Kato & Ken: the history behind one of Japan’s weirdest videogames

Heavily censored and released in the US as JJ & Jeff, Kato & Ken was a very strange Japanese game. A new video explains all...

If you were interested in importing Japanese games in the late 80s, or if you’re just into far-eastern retro games today, you may have stumbled on Kato-chan & Ken-chan – a platform game released for the PC Engine 30 years ago this month. Released in America as JJ & Jeff for the TurboGrafx-16 (the console’s name on those shores), it quickly vanished without trace, largely because the system only sold in relatively small numbers.

The game’s legend has survived thanks to the web, however, partly because of its incredibly strange line of humour. While the American version was heavily censored, the Japanese Kato & Ken was infamous for its scatalogical humour, with its characters occasionally breaking wind or going for a surreptitious toilet break behind some bushes. Then there were the questions it raised: who the hell were these two guys in suits, anyway? What were all these cut scenes where the same characters reappear in exotic costumes?

Youtuber Gaijillionaire, an American based in Japan, has long provided a unique perspective on classic games. In the past, he’s dug into the hidden history of Doki Doki Panic – the game that famously became Super Mario Bros 2 in the west – and the secrets of the classic Kid Icarus. In his latest video, he uncovers the story of Kato & Ken; sure, you may have read that it was based on some kind of comedy show, but did you know that the two comedians were originally in a band called The Drifters, and they opened for The Beatles when they made their live debut in Japan? We certainly didn’t.

It’s all fascinating stuff, especially if you’ve played the game and can’t play Japanese. Finally, we know what all those weird costumes are all about. Check it out below. More please, Mr Gaijillionaire.