A game named after me: How could it not be awesome?

Hihou Densetsu: Chris no Bouken
Legendary Treasure: Chris' Adventure

Chris' Adventure is a game that doesn't get talked about that much, there's hardly any info about, and there are few screenshots of. Even the back of the game's case has screenshots only of the cinemas! This in itself is a mystery. But... uh, oh... that's usually a sign that the game's not so good, isn't it?

Yes, Chris' Adventure is quickly labeled by Japanese sites as a Kuso-Ge: a game that's fun to enjoy for its awfulness. Does it deserve this label? That's what this page is here to find out!

Wait, did I just get sucked into starring in a shitty game?

Okay, good points:

  • It is competently programmed with good-to-average graphics.
  • It has Katsuhiro Hayashi as musician, with most tracks taking on a "Terraforming-Lite" feeling. There are a couple of boring or ponderous songs, but the rest is almost uniformly groovy, laid-back, atmospheric, or driving.
  • It provides a good Indiana Jones-esque atmosphere and makes you feel as if you're really spelunking in caves and wandering around ancient ruins.
An explanation of the display above. You start out with 5 hearts, and heart items restore your life, obviously. The golden coins give you a 1-up if you pick up 30 of them, To the right of that are the various orbs that you collect to change your current weapon -- à la Spriggan. And finally, the day/night cycle ticks down your time limit.

And now the bad points:

  • The level design is woefully uninspired. There's about 10% new ideas that I haven't seen before, and 90% of the same stuff from other games. So that leaves you with just an empty feeling and a desire to get through the level to check out the next one. Not a problem because...
  • The stages are too short and there are slightly too few of them (8, with two sub-stages each.) But the ones that have something interesting in them (mazes, switch puzzles) end too damn fast!
  • But even if you want to take your time, you can't, because the time limit on each stage is too damn strict. This is the biggest problem in the game and the one that all reviewers point to. You really have to plough through most levels at a steady clip if you want to finish in time. Such hustling leads to a lack of caution regarding enemies, which means taking hits easily. Some may find this constant tension between rushing and anticipating enemies fun, but I certainly didn't.
  • The instruction manual gives away all the plot secrets, all the twists and turns on a single page! It introduces all the characters, including the bad guy, Lagash, mentioning that he was an emperor of Atlantis, and that Filia is his sister (d'oh!). It also notes how Filia was the one who had sealed Lagash away into the temple 3000 years before (hmm). Also, Dr. Steiner's friend and assistant, Dr. Altmeier, is noted to be a leading member of the Neo-Nazis! (agh!) The instruction manual invites the player to "enjoy the dramatic story unfold in the cinemas", but where is the drama when you already know all the characters' secret motives?

Now that our expectations have been lowered, I feel much less guilt over jumping right in with silly captions for the cinemas. :-D

The prologue introduces us to the ancient Indio civilization(s) of Central America which mysteriously disappeared.
Some say a game developer had taken a single digital photograph, stealing all their souls in the process...
Others speculate they had started a game of hide-and-seek that never ended.
So it's up to me, Chris Steiner, to track down the mystery of the Indio people, find my father, and try to look good in an unflattering pair of shorts.

Stage 1

Okay, so what kind of game is this... Well, let's see... it's side-scrolling, with a character that walks along from left to right, wielding a knife...
Power-ups are also available, such as a throwable shot, a boomerang, etc., all obtainable from stone statues.
Your character can duck, attack enemies...
And jump onto disappearing platforms. Ah, yes, a platformer! And a bit of an irritating one at that, with slightly annoying platform timing, respawning enemies, the works.
Here, for example, you ride that brown block over the typical floor of spikes, but have to cut a path through that... clump of meat or else you bounce back from it.
The character graphics in this stage are pretty awesome, with ceiling-walking skeletons and twisted trees and vines the high point. Unfortunately, the floors and walls themselves are excessively rectangular and boring.
The boss coming up: a Crystal Skull, I kid you not (says so in the instruction manual.) You shoot at its brain and if you don't have a projectile weapon, you can actually climb inside through the eye socket and slash away while avoiding its lightning blasts.

Here's the sole picture that most of us had ever seen of a game called "Chris' Adventure", as the shot of this boss appeared in DieHard GameFan ads back in the day.


Where are you putting your hands, Chris?
Oh, your father's been searching all of South America for 18 years, trying to find the Eye of Indio? Funny thing, it's been in my pocket for the longest time.
It's a nice picture.

I guess I should note one big disappointment -- the cinemas are incredibly static. Almost no animation at all, not even approaching the level of Valis. Oh, and you'll see some line drawings not filled in properly, if you look hard. Besides the great music, the game really isn't justified to be on CD.

Stage 2

The first level wasn't exactly packed with originality, but at least the graphics were a bit organic and moody. The stages from here begin to look like NES level design.
It's the old "ride platforms up, ride blocks down" challenge that, uh, Super Mario Bros., Dynowarz, and Keith Courage already did. And those were more gripping at that.
Your stone slowly sinks into the lava as it floats along...
And a familiar moment greets us here as well: duck under the blades, jump over the obstacle to re-join the stone. I'm sure you can tell, my excitement is really fading fast.
Annoying fluttering bats come out for the first time. Oh, great.
Bah bah bi bah bih bah bah...
Ba baah bah bi bah bih bah bahh...
Veracruz is the name of this boss, and quite a pushover is he.


The actor playing Mr. Nazi throws a tantrum on the ground for having signed an acting deal with Pack-in Video.
Chris' hair looking slightly blocky on the left there.
Now on stage! Liberace! Only at the Sands Inn.

