Mr. Driller (ミスタードリラー Misutā Dorirā ) is a 1986 side-scrolling platform arcade game developed by Drillimation Studios and published by Namco. It is the first game to be developed by Drillimation after being bought out by Namco in November 1985 and is the first installment in the Mr. Driller series of video games. The game was later ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System, the PC-9801, and various home computers later that year.
Players take on the role of Susumu Hori and the main objective is to reach the end of the stage without losing all of their air capsules or letting the timer run out. Players move from the left side of the screen to the right and defeat the boss at the end of the stage.
The stages are scattered with point items for Susumu to collect, which award points when collected and if the player collects a power item, Susumu's drill is raised by one level. These items are commonly found in the blocks that are scattered across the stages, and can be destroyed using Susumu's drill, hence the name "Mr. Driller". Players start with three lives, with an extra life awarded at 30,000 points, another at 80,000 points, and every 80,000 points after that. Extra lives are also awarded if the player collects 100 point items, and are lost if the player falls into a pit or loses all their air capsules. The game is over when all lives are lost.
The game is comprised of five stages that end with a boss, and after finishing the last boss, the player is presented with the good ending if they did not use continues, and using continues results in the bad ending.
Sometime during the 86th stardawn, Dr. Manhole's blocks begin to overrun Japan once again, and the authorities summon Susumu to deal with the situation. As Susumu plunges down into the underground, Susumu saves a girl named Madoka Fujima from being attacked by her older brother, Makoto Chikamatsu. On his journey, Susumu also battles the three admins of Team Ankoku: Kowars, Eguri Hatakeyama, and Keel Sark. At the end, Susumu faces his encounter with Dr. Manhole once again in a duel for the ages. After Dr. Manhole is defeated, the world reverts to normal as Susumu returns to the surface.
Before the game started development, Takajima made simple games on the Commodore 64 and Amiga machines featuring characters from Star Trigon and Lucky Star. The first game he made was a simple tennis game featuring Susumu for the first player and Konata for the second player. The game was made playable for Drillimation staff whenever they needed a break from animating the anime.
Before Mr. Driller entered the early stages of development, Toru Iwatani from Namco was searching for a popular anime that could have a well-received arcade game. Iwatani originally wanted to create an arcade game based on Akira Toriyama's manga Dr. Slump and Arale-Chan, but it never fell through. A former Drillimation employee working at Namco suggested The Drillimation Series, which he believed would be a great idea. Two other game companies were locked in an intense bidding war for the Drillimation license. Companies like Konami and Taito considered doing this but Takajima rejected their ideas.
Development of the game officially started in May 1985 when he received offers from Namco staff saying they should make an arcade game based on The Drillimation Series, and Takajima accepted the offer. Development of Mr. Driller began right away, while Drillimation set up a job campaign for game programmers to join Drillimation and begin work on the game. One notable developer, Kenjirou Nasaya, decided to take part in development after he experimented with programming on the PC-9801, a home computer by NEC.
Takajima was having trouble trying to use the programming mechanics of the Commodore Amiga, so he created a game engine that would eventually end up becoming Driller Engine. As a result, Takajima split Drillimation into two divisions, one for animation, and the other for game development. Takajima presented his engine to Namco, and programmers from Namco sought interest in it, causing Namco to buy the entire studio for ¥20 billion (roughly $200 million), making them a first-party studio.
As a result of Takajima's creation of his new game engine, development times were shorter and cheaper, and the game was completed in a course of six months. Around three months before the arcade version was released, Namco took the time and converted the Amiga game Takajima created into a Namco System 86 game. Marc Summers, the president of Drillimation Studios California, wanted to make a localized version for the United States and Europe. Takajima accepted Summers' offer and Summers was given a timeframe of three months to do this task. At that time, the game was released in Japanese arcades. Summers managed to complete the localization by the deadline and caused the game to be released in the United States.
The game generally received positive reviews by critics. The game was instantly successful, with more than 14.4 million copies being sold worldwide. Critics praised it for its story and art style, but criticized it for being "a little short". GamePro also stated that "it's really fun to play and matches the style of the cartoon show". USA Today also stated that it was the 5th best-selling game on the Nintendo Entertainment System, with more than 9 million units sold.