I love platformers, so I was wondering, why did Hudson give up on platformers on their own console? And just how bad was this switch, anyway? So, here’s a list of all Hudson platformers on 3rd and 4th generation consoles, with commentary.
Contents: First, a commentary; second, the list backing up the point, broken up into categories. And last, a short list of the platformers published by NEC on the Turbografx and Turbo CD.
Hudson and Platformers, TurboGrafx or Nintendo?
The now-dead Hudson (dead because Konami shut them down) was a significant developer of platformers from the mid ’80s until the late ’90s, and made some more here and there in the years after that as well. In the middle of that period, Hudson released its own console, the TurboGrafx-16, aka the PC Engine in Japan. In those post-Super Mario Bros. days platformers were one of the most important genres, so Hudson released platformers on their new console.
At first, Hudson supported the console. Hudson released almost no platformers on the NES between 1987 and 1990, versus some on the TG16, SuperGrafx, and Turbo CD. Hudson released two games in the genre in 1987, one each in ’88 and ’89, and four in ’90. However, after the Super Nintendo’s release in Japan at the end of 1990, Hudson began to move their platformers over to Nintendo platforms. Between 1991 and 1996, Hudson released many, many more platformers on the NES, SNES, and Game Boy than they did the TurboGrafx and Turbo CD. It’s easy to look at this and forget that this came after several years of them almost exclusively supporting the TG16 for this genre, but that shouldn’t be forgotten! It’s sad that right after upping their TG16 platformer development numbers in 1990, they moved a lot of that focus over to Nintendo. I wonder if the system would have done better had Hudson continued to focus their platformers on their own system, and put a bit more focus on the genre than they mostly seem to have?
What seems to have happened is that in the early ’90s, Hudson looked at Super Mario World and Sonic the Hedgehog, and instead of continuing to try to attract people to their own console as they had before with platformers like Bonk’s Adventure, they gave up and started shifting their platformers over to Nintendo platforms, without trying to make games on Super Mario World’s level, while at the same time focusing more on “CD-style” games for their own system, such as digital comics, RPGs, adventure games, action-RPGs, and such. Their decision makes sense; while the TurboGrafx sold okay in Japan and was the leading 4th-generation platform there until 1990, selling over 5 million PC Engine consoles in Japan, it never caught on overseas, never was really released in Europe, and faded quickly once the Super Nintendo released. The Super Famicom (Super Nintendo) went on to sell over 17 million systems in Japan, while the PC Engine, PC Engine CD addon drive, and PC Engine Duo line all combined were only around 7.5 million, maybe 6.5 million of those able to play HuCard games, and 2 million CD games (approximately half CD addon drives, half Duo systems). This did beat out Sega’s numbers in Japan, but, for a North American-market comparison, sort of like the Gamecube and Xbox when compared to the PlayStation 2, while the other two systems were close to eachother, both were crushed by the top system of the generation.
So, seeing the impressive strength of the Super Nintendo right from launch, Hudson reacted by starting to move some of their games over to the platform, which they did starting in 1992. But, while it may have increased sales of those games, this move surely hurt their own console, since anyone who had bought a PC Engine for Bonk’s Adventure, Bomberman, or Adventure Island had little reason to stick with the console after 1992-1993. Though Hudson released PCE CD titles until 1995, 1993 the last year major titles in any of those three top franchises released on PCE. Maybe this was more of an overall positive for Hudson than a negative, but I can’t help but think that giving up and moving your biggest mass-market franchises over to the competition while leaving mostly more niche games on your own platform is unfortunate. I love the SNES, and the Genesis, but I like seeing people continue to support their hardware, and it’d have been great to see versions of Super Bonks 1 and 2, the later Super Bomberman titles, and Adventure Island II on TUrbografx or Turbo CD. Hudson did release more games on SNES than just platformers, but their abandoning the TG16 is more noticeable with platformers because the other genres Hudson focused on were better-covered on the TG16 and CD, including shmups, RPGs, digital comics, and the like.
