Hong Kong’s local English newspaper South China Morning Post recently stepped up to interview developer Yoshihisa Kurosawa, who once foresaw the development of an infamous bootleg game called Hong Kong 1997.
The game is very, oh-so-very liberally based on the handover period of Hong Kong in 1997, where in an alternate universe then-governor Chris Patten asks undercover agent Chin (who looks like Jackie Chan) to “kill all one billion of those ugly reds”. With simple gameplay, and an unforgettable soundtrack, the game is undoubtedly one of the great classics of it’s time.
According to Kurosawa, his goal was to make the worst game possible. When he was young, he wanted to work in the games industry, but disliked Nintendo games for their stale settings and characters. Nintendo and Sega were the kings of the Japanese game industry, and indie games were impossible thanks to steep royalties and rules and ethical standards.
While staying at Chungking Mansions in a trip to Hong Kong, he was wandering around the Sham Shui Po computer malls and found devices capable of copying games onto floppy disks, used to make bootleg copies but also making self-made games playable as well.
Influenced by the extreme games in the West, he decided to make a game making fun of the game industry, and decided to set the game in Hong Kong. According to Kurosawa,
“I had an interest in what would unfold in 1997, and there was a sense of anticipation but also anxiety. China still seemed like a world of savages. I thought: what would happen if the two intermingled?”
Kurosawa lacked programming skills, so asked an Enix employee friend to help out – with only two days of work on the game. Without any time, money, or permission, but some alcohol, the slapdash job was the end result. Deng Xiaoping and Jackie Chan’s looks were from a movie poster, while a track from a laserdisc from Shanghai Street became the BGM.
In order to distribute the game, Kurosawa resorted to pseudonym-written articles in underground gaming magazines to drum up anticipation, and used a mail-order service to sell the game. He related his activities to that of a thief’s, but the game soon dropped out of his mind.
With the advent of game emulators and the cult status of the game, Kurosawa was bombarded with questions that were reading too hard into the game, which was just pure fiction. He ignored them all at the time. While he was involved in a PlayStation 2 FPS, he hasn’t been involved in video games since, instead writing the Six Samana travel magazine.
“The goal was simply to create a vulgar game and I thought it would be more fun for the gameplay to be a failure, but honestly, I just wish people would forget about the game once and for all”, said Kurosawa.