It's not often that someone sets out to make the worst game possible but that's what Yoshihisa Kurosawa did over 20 years ago with Hong Kong 97. Intended as a commentary on the video game industry of its time, Kurosawa still has people pestering him about his god awful game.
Hong Kong 97 is a truly awful game. A glitchy, poorly controlled mess that has you use a Jackie Chan clone named "Chin" to fight off waves of communists.
Comparing it to Tommy Wiseau's The Room is unfair. At least The Room has some camp value. Yet somehow Hong Kong 97 has a cult following in Asia.
Speaking with South China Morning Post earlier this year, Yoshihisa Kurosawa spoke about how he came to make what could be the worst game ever made (so far).
Things came together after a visit to Hong Kong where Kurosawa wandered the malls, coming across bootleg copies of SNES games and the tools to make his own bootlegs.
“I had an idea to create a cheap, vulgar game that would make fun of the industry. The emergence of game copiers finally gave me that opportunity. With one of them, you could make games and distribute them without needing Nintendo’s permission,” said Kurosawa.
A friend of Kurosawa's was enlisted to make the game and did so in just two days. The results really speak for themselves.
“The game turned out that way because that was all the time we had. What you see represents a 10th of what I intended to do,” he says. “There was no time. We didn’t have money. We didn’t have permission. We just sort of took a slapdash approach to giving it a Hong Kong-esque style, and that’s the result.”
The music came from a second-hand laserdisc. The main character was copied from a movie poster. Kurosawa and his friend got together for some drinks and pieced things together. Hong Kong 97 never had a chance to be good. It was never meant to be.
Despite trying to drum up interest in the game by writing articles in underground game magazines under pseudonyms, the game quickly faded from public view. "The types of people who bought Super Famicom game copiers weren’t the type to spend money on games, so it was like trying to sell something to a thief."
That is, until the internet came along and ruined everything. Emulation turned this unknown and irredeemable game into a cult classic that lead to people pestering Kurosawa over social media decades after Hong Kong 97's release.
“Every day I get questions on Facebook from all around the world, from people I’ve never heard of, asking things like, ‘Who does the corpse [at the end of the game] belong to?’" said Kurosawa. "The entire setting and context was just stuff I made up as I went along. The questions are endless, so I just ignore them all."
Kurosawa has long since moved on with his life. He wishes other people would too.
“The goal was simply to create a vulgar game and I thought it would be more fun for the gameplay to be a failure,” he says. “But honestly, I just wish people would forget about the game once and for all.”