On that note, another unfortunate thing is that Hudson never really put effort into CD platformers. The Sega CD did not have a huge number of platformers either, and few are exclusive, but Sonic CD, Sega of Japan’s one platformer for the system, was a major exclusive that really showed off what the Sega CD could do and surely sold consoles to some people. But Hudson… well, just look at the list below. It’s a pathetically thin list consisting of only three games — two basic and shoddy cart-to-CD ports that add little to the HuCard originals (and one of those two, Doraemon CD, doesn’t even have a full CD-audio soundtrack, it’s still mostly chiptunes!), and one incredibly short and easy game I find pretty disappointing. Excepting their 1989 port of Westone’s great arcade game Monster Lair, Hudson did not ever put much effort into making CD platformers. I know the CD userbase was smaller, but Hudson could have done more than they did. The best platform games Hudson published on Turbo CD were Westone titles — that Hudson port of Monster Lair, and Westone’s 1994 sidescrolling action-RPG Blood Gear.
In conclusion, it kind of feels to me like Hudson didn’t do as much with their 4th-gen platformers as they could have. The NES stylings of ’87 ot ’90 TG16 platformers are understandable, but Hudson didn’t change as quickly as their competition did. Unlike the SNES and Genesis, the best platformer on TG16/CD is a third-party game, Konami’s Castlevania X: Rondo of Blood, not a first-party one; Hudson’s games, as fun as they are, weren’t quite on that level. Still though, JJ & Jeff is a pretty good game for 1987! And Bonk’s Adventure and Momotarou Katsugeki in 1990, and Bonk’s Revenge and Doraemon: Nobita no Dorabian Nights in 1991, are also good games that hold up reasonably well for the time, though the ’91 titles do show Hudson’s tendency that generation to continue making their same cartoony platformers, not something more like Mario World or Sonic. Still, those games have good art, clever level designs, and more. But where were the Hudson platformers that really went all-out, and had a sizable volume of content as well? Super Bonk 2 looks and plays a lot like the first TG16 Bonk from almost 5 years earlier, for instance, while Nintendo or Sega showed more improvement. I love platformers so I wish that we’d seen Hudson pushing things more often, as the good parts of their games show that they could when they tried. They did have some more ambitious later titles, such as Super Adventure Island II or DoReMi Fantasy (Milon 2), but of course those were on SNES as well. It would have been great to see Hudson stick to its platform more while they were still supporting it.
The next generation Hudson would make their only few attempts at 3d platformers, and they actually ended up pretty good — Bomberman 64 (N64), Willy Wombat (Saturn), and Bomberman Hero (N64) are quite good games. It’d be great to see what Hudson could have done putting that kind of effort into some later Turbo CD platformers!
Note for the lists below: I use Japanese release dates here, since all games except for one game released there first, and many games only released in Japan. The one exception is Jackie Chan (NES), which released in the US one month before Japan; it has an asterisk below.
List: Hudson Platformers, 1984-1990
Famicom / NES
These games all released between 1984 and 1987, excepting only one game, which is noted. They are in chronological order from earliest to latest.
Nuts & Milk – 1984 (puzzle/platformer)
Lode Runner – 1984 (Western puzzle/platformer game they ported to the NES)
Championship Lode Runner – 1985 (sequel to that game)
Challenger – 1985 (only partially a platformer)
Adventure Island – 1986 (a port of Westone’s arcade & Sega Master System game Wonder Boy)
Milon’s Secret Castle – 1986
Ninja Hattori Kun: Ninja wa Shuugyou Degogiru no Maki – 1986
Mickey Mousecapade – 1987 (Capcom published this in the US, but it’s a Hudson game)
Takahashi Meijin no Bug-tte Honey – 1987 (only partially a platformer)
Xexyx – 1988 (part platform/action and part shmup)
*Jackie Chan – 1990 (US release in December 1990, Japan release in January 1991)
But there were no more after that on NES until ’90/’91’s Jackie Chan. Hudson’s platformers in the TG16’s early years were on their console. From when the PC Engine released in Japan at the end of 1987 until mid 1991, excepting only Xexyz, Hudson exclusively released platformers for its own consoles.
TurboGrafx-16 / PC Engine
These games released between 1987 and 1990. They are in chronological order.
JJ & Jeff (Kato-chan & Ken-chan) – 1987; Hudson’s first TG16 platformer. It plays sort of like Adventure Island, and set a cartoony graphical standard Hudson would return to a lot on the platform.
