Game: Kato-chan & Ken-chan / JJ & Jeff
Developer: Hudson Soft
Publisher: Hudson Soft
Release Date: November 30, 1987 / 1990
System: PC Engine
My Score: 6.5/10 (KatoKen), 5/10 (JJ/Jeff)
The game starts off with you and your partner answering a phone. Somebody is calling for help that someone else has been kidnapped. You are detectives Kato-chan and Ken-chan (or JJ and Jeff) and you're out to solve who has kidnapped the unnamed rich guy. This game is based off of the Kato/Ken detective spinoff of their comedy sketch show. In the Western version, the sprites are modified so the characters appear to be Caucasian. I guess 20 years ago it wasn't cool for the protagonist of your platformer to be a Japanese ojisan.
Kato-chan and Ken-chan are two comedians in Japan who were very popular in the mid-80s. They hosted a comedy variety show full of toilet humor and self-depreciating jokes. They also spawned the American TV show: "America's Funniest Home Videos". While Ken-chan still makes his appearances on TV, he is no longer famous. More washed up than a legend. Kato-chan disappeared from show business (or the planet) completely.
You can choose to be Kato or Ken. It doesn't matter which one you choose, the outcome of the game will be the same. The same goes for JJ & Jeff. Whichever character you didn't choose appears throughout the game giving you tips (and health) as well as hurling cans at you that deplete your health. In the JPN version, the character that wasn't chosen also appears in the background either urinating or defecating. This was censored in the Western version. In JJ & Jeff the urine was removed so it looks like the other character is dancing, facing away from you. Also, instead of defecating in the bushes like the JPN version, it appears the character is just sitting in the bushes wearing a mask. What a long way we have come since then!
So you are off to fight squirrels, birds, insects, dogs, beavers, rats, flying things, fish, etc etc. You can either kick your enemy or jump on them a la Mario. One more weapon of choice in the JPN version is you can fart on your enemy by crouching. In the Western version this was also censored so that instead of a fart cloud coming out of your butt, you are spraying some sort of substance out of a spray can. You have a life beat the depletes as you get hit or even if you just stand around doing nothing. It works as a life bar and a timer just like in Adventure Island. And like Adventure Island you collect fruits to replenish your life bar. Hamburgers and ramen bowls also replenish health, but for some reason french fries don't.
Like in any other game, the further you go the more difficult it becomes. This game becomes frustratingly difficult. There are a total of 6 "fields" and each field has 4 areas, so I guess you can say there are a total of 24 levels. By the time you get to the 6th field, you are going to get your patience tested. The game does throw some cheapness your way, but what is really difficult (or time-consuming) is all the trial and error you have to go through before you figure out how to pass a certain point. Now the game's designers gave you some form of mercy by forcing you to warp back one level if you make a mistake. Thanks guys...thanks for NOTHING.
There are a lot of levels, but they just recycle 4 or 5 different templates over and over again. It gets pretty monotonous. It seemed they focused more on quantity and not quality when it came to level design. The same goes for the level enemies and bosses. Every level has the same enemies and each field has the same boss with minor sprite changes. All of the bosses fight the same way and you defeat them the same way. The last boss is really not any more difficult than the first boss.
As far as the story goes, as mentioned earlier...you're out to help someone. There is no mention of the story again until you beat the game. So throughout the game it seems you're collecting cherries, hamburgers and killing dogs and sea anemones for no reason. Once in a while a human enemy dressed in a suit appears...but in the credits it says he's just some executive. Nothing correlates with the story of someone being kidnapped. So I guess all it takes to solve a kidnapping case is farting your way thru levels and playing the slot machine mini-game.
The mini game is just a slot machine. You collect coins throughout the level and use them in the slot machines hidden in bathroom stalls and holes in the wall. You can win vitality or more coins. Yay?
Kato-chan & Ken-chan: 6.5/10
JJ & Jeff: 5/10
If you like a platformer for its challenge and nothing else, this game has a lot to offer. If you're easily annoyed by recycled sprites and levels, then this game is not for you. It's the same thing over and over again. The only thing that isn't recycled (as much) are the challenges. While not impossible or super difficult, they do require some thinking.
The star of the game is its humor. If the game wasn't based on two popular comedians, then it would be pretty boring and generic. Most of the humor is removed from the western version through watering-down and censorship. The jokes didn't translate well, either. JJ & Jeff does make for a somewhat strange platformer in its own right, but nothing to write home about. If you can find it cheap, get it, if not, pass. Unless of course you want something somewhat challenging.
The more you are familiar with Kato-chan and Ken-chan, the more interesting the game is. All of their one-liners and gags are intact in the game and you have laughs (well, mild snickers) throughout. If you have no idea who these two guys are then the game probably would be more on the boring side for you.
Fart VS Spray can
Bare Ass vs No Bare Ass
And as always, no emulated or pirated reviews...my copies.