It was probably ten years ago when I first heard the term “Kusoge”. I was dating a Japanese Major at the time and she educated me on the Eastern “kuso” culture, centered around the enjoyment and pursuit of terrible media, not too dissimilar from the way we mock b-movies over here, though sadly without the help of robot sidekicks.
The kusoge (literal translation – “shit game”) phenomenon is a bit different and harder to find an parallel for, since Western internet culture, especially towards games, is typically much more self-serious when it comes to critique. I think they’re on to something over there, since I’ve always been of the belief that there’s value in terrible art, if for nothing else, the ability learn from those mistakes and make something better. Hell, I host a podcast very much based around this exact concept.
Ghoul School is probably one of the better examples of this on the NES, ironic since it never actually released in Japan. It is fitting of the kusoge label, though, requiring you to navigate through a very confusing labyrinth of a school whilst fighting monsters with a wet towel. Eventually, you may even forgo said wet towel for a more powerful weapon, like a hamburger. Yeah, I don’t get it either. Most playthroughs of Ghoul School are short, consisting of an aimless run around very similar looking areas while the player fails to avoid the unavoidable enemies. Sometimes an apple falls out of a TV, granting you health and prolonging your suffering.
It does seem like an attempt at something, though what that thing is is trapped under a lot of bad ideas and even worse execution. The Wikipedia entry for Ghoul School calls it an early example of the Metroidmania genre, which I guess is partially true. Even going through all of the effort to beat the game back in the day, I didn’t sense any logic to the school’s layout, any balance to the encounters, any reason for anything to have been designed the way that it was. The terrible ending certainly didn’t help either, making it feel like I went through all of that trouble for nothing.
In that way, it’s kinda real school.