gonbee no i’m sorry

The wonderful thing about emulation and games preservation is that it allows us to discover a new treasure every day. In the nearly infinitely large library of video games, you are never at a loss for something to check out. There’s always some new discovery to make, a new favorite to add to your list.

I’m Sorry is the biographical tale of Kakuei Tanaka, the former Prime Minister of Japan, and later a member of its House of Representatives, who fell from grace after he got caught taking somewhere between $1.8 million to $3 million in bribes from Lockheed-Martin in exchange for better negotiations for new fighter planes. This game features a lot of moments of this time in his life, such as: punching Japanese comedians with a fist nearly as large as his head, running from a statue of himself that somehow came to life, picking up lots of gold bars and bringing them back to the House of Representatives, and jumping over a rolling barrel. Surprisingly realistic for 1985.

I’m Sorry is like Pac-Man meets Dateline. It’s a maze game where you have to avoid an ever-threatening group of enemies, while collecting as much as gold as you can carry back to the home base. It doesn’t get any more complicated than that. It does however, get really fucking hard really quick. I would be lying if I acted like this game was a new discovery for me; I played the shit out of this as a teenager. Or at least, as much as one could play the shit out of an arcade game that never ends. Finding this ROM hanging around on the internet and wondering what exactly the fuck an “I’m Sorry” is led me to this wonderful game. And I’m Sorry is a good game. It’s difficult, yes, but also a lot of fun. Probably more fun than it has any right to be, but still fun nonetheless.

Something that I’m Sorry shines in is its use of pop culture. Tanaka’s enemies in this game are far worse than public opinion or any oversight committee. No, he has to deal with movie stars and musicians!

The first enemy you encounter (aside from the ever present and murderous Barrel) is famous Japanese comedian Tamori. When I played this as a teen, I had assumed that he was like a yakuza member, or whatever Japan’s equivalent to a tax agent is (probably a tax agent). Tamori is an early-game preliminary enemy who vanishes after the fourth level. He doesn’t really do much, other than run around and try to catch you.

But when he does catch you? You are treated to what is easily the single greatest death animation in the history of video games. Here it is:

The medium of games peaked in 1985, and nobody knew about it.

This next enemy, the internet informs me, is supposed to be legendary pro wrestler Shohei “Giant” Baba. Bull shit. This is obviously a buff Bill Cosby. I mean, this was the 80’s, a time when we all believed Cosby to be America’s Dadtm, and not a craven sex criminal. Anyways, Bill Cosby takes about a million punches to kill, so you’re better off trying to jump over him. What a fucking sentence.

Here’s a cool picture of Giant Baba (the REAL Giant Baba) smoking a cigar:

Here it is, everyone: Michael Jackson’s first appearance in a Sega game. Other than Moonwalking everywhere, he’s more or less a replacement for Tamori. He at least turns into a zombie and bites you, sticking to the canonical ending of Thriller.

I have no idea who this is. He’s some dude who jumps around all over the level. Judging from the attire and the hair, I’m going to assume that it’s a time traveling Kurt Angle, making a video game appearance 11 years before he won the Olympic gold with a Broken Freakin’ Neck.

And then there’s Madonna. She’s there. She blows long range kisses that can kill you. I’m not much of a Madonna fan, sorry to say.

Despite the game relying entirely on knowledge of contemporary Japanese politics to understand it, I’m Sorry managed to, somehow, get a release in the US. I can’t imagine that it was a big release or anything; never saw it at any arcade I ever went to, but that’s definitely the strangest and most baffling thing about this game. Maybe Sega and Coreland thought that it would succeed on the strength of it’s unofficial celebrity endorsements and kids at school telling their friends about this game “that’s kinda like Pac-Man, but with like, more stuff to do.” Games have thrived on less.

Something about I’m Sorry that I really appreciate is that I kind of miss this era of games. A time where you could make whatever weird ass shit you wanted and release it into the mass market. You can only do that on an independent level now, to a much smaller, more focused audience. It’s a real shame.

Now then, M2, where is our I’m Sorry Switch port?

Adventures On The Lonely Frontier