Bikkuriman World – 1987 (platformer action-RPG) (this is a port of Westone’s Wonder Boy in Monster Land, also released in arcades and on the Sega Master System)
Keith Courage in Alpha Zones (Eiyuu Wataru) – 1988
Aoi Blink – 1990
Momotarou Katsugeki – 1990
Bonk’s Adventure – 1990
PC Engine SuperGrafx
Madouou Granzort – 1990 (plays sort of like Keith Courage)
TurboGrafx CD (PC Engine CD)
Monster Lair – 1989 (platformer/shmup)
It’s not a lot of games in absolute numbers, but again, they had even fewer on Nintendo during that period, only one and it’s just part platformer. Bonk’s Adventure particularly was a hit, and Bonk was for a while Hudson’s top mascot character, before being upstaged by Bomberman. Bonk’s Adventure isn’t quite as great as Super Mario World or Sonic the Hedgehog, but it is a good game well worth playing.
List: 4th-Gen Hudson Platformers, 1991-1997
As detailed above, after the SNES released in late 1990, Hudson began to shift their platformers away from their console, unfortunately. As much as I love the SNES (and Genesis/Sega CD), it’s sad to see Hudson give up on their also-great system and move over to the competition.
Jackie Chan – 1991
Doraemon Nobita no Dorabian Nights – 1991
Bonk’s Revenge – 1991
New Adventure Island – 1992
Bonk 3: Bonk’s Big Adventure – 1993
TurboGrafx-CD (PCE CD)
Doraemon Nobita no Dorabian Nights (CD) – 1992
Bakushou Yoshimoto Shingeki – 1994 (this pitifully easy and dated game is it’s kind of fun, but looks and plays like a game from years earlier, and is insanely easy.)
Bonk 3 CD – 1994 (North American-exclusive release, sold by mail order only)
Hudson released no platformers on the system in ’95, though they did release one side-scrolling beat ’em up with a few platformer elements on the next-gen PC-FX that year, Zenki FX.
Hudson Sidescrolling Action-RPGs, 1991-1994
I put a category for this in the list because some of Hudson’s more significant sidescrolling releases on their console during this period were sidescrolling action-RPGs. These games are not exactly platformers, but they are sidescrolling and do involve the player doing some platforming. Hudson released no games in this genre on the other 4th-gen consoles — the multiplatform titles here were released by other companies on those platforms.
Dragon’s Curse – 1991 (this is a port of Westone’s Monster World 2: The Dragon’s Trap, aka Wonder Boy 3: The Dragon’s Trap, also released on arcades and Sega Master System.)
TurboGrafx-CD (PCE CD)
Ys III: Wanderers from Ys – 1991 (a port of the Falcom game of the same name, also on Genesis and SNES)
The Dynastic Hero – 1994 (a port of Westone’s Genesis game Wonder Boy in Monster World, aka Monster World 3)
Blood Gear – 1994 (an original title, TCD-exclusive, from Westone)
Hudson Platformers on Nintendo Consoles, 1991-1997
These games released between mid 1991 and 1994. They should be in chronological order.
Jackie Chan – 1991 (US Dec. 1990)
Adventure Island II – 1991
Felix the Cat – 1992
Adventure Island III – 1992
Bonk’s Adventure – 1993 (down-port of the first Turbografx game)
Beauty and the Beast (Western-developed) – 1994
Adventure Island IV – 1994
Game Boy (GB)
These games released between 1992 and 1994, with one more title in 1997 (noted). They aren’t all in order.
Adventure Island – 1992 (remake of Adventure Island II)
Bonk’s Adventure – 1992 (semi-original, not a port)
Felix the Cat – 1993
Milon’s Secret Castle – 1993 (a remake, not port, of the NES game)
Adventure Island II – 1993 (remake of Adventure Island III)
Bonk’s Revenge on the Game Boy (original title, not a port) – 1994
Bomberman Pocket – 1997 (yes, this is a platformer)
Super Nintendo (SFC)
These games released between 1992 and 1996. They are in release order.
Super Adventure Island – 1992
Inspector Gadget – 1993 (Japan developed, but a US-only release)
Super Bonk – 1994
Hagane – 1994 (1995 in the US)
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (Western-developed game) – 1994
An American Tail: Fievel Goes West – 1994
Super Genjin 2 (Super Bonk 2, had it gotten Western release) – 1995
Super Adventure Island II – 1995 (one of Hudson’s last US-released titles before shutting down their American publishing arm that year)
Zenki: Rettou Raiden – 1995
Zenki: Denei Raibu – 1995
DoReMe Fantasy (Milon 2) – released in early 1996
And that’s the last.