Stage 3

Grrr! Stage 3 recycles the same graphic tiles from Stage 2, but at least the level design and atmosphere are vastly improved.
Check, for example, this Goemon-style column that you have to ascend using bouncing, disappearing blocks.
And these elastic blobs that you need to attack repeatedly to displace.
These Indiana Jones-type mofos come along once in a while to steal your power-ups... some sort of tribute, or a pointed comment?
"It belongs in a museum!"
An annoying trap that opens and shuts very quickly, so you have to time two jumps just right so you don't fall in. It's no big deal, anyway, as it leads to an alternative path.
The boss Uxmal has a couple type of attacks that are hard to dodge. These guys are getting more and more boring compared to the impressive 1st boss...


"Wipe your feet before stepping on the nice man's carpet!"
Kids always think they're clever whenever they hang french fries out of their mouths like walrus tusks. It gets old, fast.
Re-used poses!

Stage 4

Back with another boring cave stage and... blecch! Bats!
More inny-outy platforms to contend with.
This scene with half a dozen simultaneously attacking zombies is pretty cool. Shame it's the only time in the whole damn game.
This abrupt transition from cave to palace reminded me of Turrican II. Good of ARC to keep things logical like this.
I almost spelled his name right the first try!!
Stage 4-2 is indeed inside of a golden palace, but it's a tiny labyrinth with a tiny puzzle to sort out.
You see, each floor switch toggles its respective barrier which drops away, meaning a slight amount of backtracking. It would be cooler if it weren't so annoyingly slight.
Here's your retractable ceiling/floor spikes seen in about Every Platformer Ever.
Now, this is more like it, something befitting a dumbed-down Actraiser. Quetzalcoatl's minion first summons lighting attacks at you and when he's defeated, gives his soul to the tougher main guy.


Jem! Jem is truly outrageous!
Truly, truly, truly outrageous!
Whoo-o-oa Jem!
This demi-goddess' name is Filia. And if the portmanteau-of-Feena-and-Lilia name doesn't give the designers' influences away, perhaps her pose in this screenshot will.

Stage 5

Sinewy forests? Parallax sprites blocking the foreground? Bouncing otherworldly spheres? Am I dreaming or is this Shadow of the Beast?
Oh, joy! A minecart. To ride. It's the minecart-riding stage Annoyingly, the ducking and jumping controls each work only at prescribed moments (when you need to bail out of the cart, etc.)
This Sunstone has a few different attacks, including some annoying mini-stones that fly around and a buzzsaw form too.


The gradient artist at ARC wakes up from his slumber and gets to work.
The crystal ball says my career's over!
Here's when Altmeier goes into full Nazi mode and does the usual gun-waving.
"All communication to Darm Tower has been cut..." <oops!>
I am Thhades. I bring greetinths from Emperor Natas!
My ball! My ball! No, no, no!

Stage 6

Ooh, a creepy alien/monster-type lair. Too bad, again, it's rather dull.
Part 2 is a bit more interesting, with the myriad souls of the sacrificed haunting the halls. (Look, if the game fails to do it, it's up to me to establish the atmosphere.)
A two-sided, two-faced "Tlaloc" spins around and attacks you with laser beams.


Hmmm... anybody wonder if those towers are going to take off like rockets by the end of the game?
This thing, I really don't understand. What's the Atlantis->Indio->Alien spaceship connection?
Filia explains to Chris how 3000 years ago, Atlantis was a thriving civilization...
...until Japanese Image-Kei fans threatened to take over the whole world with their awful music.

Stage 7

Bland greyness takes over in the penultimate stage, though the music is really good.
You get a Donkey Kong moment as you have to go down 4 flights of stairs with spiked balls rolling out of holes in the wall.
This bit's annoying. It's not a moving platform, but rather a segmented one that snakes to the left... meaning you have to keep running across while controlling your speed.
Love the colour balance of everything. Too bad the stage is just a single horizontal strip. Yawn.
The boss is Kukulkan, an outcast from Street Fighter Zero, apparently.
He knows some wicked Muai Thai moves, though.


The statue regrets its last meal of extra-spicy burritos.
Will you take these pudding moulds or go for what's behind door #1?
Oops. Door #1 sends you inside of a volcano.
I swear, this is like some Asia album cover or something.

Stage 8

OK, I guess we've made it onto the spaceship and it's all crystalline inside. It's a bit of a bitch, with birds that shit columns of ice.
And blocks that shoot up when you stand on them.
"Only the penitent man shall pass."
Of course it's easy to figure out that you have to shoot your way through to the next room.
And here's our final boss, Lagash(?)(?)! He has several tough forms of attack, but he also just stands there and takes damage. Idiot. I was hoping for a flying final boss with a starfield backdrop or something. Ho-hum.


Urk. How could a mere human defeat me!? But I shall prevail as long as I have my...
Leotard Power!!!
Something is missing here. Between the last picture and this one, there was a blueish blob on-screen, a short yelp, and then we cut to this pic of Filia regretting the death of her brother. Obviously it implies that she killed him defending Chris, but it's a big discontinuity.

Methinks the planner forgot to ask the artist to draw that scene.

The family resemblance is uncanny! Dr. Steiner didn't... ... Did he?
It's no Valis II ending pic, but it'll do.
...yes, it certainly is. Chris needs to work on getting some better child-bearing hips, though.

So, in the end, Hihou Densetsu: Chris' Adventure proves to be frustrating and disappointing. Disappointing because it initially looks and plays like a decent Legendary Axe-style platforming game, but just like a B-movie you initially have high hopes for, there's no avoiding the fact in the end that it's a B-movie. And this, frustratingly, is a game version of a B-movie if ever there was one. Here, however, the budget and artistic/programming talent are there; the crucial element of game design just isn't. I want to love Chris' Adventure, but it's more of an unenthusiastic "like" for me.


More ARC game dissections to come!