Hong Kong 97 was made by a bunch of assholes at a developer called HappySoft in 1995. If you're curious, and you should be, HappySoft were a group of home brewers, rather than a "formal" developer. Given the constraints put by Nintendo and other console publishers, it's really a noble effort on HappySoft's part that they put in all the work to make actual Super Famicom cartridges and everything on their own. Unlicensed and pirated games were pretty common the world over on the NES, Famicom, and even Gameboy, but their numbers greatly dwindled in the 16-bit era.
At any rate, many Japanese fan sites rate this as one of the most notable examples of a "kusoge" (translation: "shit game", and refers to games that develop cult followings because of how horrible they are and also what exactly makes them so horrible.) I started it up, expecting a campy bunch of campiness, or whatever, like you would find in Cho Aniki, or Urban Yeti!, or even Hoshi wo Miru Hito, or any other game that earns the reputation of being an example of kuso-ge. What I found speaks for itself. Here's the first screen:
Yep, it's made by HappySoft, alright, and it has three languages selections: Chinese, Japanese and...AWESOME! I CAN PLAY IT IN ENGLISH! After choosing the English language option, I got this screen:
AWESOME! They even offer 1/3 of the profits! Of course, this could have been a con, but it's a great idea, regardless. Imagine how different video games might be these days if this kind of thing had caught on and you could just go out and get buttloads of homebrew games for your Wii or DS. Here are the following two screens:
Developers these days complain endlessly about the state of their business, and how it's goddamn near impossible to get their games made, but HappySoft were actually doing something about it. Video games would definitely be better off if there were more developers with this kind of attitude. Also, does anybody live in, or frequently visit, Tokyo? Is their building still there, and, if so, what's currently occupying it? Anyhow, we're off to a good start. Then you move on to the title screen...
... and it all goes to shit. What the shit!? Is that Jackie Chan!? Who the hell is that other guy!? What the goddamn hell is going on!? Obviously this game didn't have a large budget. HappySoft are homebrewers, so they couldn't afford fancy sprite art, and just went with a digitized image of something they believed was badass looking. That's all this is, right? It's obvious that this is in NO WAY representative of the game itself. After pushing start, I moved on to the intro, which is this:
What the fuck!? Seriously, WHAT THE FUCK!?!?!? A what of who in the how where!?
Shit! That WAS Jackie Chan! According to one Nick Gibson, it's from Wheels on Meals. Wait, who the hell is that guy by the podium? "Bruce Lee's relative Chin"!? Why is there a giant image of Bruce Lee on the screen!? As bat shit insane as this is, you haven't seen anything yet:
I'm not even going to try. This image speaks for itself. I'll let you figure out exactly what you are looking at there.
Is that who that guy was? Chinese politician Deng Xiaoping? (Who wasn't dead when this was made, but did die before the time period where the game took place?) So this is basically the inebriated version of the plot from Bionic Commando.
The plot is insane, and it wouldn't be fair to ridiculousness to call the graphics ridiculous... but how's the gameplay? Well, the game is a fixed shooter. You move Chin around anywhere on the screen with the D-pad, and fire directly upward by pushing Y. The stages look like variations of this:
First of all, what the holy shit is that an image of!? Apparently it's the logo for Asia Television Limited. Those other guys walking down the screen are the enemies. They rain down the screen the entire game, and if you shoot them then this happens:
They blow the fuck up. Maybe I'm seeing that wrong, but that appears to be a boat floating down a river. Pretty subdued image compared to the rest of the game. Don't expect any more of that. You also have to avoid floating dot things and limos, like in these images:
These are Maoist Chinese propaganda posters. Yeah, this is just getting weirder and weirder. You can also find a lone kind of power-up that will make Chin invulnerable for a brief period. It's the thing headed toward Chin in this screenshot below:
Yes, that IS a syringe. What did I tell you? Oh, and Coca-Cola!? After you've been playing for a brief while this shit happens:
I'm not quite certain if the image in the background of Mao Zedong or the floating severed head is weirder. Said floating severed head is basically like a boss. It rushes down at Chin whenever it's above him, and if you shoot it enough then this happens:
It blows the fuck up. Then you just keep playing the level.
It has to be noted that Hong Kong 97 is a really difficult game. Chiefly because if Chin makes contact with ANYTHING other than those syringes then it's Game Over. The hit detection is poor enough that you just have to be close to something to get hit, so your game won't last long. As beyond belief as this entire game is, NOTHING can even begin to compare to what happens after Chin gets hit. The Game Over screen is a photo of an actual human corpse. Tiny thumbnails of the image are also shown whenever you shoot somebody, but here it is in full screen with all its shocking authenticity.
If you're looking for somebody to blame for this game, here are the credits:
As insane as this game obviously is, it's actually kind of difficult to tell whether it's a work of brilliance or if it's just sensationalist bullshit. It's obviously meant to satirize the handover of Hong Kong from the British to the Chinese in 1997, but does so an extraordinarily tasteless manner. Honestly, even the most deliberately shitty freeware games don't go nearly this overboard. So, at the very least, you do have to give them credit for going where no sober developer would even dream of. I'll avoid praising the game too highly, but it really is a shame that we don't see better executed versions of this kind of game design. It sure as hell would make thing more interesting, that's for damn certain. As it stands, Hong Kong 97 is at the very least an interesting curiosity, and is at most a bizarre conversation piece.