PLAYERS: 1-2 alternating
DEVELOPER: Konami (port by Sega)
RELEASE DATE: 1985 (JP)
Bump your fellow employees from their desks with your butt. Head-butt your superiors onto the ground with little-to-no repercussions. Collect hearts to form secret mash notes from your office sweetie pie. Listen to a digitized version of “A Hard Day’s Night” on infinite repeat. These are the ludicrous events of Shinnyuushain Tooru-kun, in no particular order.
You play a new business employee named Tooru-kun who runs throughout the business, collecting hearts and avoiding the violent outbursts of his superiors. The way you collect the hearts varies from level to level. In the first stage, the “office room,” you knock peers out of their desks with your rear, then sit in their chairs to get the hearts. If you’re not sitting down, your manager will come for you, and if he catches you, you lose a life. Sit down quickly, and he’ll go back to the front of the office and teach. The goal then becomes knocking your peers out of their chairs quickly, collecting the hearts, and sitting down. Should you find yourself cornered by the manager, head-butt him into submission and he’ll get dizzy for a moment, buying you some time. You’re not penalized extra for head-butting, though the manager will literally “throw the book” at you at random intervals.
After the first stage, the difficulty increases dramatically. The second level is a locker room where you’re chased by the manager from the first stage, the office janitor, and for some reason, a chef. The hearts are kept in glass containers which take three head-butts to break (Tooru-kun will probably have a few concussions after all his freewheeling noggin activity), but you’ll have to break them little bits at a time as you run from authority. In the office, you could sit down and the manager would leave you be, but in the locker room, you have no such option. The close quarters of the room combined with the adults’ varied movement patterns will not allow you to rest.
Should you survive the locker room, you’ll race over to level three, the restaurant. Here, Tooru-kun will be chased by the chef, janitor, and manager and will have to avoid flying meat products from the stationary chef located at the top portion of the stage. Thanks to the restaurant’s open layout, the hearts are somewhat easier to collect here – they’re just lying on the floor – but this is still as far as I could get.
After the non-stop chasing of the locker room (a level I attempted for more than thirty minutes before I beat it), my desire to keep Tooru-kun alive had waned somewhat. Plus, I never made it to the restaurant with more than one life, and there are no continues. The remaining two levels are the dance studio (?!) and the garden, both of which seem no less exhausting. In the studio, legions of dancers, the dance teacher, and the manager from the first level chase poor Tooru-kun, and in the garden, security guards prevent you from absconding to love paradise with your girlfriend. She better be worth it.
Shinnyuushain Tooru-kun (literally “New Employee Tooru-kun”) is also known as Mikie or High School Graffiti: Mikie in Europe and America. While the gameplay remains the same between versions, Tooru-kun’s name is Mikie and he’s a high school student instead of a first-year employee at a business. The high school angle – student runs amok for love – makes far more sense from my Western perspective. Instead of head-butting a manger, you head-butt a teacher (still sociopathic behavior, but it’s feasible in today’s violent school system). The “office room” is a classroom in Mikie because of course it is, just look at the screenshot. The “restaurant” is a cafeteria and so on. I don’t know much about Japan, but it seems that first-year employees fresh out of college would want to do everything they could to keep their new jobs, torrid office romances notwithstanding. Perhaps Shinnyuushain Tooru-kun would have been a guilty fantasy for this demographic?
I abhor stealing, Konami.
The SG-1000 port’s graphics are embarrassing, even by the console’s standards (the demonic Muppet sprites are particularly offensive), but I’ll take ghoulish graphics over the arcade version’s ludicrous difficulty any day. In the arcade, the authorities are all faster than Tooru-kun, making the second stage impossible to overcome. There are more hearts to collect in the SG-1000 version compared to the arcade, but even with additional hearts, the authorities’ loss of speed makes the console version more fair.
While the relentlessness of Shinnyuushain Tooru-Kun can be overwhelming, the feverish pace and the absurd mechanics proved charming to me in the long run. The gameplay amounts to nothing more than an extended “Benny Hill” chase scene, but Konami adds enough flourishes to keep the game interesting in spite of the non-stop momentum. And unlike the arcade version, the SG-1000 port can be conquered with enough time and effort. Eventually, Tooru-kun does find love. But, like any good love, he has to work for it.