Bounty Arms: The Hermie Hopperhead Connection

So what's new with Bounty Arms? Nothing major, as you might expect when it comes to a PlayStation action game canceled back in 1995. However, I made a Twitter post about how Data West’s Bounty Arms is chief among my video-game white whales, edging out Mega Man Legends 3 and Ultimate Journey and even Super Dog Booby


It received a decent number of likes for a game that never got noticed much when it was viable and in development, and I'm grateful for all of the responses—even the one from somebody who wants to see Bounty Arms heroines Chris and Rei as muscular circus clowns. Sometimes the best way to keep an obscure video game alive is through equally obscure predilections.  

So it's a good time to discuss Bounty Arms. In the absence of real news, I'll just speculate about the connection between Bounty Arms and Yuke's.   

Yuke’s is best known these days for their extensive lineup of wrestling games, but they’ve tried all sorts of genres since Yukinori Taniguchi founded the company in 1993. Taniguchi figures tangentially into Bounty Arms’ history, as he worked on a number of Data West titles, including Rayxanber III and the LaserActive shooter Vajra.  

The first Yuke’s game unrelated to wrestling was an early Japan-exclusive PlayStation action-platformer called Hermie Hopperhead. While perhaps not a genre trailblazer in its depictions of a red-haired kid jumping on enemies and hatching allies from eggs, Hermie charmed GameFan founder Dave Halverson so thoroughly that he vowed to put it in every issue of his magazine until a publisher brought it to North America.   

This did not come to pass, but before giving up, GameFan ran an extensive interview with Taniguchi and Sony’s Tetsuji Yamamoto. They discuss a lot about the company’s history, and there’s one interesting detail for the Bounty Arms files.  

Yamamoto mentions that Taniguchi was working on “some boring project” before they developed Hermie Hopperhead. Might this refer to Bounty Arms?  

I doubt that for two reasons. One: the timeline doesn’t quite add up, as Taniguchi had founded Yuke’s and apparently stopped working with Data West in 1993, years before Bounty Arms was announced or canceled. Two: I refuse to believe that anyone would find Bounty Arms boring, even in jest.   

Yet there’s another connection. I’ve previously speculated about a former Data West staffer named Kenji Nakamura—and how he may be the same as Kazuhide Nakamura, who directed the first Vajra and designed or directed the three Rayxanbers. Even when sticking to separate credits, Nakamura directed Vajra 2, the last game Data West released before starting up Bounty Arms, and I suspect his departure was either a result of or the reason for Data West canceling it.   After leaving Data West, Nakamura joined Yuke’s. And what was his first game contribution there? 


Yep. Nakamura was a designer on Hermie Hopperhead. And that brings more speculation from me. Did he leave Data West to work on a new game at Yuke’s? Was he lured away by the opportunity to make a side-scroller about a street-savvy tentacle-haired boy and his battle against garbage enemies? Did Hermie Hopperhead kill Bounty Arms?  

Probably not, but it’s still interesting to play Hermie Hopperhead and other Yuke’s games that involved Nakamura, looking for any common ground or residual influences of Bounty Arms. I’m particularly curious about EOE: Eve of Extinction, a PlayStation action game with Nakamura as scenario creator and lead designer. It’s fallen into such obscurity that I can’t even remember if I ever played it, but I’m still driven to investigate for the sake of the Bounty Arms Preservation Society. And because the English version has a nice lineup of then-ubiquitous voice talent. Cam Clarke! Kim Mai Guest! Jennifer Hale!  

A few notes for those just learning about Bounty Arms: You can download the only known playable demo of the game here. And if you want to trick it into playing the entire first stage, check out these directions. And then you can devise nonsensical theories of your own!