde (in French). Retrieved 25 February 2019.
- "Scan of Hong Kong 97's insert" (in Japanese). Retrieved 20 January 2020 – via Internet Archive.
- Wells, Adam (16 September 2018). "Awful Game Has Enduring Legacy Despite Creator's Wishes". Kotaku Australia. Surry Hills: Univision Communications. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
- Beschizza, Rob (14 January 2020). "Japan's "Filthiest Underground Gaming Magazine" enters the Internet Archive". Boing Boing. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
- "The Story of Kamikuishiki Village Magazine Advertisement". Game Urara. Vol. 4. Core Magazine. 1995. pp. 190–191.
- Lima, Diego (22 July 2018). "Os 10 piores games da história que você precisa conhecer" [The 10 Worst Games In History You Need To Know]. IGN Brazil (in Portuguese). São Paulo: Ziff Davis. Retrieved 25 February 2019.