>by: Aron Deppert
Of all the movies to make a video game from, Moonwalker was the last one I thought I’d ever hear of. Believe it or not, Sega did it in the form of “Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker”. It is an Arcade-style that was released August 24th, 1990.
I know what you’re thinking: “This is some stupid joke, right? No one would be dumb enough to make a Michael Jackson video game.” It is my sad duty to inform you that not only does this game exist, but it’s also a little fun. Following a story loosely based on the Moonwalker movie, you progress through each stage collecting blonde-haired children (they replenish your health when you snatch them!) and battling thugs and henchmen by using your “dance magic”. The most basic attack involves a kick of the foot or flick of the hand which sends sparkles shooting out. Bad guys fly across the screen and vanish when they come in contact with MJ’s fairy dust. Michael’s other attack involves him spinning in a circle and throwing his fedora like a boomerang. His final, and most powerful, attack sends the King of Pop into a dance routine and all of the bad guys dance along. They must not be able to keep up with his slick moves, because at the end of the dance number they all die. Doesn’t it all sound too good to be true?
Not even the undead stand a chance against MJ’s moves.
Well hang tight, because it gets better. Once the last child is
captured saved, Michael’s pet chimp Bubbles flies into the game on a blue comet and sits on Michael’s shoulder to point the direction to the level’s boss. I use the term “boss” here loosely, because most of the time the battles consist of attacking the same enemies you have battled for the whole stage, they’re just wearing snazzier outfits and take a couple extra hits to eliminate. Once the boss is defeated you get to snatch one more kid before dashing away to the next area.
For the most part, the sound in the game is decent. