Hudson Considers More Realistic Adventure Island
Posted by Corbie Dillard
Although not quite as well-known or recognized as Shigeru Miyamoto, Takahashi Meijin (Master Higgins) has long been a gaming celebrity in Japan. His amazing ability to press a fire button 16 times a second has long garnered him a reputation among shooter fans around the world, but it's been his unique association with Hudson's Adventure Island series that's been his biggest claim to fame.
For those who don't already know, the main character in the Adventure Island games, Master Higgins, was molded after Takahashi Meijin. He's become synonymous with the game series over the years and will typically be called upon when Hudson rolls out any type of Adventure Island release, old or new. Now that Hudson is working on a new Adventure Island title for the WiiWare service, Takahashi Meijin has once again become the topic of conversations and interviews around the gaming community. 1UP recently conducted a very candid interview with Takahashi which revealed some very unique details about what we might expect from Hudson's future WiiWare offerings.
1UP: All right. Well, like I said before, American gamers aren't really familiar with you outside of the game character, so if you could, please, give us a brief history of where you came from and how you joined Hudson.
Takahashi Meijin: Around 1981, I was working for a supermarket in the produce section. I got really interested in computers and the BASIC programming language, so I started to teach myself by playing around with it. I was reading a bunch of magazines and books about computer programming, and one day, I found a classified ad. They were looking for a computer programmer at Hudson; at the time, I was living in Hokkaido, the northern part of Japan. So when I saw the classified ad, I realized it was for Hudson's office in Hokkaido. I kind of thought it was fate, so I grabbed the magazine and literally walked over to Hudson's office, knocked on the door, and said, "Will you hire me?"
Around 1983, I was commissioned to write a program, Family Basic, to allow kids to be able to put together programs on the Famicom. But because it was still a very difficult product to use, they asked me to put together a book - a manga - for the kids so that they could really embrace the system and embrace the product.
At the time at Hudson, the marketing team was actually very small. It only had one person, the marketing director, and two subordinates: One specialized in the computer-programming part of the business, while the other specialized in Nintendo, which was me. As a part of a marketing-strategy session, we decided it'd be fun to throw a nationwide tournament, or tour, to show off some of the games that we had. I brought up that "Hey, wouldn't it be kind of exciting if we could actually demonstrate how to play the games to score well?" And they were kind of brainstorming to see who would be that person, and they couldn't really find anybody. So, in the end, the marketing director basically just told me that I had to do it. So it's not like I volunteered. It's not like I was already good at it and they said, "Oh, you do that!" They just told me that that was what I was going do! [Laughs]
Takahashi seems to feel that new sequels to popular Hudson franchises are important, but also stressed that remakes of some of the classic Hudson titles were equally important, especially among the classic gaming audience and hardcore gamers. While he threw out the idea of using "realistic" graphics for updating some of the classic Hudson titles, it seemed to be the hope of the interviewer, not to mention most of us here at WiiWare World, that Hudson keep the cute cartoon-like visual theme of the classic titles, like those found in the original Adventure Island games. Takahashi did agree with the suggestion, so we can at least hold out hope that Hudson will stick with the classic visual stylings of the game and avoid the Bomberman Act Zero experiment with their future remakes and sequels.
1UP: Related to that, do you think it's important to keep the old brands fresh, like Adventure Island and Bomberman? Are you more interested in doing remakes and sequels than, say, collections of the old games? Hudson has new retro collections on PSP, for example.
TM: That's a difficult question. There's definitely room for both ways to revamp the classic games, because I feel like the market is really starting to divide into two very distinct groups: the casual gamers and the hardcore gamers who really want real-life graphics. Take, for instance, Bomberman Act: Zero, when they revamped it so that the graphics were a little bit more real, a bit more Americanized, muscular, and less comical. I feel it was perceived well in the American market. Bomberman embodies this lovable, cartoon-like character, yet it still does appeal to a lot of people, including younger kids. I feel that you can take one character, one game, and still parlay it into separate directions and still do both of them well.
So, I have a question for you: If we were to revamp Adventure Island, but with very realistic graphics with this [Points at himself, laughs] - this figure - would you like to play that game?
1UP: Well, that kind of leads into my second part of the question. I don't know if you've seen it, but in Mega Man 9, they're using an 8-bit art style; it looks just like a Famicom game. And I was going to ask if you thought, just hearing that, if that was a good idea for a Hudson sort of approach to that, to keep that 8-bit look? [Mega Man 9 was revealed in June a day before this interview. --Ed.]
TM: I feel like, if we're going to make Master Higgins really realistic, it's not going to be very cute. But with those sort of 8-bit and realistic styles, there's an audience for both worlds, and that's actually a good thing.
1UP: Well, then, to answer your question, I'd like Adventure Island to stay cute.
TM: I agree!
Of particular interest to a certain WiiWare World staff member, whose known to be somewhat of a shooter fan, was the section of the interview where Takahashi mentioned his continued love of the classic shoot 'em up genre and the possibility of Hudson bringing back more of their classic shooter titles. While he quickly made his dislike of the more modern "bullet hell" shooters that have become popular in recent years known, he did mention that he'd like to create shooting games more in the style of shooters he himself enjoys playing.
1UP: Earlier, you said you still play games. Hudson makes a lot of casual games these days, but outside of those and other Hudson games, do you still play new shooting games at all?
TM: Without sounding harsh, I want to say that I don't really think very much of the shooting games out there in general, because the genre's evolved to a point where it's become about dodging bullets. They're shooting at you so much that you don't have time to strategize and be an actual shooter. You're starting to compete based on how much you can dodge rather than how much you can really shoot. So, because of that obstacle, I don't really find any shooting games out there enjoyable, but I want to develop projects within Hudson and put shooting games out there that I enjoy.
The full interview is actually quite a read and very long and in-depth for anyone that wants to check it out. While there wasn't a lot of specific details regarding the WiiWare titles in development mentioned, you could see that Takahashi was trying to drop a few subtle hints throughout the interview to give Hudson fans something to speculate about. At the very least we can see that Master Higgins is still every bit as excited about video gaming now as he was almost two decades ago when he was first hired on by Hudson.