Hudson Soft's Challenger brought together Indiana Jones and Princess Leia in one bizarre adventure


Exploring forgotten Japanese gems on Famicom Friday

While it may have been analogous with our beloved Nintendo Entertainment System, the world of the Famicom was far different than the one we saw in the west. From the freedom explored by a Konami in its prime to the read/write frontiers of the Famicom Disk System, the gaming landscapes seen by Japanese gamers had far different peaks and valleys than we saw in the western world.

So allow us to be your tour guide in exploring this alien land filled with unusual heroes and bizarre concepts. We'll shed some light on what you may have missed simply by living on the wrong side of the ocean and, if it's possible, let you know how you can get your hands on these foreign artifacts.

Developer: Hudson Soft
Released: October 1985
Also Available On: Game Boy Advance, Mobile, Wii Virtual Console, 3DS Virtual Console

1985 was a misty time for video games. It was a transitional period that would slowly shift consoles away from constant arcade ports and into its own realm of gaming. Somewhere between Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda was an otherwise unassuming game released in October 1985. It was Hudson’s Challenger.

Challenger has you playing as the eponymous Challenger, an Indiana Jones-type character, as he attempts to save Princess Maria, a woman with a striking resemblance to Princess Leia, from the presumably evil Don Waldorado. If that sounds like a bizarre salad of existing concepts and pop culture references, it largely is. The overworld consists of abandoned towns, desert canyons, and weird sci-fi pyramids. The lack of cohesion on display is almost charming.

The game started off development as a Famicom port of 1983’s Stop the Express, and while it soon had ambitions beyond the scope of a simple port,  it still forms the basis of the game’s first level. After crossing the top of the moving locomotive, you descend into its cars and advance on the engine. However, you’re quickly kicked off before you get the chance to save the damsel.

The game then changes into an overhead perspective where you’re left to wander the overworld trying to collect three of the princess’s belongings from caves. Along the way, you’re constantly assaulted by enemies of all types, from rabbits to cow skulls. Collect the three items, then find the final pyramid and face off against Don Waldorado to save the princess.

It’s amazing how technically advanced the game is for a 1985 release. It may not look like much now, but it managed to convey a big world using 4-directional scrolling rather than having to rely on flip-screens like the later released Legend of Zelda. It also contains some nice touches like faux-parallax scrolling on the train level. Overall, it’s better looking than you’d expect for a 1985 release.

Challenger isn’t a particularly long game. It can be easily beaten in maybe a half-hour. It seems that it was meant to be played repeatedly, as there are 16 levels of difficulty, and each time you finish the game, it kicks up the challenge two notches and starts you at the beginning. New enemies are added after certain difficulty thresholds, so many of the settings create unique experiences.

Challenger is a pretty odd game, overall, but in a pleasant sort of way. It was made during a transitional period in gaming, so the design consists of a weird mix of arcade sensibilities and console innovation. It all comes together in a pretty enjoyable package. It may not be long or deep enough to really hold your attention for long, but it’s a nice game to go back to and snack on when you’re in the mood.

It also helps that the game is mostly in English without the need for a translation patch, so anyone who doesn’t speak the local language can enjoy this one. No, the language barrier isn’t there, but do you know what will screw you up? B is for jumping and A is for shooting, which is the reverse of almost every game on the system. Laugh if you want, but we’ll see who’s laughing the first time you fall off a cliff because you pressed the wrong button on a geyser stage.

Challenger saw re-release on Game Boy Advance as part of the Hudson Best Collection Vol. 3: Action Collection in 2005, on the Wii Virtual Console in 2007, and as an upgrade port on Japanese cell phones in 2005. Most recently, it was dropped on the 3DS Virtual Console in 2013. None of these ports ever made it to Western audiences. While the 3DS version was released after Hudson was shuttered, there's been no other indications to suggest Konami even remembers it exists, which means that the West may never be formally introduced to this lost little weirdo.

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Zoey Handley
Zoey HandleyContributor   gamer profile

Adzuken Q. Rumpelfelt is a gadabout gaming hobbyist, avid tea enthusiast, and aspiring writer. She's been playing video games all her life and is a lover of both new and retro games. Obsessed ... more + disclosures



Filed under... #Destructoid Originals #famicom #Famicom Friday #Feature #features



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