Takeshi no Chousenjou
(Takeshi's Challenge)
Review by Mars - 8/06/07

There are numerous famous-for-being-infamous video games out there now. We've got Superman 64, ET, Mortal Kombat Advance, Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis (the Game Boy Advance version)...this site has covered a few already: Bebe's Kids, Shaq Fu, Wand of Gamelon (someday)...

But here's something you might not have known about. If we were to take all those bad games, line them end to end, and calculate their combined stink factor, it would still not best the most diabolical Japanese Famicom game ever created: Takeshi's Challenge. At least with all those other games, they tried. Takeshi's Challenge was the product of Takeshi Kitano (or "Beat Takeshi" as he refers to himself), a famous Japanese comedian who had his own TV show at the time. Released in 1986, it's one of the first licensed games to suck, but it did so on Takeshi's orders. The title screen contains the translated message, "This game is made by a man who hates videogames."

So, is the thing frustrating? Well, according to a post from YouTube:

this game is what would happen if wario ware went to HELL, mutilated, and distorted bu the very presence of hell, than brought out, than captured by SATAN, than horribly demented, than roundhouse-kicked by Chuck Norris so hard that it lodges itself into a katamari, buried in sand for a trillion years, brought back up, and than forced to watch fifty thousand episodes of robot chicken.

Yeah. It's that bad.

The game takes place in an overworld city, with many buildings containing the tasks you have to complete to beat the game. The city is also populated with nothing but people that want to beat you to death. Stay outside long enough and you'll start wasting your lives. If you consider yourself an artful dodger and think you can handle it...you're delusional, because you really can't. See, in order to enter any door you must stand in front of it for at least five seconds, and if some guy decides to punch you out of the way, you must try again. You should save your strength for this, because you'll be doing it for a while.

Some moron once made the remark that the overworld is like Grand Theft Auto, and that remark has made it into almost every review of the game since (we're all copying from each other, since actually playing the thing is impossible on an emulator). I guess it's like GTA in the sense that you are in a city and you can beat people up. You young'uns think everything is like GTA. Pac-Man is like GTA only the city is a maze and the other cast members are already dead, and the drugs are little pellets that give you the ability to eat them, and the hookers are all cherries instead.

When you finally break through, it's time for your first task: singing karaoke for an hour.

Didn't expect that, did you? Well, you better have your pipes in tune, because if you don't sing, and remain singing for exactly 60 minutes, the game will KNOW. The Famicom's second controller had a built-in microphone. To pass onto the game's second level, you must sing to the notes the game plays in the bar, into the mike, over and over for an hour.

And just so nobody thinks I made that up, here's a video of a Japanese guy trying to play it for proof:

If you're triumphant in this task, the little sprite you control will receive 300 Yen (which should buy a stick of gum) and everyone in the bar will attack him. Again, this is if you WIN.

This is the next screen you get. Your next task is to....do nothing for the next four hours. With one catch: to make sure you're really doing nothing, your finger must remain on the A button. Personally, I'd just stack a bonzai tree or a bootleg Tenchi VHS on the controller and go outside. The only flaw in this game's methods of torture was that they couldn't think of a way to enforce this particular one.

They could have thought of something if they'd put their minds to it. There was an unreleased Sega CD game starring Penn and Teller that contained a minigame called "Desert Bus." Your goal in "Desert Bus" was to drive a bus from Tucson to Las Vegas in real time. That means the minigame lasted eight hours, with the same desert scenery flying by over and over. And in THIS game, you couldn't cheat, as your bus veered slightly to the right. If you didn't constantly stand watch, you'd drive off the road and lose. If you completed Desert Bus, Penn and Teller gave you one extra point. (You were then given the option of driving all the way back for another extra point.)

You won't be able to escape Level 3 as easily. In an auto-sidescrolling stage, you must dodge midair obstacles and last long enough to reach the other side of the ocean. Sound somewhat easier? Think again: your plane cannot move up. Only down! You only have so many dodges you can make before you crash into the ocean! AAAA-HAHAHAHAAAA!!

So...what happens if you DO crash? Do you get sent all the way back to the beginning and have to sing again? My guess: probably.

If you manage to pass the plane level, the next and final level involves landing on an island, avoiding everyone and everything that moves, going inside a cave, and doing the same inside said cave. Aside from what looks like horrible jump physics controls, this part is a cakewalk compared to everything else. It's almost like the programmers figured nobody would play long enough to get here and just started making a normal game, thinking Mr. Beat wouldn't find out.

But that's not the case. We haven't gotten to the best part yet. And it's coming up next.

Once you get to the end of the level and touch a shrine, your screen changes and becomes entirely black except for what looks like Beat's head. All online evidence points to this being the final boss. Which doesn't make much sense; how are you supposed to beat a black screen with a head on it?

The answer: by hitting him with any button.


Yes, the man's got 20,000 hit points and you have to deplete them one at a time, in nonstop succession. If you manage to accomplish this, then congraturation, you've won Japan's most frustrating game. Your prize is: another text box from Beat, then a frozen screen.

After you've beaten it, there's not much else you can do with Takeshi's Challenge except exploit its only bug (yeah, it was programmed well). Jumping over a door in the city's east side will take you inside the game's Minus World, where it's literally raining men, all the time.

The game is virtually unknown in America, but in Japan it's legendary, frequently making decent numbers on those "top 50 games of all time" lists. The absence of an anime based on this game, or even a manga, is puzzling to me.

Taito actually supported this thing with a full commercial campaign. Here's the TV ad for Takeshi's Challenge, in which Beat sits around and grates a radish. Makes perfect sense.

There is one other Beat game for NES, "Takeshi's Castle," and it plays like a normal game. Naturally, it isn't nearly as popular...

Other Retro Cafe reviews by me:
Castle Smurfenstein
Gitaroo Man
Apple II Grab Bag #1