Takeshi’s Challenge, hailed as one of the worst games of all time, is a game released in 1986 for the Famicom system. Developed by Taito Corporation, it was designed by comedian, actor, and film director Beat Takeshi (Takeshi Kitano), who made it very clear that he was “a man who hates video games.” Critically, the reception of the game differed, with some deeming its game design abusive while others praised it for its peculiarity; regardless, it sold 800,000 copies within its lifetime. According to the first episode of the Japanese TV show GameCenter CX, rumor has it that the developers of the game met with Takeshi at a bar, and put as many of his ideas as they could into the game directly; even when he was drunk. Thus, the plot of Takeshi’s Challenge was born.
Our protagonist is a salaryman with a troubled domestic life and a hard to please boss who seeks one thing; a hidden treasure. There are various locations the player can visit along the various side-scrolling streets. The main street includes the Seagull Theater, Azumagou Bank, and Culture Center, while Jov Street includes Azemichi Karaoke & Snack Bar, and the unusual “Grilled Mormons”. Turning down Niko Ginzo Street, Komori’s Barber Shop, Ritsubundo Book Store, Travel Tamagawa, and Dick’s Pachinko line the side of the road. You can choose to spend your hard-earned money to purchase a trip to the South Pacific (to advance the story) or try your hand at the pachinko machines. If you choose the latter, you must purchase some pachinko balls and pick a machine. Once you run out of balls, an angry group of Yakuza will assault you, and upon beating them you will receive 5000 balls; enough to cash in at the desk and receive the shamisen of your dreams!
One allusion to Takeshi’s dark sense of humor can be found in the main character’s home life. Passing out after consuming too much alcohol at the bar brings the character back to his home, where your wife and two identical children reside. Your wife is evidently upset that your character is drunk (again), and the player is given various choices on how to handle the situation, one of them being divorce. Upon divorce, you can either pay alimony or punch her, after which you are forced out of the house.
Despite the peculiar events and inclusions to the in-game world, the game became famous for its absurd game play, forcing the player to complete esoteric tasks which are considered to be achievable only (at the time) with the assistance of the two published strategy guides. An interesting tidbit relating to assisting players, however, is that the two television commercials created to advertise the game each provided hints of their own. (See: https://youtu.be/lTrzX26TTzI)
According to a staff member of Oota Publications featured on GameCenter CX, there are three impassible points; “singing ability”, “patience”, and “technique”. “Singing ability” involves traveling to Azemichi snack bar, where the player must utilize the Famicom Controller II’s microphone function to successfully (receive three “good” marks) sing “The Rainy New Land.” This takes countless tries, but upon completion an old man appears and hands you a treasure map.
Here comes “patience.” The map is undeveloped, and the player must “leave it in the sun,” which means not touching the Famicom controller for a full hour. Pressing a button during this time brings the player back to the karaoke segment, and they must repeat the previous steps. After the hour,the map appears, and the player heads for Hintabo Island.
Finally, “technique.” The player must clear a near impossible hang glider shooting stage, which is sure to familiarize them with the funeral scene from the game over screen. After these trials, you arrive on an island in the South Pacific. It is populated by natives, who don’t like it when you enter their homes. Entering the fourth house, you are greeted by a native with a large cauldron. He asks you what you’re doing, and asking where the treasure is lands you in the pot. He demands you perform for him, and this is where our salaryman’s shamisen skills may shine; a few strums and the native lets you go out of pure respect for your skills.
After some more talking to various people of the island, the game ends when the player clears a cave and, at last, finds the treasure. The reward? Takeshi appears on screen and simply says, “great.” This is not quite the ending though, as if the player waits 5 minutes, they are greeted with Takeshi once again, providing words of wisdom; “Why’re ya taking this game so seriously?” You got us there Takeshi. Though this game is filled with absurd logic and difficult obstacles, its unconventional game play (such as the option to punch most anyone) and humorous dialogue makes it one that has become infamous within the retro gaming community.