Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker

I know a lot of obscure facets of American pop culture. Unlike some, this is not a point of pride for me and I generally keep that shit locked down.

Unless I’m drunk. In which case, I’m the guy at the bar whose talking too loudly about how Maximum Overdrive is the best movie ever because a soda machine kills a little league coach and knocks out some of the kids on the team.

I firmly believe my effortless access to this kind of stuff comes at the expense of other more marketable skills, like math or not parking like an asshole.

That being said, I had no idea there was a Moonwalker arcade game and have never been more disappointed in myself. Partially because it’s profoundly weird but mainly because it’s a surprisingly solid game that is different than the crappy Genesis and GameGear versions.

Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker is a product of 90’s; for one, it’s celebrity centered not unlike Michael Jordon: Chaos in the Windy City or the infamous Shaq-Fu. Secondly, the plot of the game consists of Michael Jackson saving children from kidnappers. No need to explain why this is unfortunate.

Honestly, the game’s premise is like listening to your grandfather refer to gay people as “poofs.” Uncomfortable but ultimately a product of a different time so you just shut up and deal with cognitive dissonance.

Moonwalker is an isometric shooter, where 1-3 players control Jackson and up to 2 differently dressed Jacksons as they defeat gangsters circa-1930 Chicago and creepily phallic robots. Jackson defeats enemies by shooting lightning from his hands because why the fuck not.

There’s nothing Freudian about this. That robot has dick. Image: HardcoreGaming101.net 

Players can also charge their attacks up to release a powerful long distance blast. As an added bonus, Jackson moonwalks as the attack charges. Players also have a limited stock of a dance attack that causes all the enemies to dance along with Jackson before they exploding. Players receive more dance attacks when they rescue children

When players collect Jackson’s beloved monkey Bubbles, they turn into a robot that fires lasers from his crotch. The crotch seems a weird place to shoot lasers from but I’ve never built a robot—Robo-Jackson or otherwise—so I’m not really qualified to comment.

Additionally, there’s also only 3 sprites for the captured children. Repeating sprites are understandable because of hardware limitations, but I would like to believe Jackson is constantly rescuing the same 3 kids. I mean, players don’t do anything beyond freeing the kids from their electro-shackles. This leaves the children to fend for themselves even though there are killing machines and dudes with guns everywhere. 

As you would expect, the soundtrack consists of 16-bit versions of Michael Jackson songs. Oddly enough, the graveyard level filled with zombies didn’t use “Thriller” and instead went with “Another Part of Me.”

A missed opportunity if there ever was one.

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