Hudson Platformers: Releases Per Year, By Platform
So, overall, ordered from most to least within each year:
1987: 2 NES (both released before the PC Engine’s release), 2 TurboGrafx-16
1988: 1 TurboGrafx-16, 1 NES
1989: 1 TurboGrafx-CD
1990: 3 TG16 (+1 TG16 SSARPG), 1 SuperGrafx, 1 NES (1991 JP)
1991: 3 TG16 (+1 TG16 SSARPG), 1 NES (2 JP), (1 TCD SSARPG)
1992: 2 NES, 2 GB, 1 TG16, 1 TCD (port of a 1991 TG16 game), 1 SNES
1993: 3 GB, 1 TG16, 1 NES (port of a 1990 TG16 game), 1 SNES
1994: 4 SNES, 2 TCD (1 is port of a 1993 TG16 game), 1 NES, 1 GB
1995: 4 SNES (and 1 beat ’em up/platformer on the next-gen PC-FX)
1996: 1 SNES
1997: 1 GB (and in 3d platformers on on next-gen platforms, 1 Saturn & 1 N64)
I said it before, butit would have been great to see Hudson put a serious effort into some later Turbo CD platformers, as they did with RPGs in AnEarth Fantasy Stories or Gulliver Boy, or shmups with Gate/Lords of Thunder and Sapphire, or fighting games with their SNK ports. I’m sure they could have done something cool, even if that generation Hudson never did manage to match Nintendo, Sony, or Konami’s best efforts in the genre.
As for NEC, the other first party on the TG16 and Turbo CD, they didn’t help matters, because NEC in Japan released few platformers of any type. NEC did not release any games for other consoles that generation, but their library in the genre was thin; NEC mostly focused on visual novels, RPGs, and other games for their niche otaku core fanbase.
NEC Japan releases
Genji Tsushin Agedama – 1989
Son Son II (by Capcom) – 1989
Altered Beast (sidescrolling beat ’em up, port of a Sega game also on Genesis and Turbo CD that same year; not as good as the Genesis version) – 1989
Tiger Road (port of a Capcom game) – 1990
Ghouls ‘n Ghosts (port of a Capcom game) – 1990
TurboGrafx-CD (PCE CD)
Altered Beast (sidescrolling beat ’em up, port of a Sega game on Genesis that same year; worse than the Genesis version) – 1989
Bonanza Bros. (port of a Sega game released on Genesis in ’91) – 1992
Horror Story (TCD-exclusive autoscrolling run & gun game maybe you could call an “action-platformer” of sorts) – 1993
Chiki Chiki Boys (another port of a Capcom arcade game; ported to Genesis in ’92) – 1994
Strider Hiryu (another port of a Sega game) – 1994 (not as good as the 1989 Genesis ver.)
TurboGrafx-CD Sidescrolling Beat ’em ups and Puzzle games from NEC
Also add Renny Blaster (1995) and Mad Stalker (1994) if you want to count those sidescrolling beat ’em ups, but they really shouldn’t count. Bazaru de Gozaru No Game Degozaru (1996) is also worth mentioning, but while it has a side view, the actual gameplay is purely a puzzle game, not a platformer.
Overall it’s a thin library made up of mostly ports, there. Son Son II is great, but it’s from ’89. Following Mario World and Sonic’s releases after that, about all you have are a few old ports, an apparently not-great run & gun, several beat ’em ups, and that’s it. Some of them are good games, sure, but it’s not many games total, and third parties were most definitely not making up the slack. Konami’s Rondo of Blood was amazing, but it was Konami’s only platformer for the system, for instance, while Konami released many platformers for the SNES and Genesis.
NEC USA & TTI releases
Unlike NEC Japan, NEC USA may have cared more about platformers… but they had zero budget, so their games were worse. There are seven platformers for the system only released in the US, and most are mediocre to bad. Turbo Technologies, Inc., or TTI, took over from NEC in 1992. They had little money, but did release a few good Western-developed games, including Shape Shifter and the sidescrolling adventure game Beyond Shadowgate, as well as the subpar platformer Camp California.
Night Creatures – 1991
TaleSpin – 1991
Impossamole – 1991
Ghost Manor – 1992 (TTI-published)
Darkwing Duck – 1992 (TTI) – The worst game of this bunch by far.
Addams Family – 1991
Shape Shifter – 1993 (TTI)
Camp California – 1993 (TTI)
Side-view adventure game on TCD: Beyond Shadowgate (1993, TTI-published)
Low-budget third-party-developed games don’t usually end up good, that’s what we learn from this NEC list here.