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Japan's original 'Game Master' plunging back into broadcasting


You may not know who Toshiyuki Takahashi is, but if you ever played a game in the old Adventure Island series, you controlled him.

Master Higgins was modeled after Takahashi and his enormous chin, and for good reason. The main spokesman for Hudson back during the 8-bit NES days, Takahashi became an enormous kid's star during the '80s, wowing audiences with his deep knowledge of titles like Star Soldier and ability to push the B button on the controller up to 16 times per second. He was the Howard Philips of his time...or maybe it'd be better to say that Howard Philips' position in the US during the NES years was more-or-less modeled after Takahashi's in Japan.

Takahashi stuck it out with Hudson all the way to 2011, when he left a company that had been purchased by Konami and was in the midst of de-facto liquidation. Since then he's been making occasional TV appearances and running a game-oriented show called Getcha! that's broadcast live every Friday on the Nico Nico Douga video site in Japan. Now Takahashi (who's still referred to as meijin, or "master," in Japanese) has a regular job again he's been hired by Mages, the Japanese publisher of Steins;Gate and other cult-hit adventure games, to run his program full-time.

"I wanted to recreate this era when you had a huge number of people who really looked up to the game industry," Mages head Chiyomaru Shikura told Famitsu magazine this week. "What with all these old hands still in the industry, though, I figured it'd be presumptuous of me to go around saying 'The game industry's really fun, let's play some games.' As I was thinking about this, I was invited to come on Getcha! and it was like 'This is it! Here's someone who can get the message across.'"

"This is about more than popularizing just video games," Takahashi added. "We're talking about social games, arcade games, all kinds of games. I'm hoping that Getcha! can become more popular, because the more people watching it, the more people are out there playing games as well. We've expanded to two hours and switched to HD broadcasting, and so far it's been really encouraging; something like 97% of viewers rated our first broadcast 'great' or 'good'."

Takahashi told Famitsu that while he won't be involved that much in the game-development process over at Mages ("I might be in a position to offer ideas," he offered, "like during the debugging process"), he still wants to help improve the industry he's in whichever way he can. "For me," he commented, "this is really turning a new page. What the rest of the book is going to be filled with depends on what I do next, of course, but I want to do what I can to make the game industry more exciting. Instead of sitting aroudn comparing Japanese games with overseas titles, I want to help make all games a more powerful presence in Japan."

"These days, if you're good at games, nobody thinks you're cool for that," Shikura added. "That definitely didn't used to be the case, and I think that if we can get that era back, then games will really shine a lot more and be an industry more younger people will want to get into. That's what's driving us, the idea that we want to spread our passion around to as many people as we can."

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