Less than a week after its August 4 launch, Mediatonic’s massively multiplayer battle royale obstacle course game Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout made headlines after it sold 2 million copies on Steam alone—barely a week after it launched.
Even without the sales numbers, the game’s success seemed quite easy to see. Various publications were fawning all over the game, and so it seems, was everyone who was playing games on social media (or at least on my feed). In fact, so many players were on the game over the weekend that its servers crashed.
Now some may attribute a well-timed sale, on top of having the game free for PS Plus subscribers on PlayStation 4, as helping boost the sales of the game. For me, however, and I’m sure many Filipinos of a certain age, Fall Guys may have another sort of appeal—it’s the closest we have to an actual battle royale style Takeshi’s Castle game that we’ve ever gotten.
For those not familiar with it, Takeshi’s Castle was a Japanese game show that ran between 1986 and 1999. It starred notable Japanese actor Takeshi Kitano (yes, the teacher from Battle Royale, who got that role because of this show) as a shogun style figure who challenged players to run a gauntlet of obstacle courses before facing him in his castle.
The game would start with hundreds of players, led by General Tani (actor Hayato Tani), going through various courses, with players their number eventually thinning out until only a select few got to face Takeshi in a water gun (later laser tag) shootout in his castle.
Following its success in Japan, the show was later exported to various countries.
Filipinos are most likely familiar with the 1990 run on IBC 13, which featured Anjo Yllana taking on the role of Takeshi, while Smokey Manlotoc played his comic-relief sidekick Iwakura.
Younger readers may also remember the 2006 revival where Joey de Leon and Ryan Yllana (Anjo’s younger brother) played Shintaro “Taru” Gokoyami and sumo wrestler Kakawate Takehome respectively; new roles created just for them to provide extra commentary and differentiate the new run from the old one.
The combination of the oftentimes hilarious ways that players got themselves eliminated, alongside the snide comments of Takeshi and his crew, was comedy gold. For some players, however, or at the very least, for me, there was always that lingering sense of “I could beat that” if I ever got the chance to get on the show. (READ: Why I’ve no more time for hard games)
If you think about it, it is a pretty good premise for a video game adaptation.
Now, a video game adaptation of Takeshi’s Castle does exist. In 1987, Bandai released a Takeshi’s Castle game for the Nintendo Famicom. This version, however, could never really capture the feel of the show. Indeed, it feels like the developers never really tried, with the game being a run of the mill platformer than an actual virtual representation of the game.
But then again, such a game could likely not really be possible with the technology of the day. Even if a more accurate game could be made, the lack of multiplayer dampens the whole experience.
Enter Fall Guys.
Now I don’t know whether or not someone at Mediatonic is actually a fan of Takeshi’s Castle. However, it seems highly likely that someone at the U.K.-based developer saw the show (Takeshi’s Castle also aired in the U.K. after all).
The hallmarks are all there. As in the show, players run across various obstacle courses, with only a select number being allowed through The only difference here is that, while most of the courses in Takeshi’s castle had players go in one at a time, in Fall Guys, everyone goes at the same time.
The result is absolute chaos, as everyone’s chunky avatars fight to make it to the end of each course. The virtual environment also means that things can happen here that could never have happened in the show.
During one game, I found myself launched high into the air by a moving paddle, only to land on another platform where another paddle promptly pushed me off to elimination. In another run, I found myself being ping-ponged back and forth between revolving door-style gates as other players rushed in through the opposite side of the gate.
Then, there’s the fact that this is a game being played on the internet in 2020. Of course, people are bound to be assholes to each other, unlike in the show where the pressure of being on national television (if not the threat of lawsuits) kept everyone in line. Just watch the end of the video below.
— LSYagami🦅🐝 (@LightSkinYagami) August 9, 2020
Even this, however, doesn’t detract from the fun of the game. In fact, I’d say that it actually adds to the chaotic fun of the whole experience. Random eliminations were half the fun of the original show, after all.
Right now, the only thing missing from Fall Guys is the original Takeshi’s Castle cast (or, heaven forbid, the Filipino actors who took their roles in the local version). Admittedly, the licensing for the rights to a niche show may be too much for a small indie game.
Aside from that, however, Fall Guys is just about everything 10-year old me would have imagined from a Takeshi’s Castle game, except for the part where I’m actually beating it.