Hudson was, during the '80s and early '90s, one of the most stalwart and popular game publishers. As the first third party to work on Nintendo's Famicom (NES) system in Japan, the company quickly established itself as a purveyor of popular games, and developed the persona -- seen here in ridiculously over-the-top '80s video form -- of one of its marketing staff, Toshiyuki Takahashi, to help promote them.
He was known as Takahashi-Meijin -- or Game Master Takahashi -- to his young fans, and became famous for being able to hit the NES' controller button 16 times a second (aka 16-Shot), an important tactic for succeeding at shooters -- a genre Hudson was, incidentally, pushing hard. In 1986, Takahashi himself starred in his own game: Takahashi-Meijin no Boukenjima, or Hudson's Adventure Island in the west.
The company eventually developed its own video game hardware, the PC Engine (aka TurboGrafx-16) and partnered with NEC Home Electronics to release it. Hudson became the system's de facto first party, and moved heavily into development for the system and continued releasing action games -- but came up short in the next generation, when Sony's PlayStation completely changed the gaming landscape.
Here, Takahashi discusses his background, the rise and fall of the PC Engine, and how the company's background in accessible action games without flashy CG graphics has enabled it to rise once again on the Wii -- and bring Takahashi renewed fame. His official job title is now "Game Master" for the company's publicity department.
Can you talk about your background and what you did before you actually joined Hudson? What are the highlights of your life? How did you join Hudson in the first place?
Takahashi Meijin: First, I entered college, but I got so bored. I dropped out after three months. I got a part-time job at a local supermarket, then I became full-time. I worked for about three years. The personal computer back then... we're talking back in 1981. Just about a year back before I quit my job, I bought myself a computer and started teaching myself BASIC programming.
Was this PC-88, or before that?
TM: Sharp MZ-80B. My interest in computer programming was only growing, and one day, I was flipping through a computer magazine in Japan, and I saw a Hudson ad. I checked the address, and it was close to me, so one day I knocked on the door and got in.
Was that all in Sapporo?
TM: Yes. I thought I was going to work in Sapporo, but I only lasted four days. On the fourth or fifth day, they told me, "Okay. You're going to Tokyo." Twenty-seven years later, I'm still in Tokyo. (laughter) I thought I was going to be able to work close to home, but it ended up being very far.
So you weren't actually in the main office in Sapporo, then?
TM: Yeah, just four days.
I figured. When you started with Hudson, were you doing programming, or did you go straight into marketing or publishing stuff?
TM: The first year, I joined Hudson as a sales person, so I did that for about a year. But I was doing the sales job between 9 AM and 6 PM, and from about 6 PM to 10 PM, I was also involved in the advertisement area, which leads up to now. After 10 o'clock, from 2 or 3 AM, I would do some programming.
Back then, depending on the type of computer, you have a whole different type of commands, so you had to convert everything manually. So I was doing that kind of thing. After a year, I got transferred more toward a marketing type of department, and in that department, my first thing was to put together a guide book for [Nintendo's] Family BASIC.
Do you think that the BASIC stuff took off with people at the time? I know that there were a number of different computers that allowed you to program things for it, like the NEC PCs. Was that actually popular at the time for amateur coders?
TM: I think that back then, there weren't actually many people doing it hands-on. However, there was a lot of demand, obviously, because when we first started selling those programs on cassette tapes, they really sold a lot of them. So there were many users, but not many hands-on programmers, I think.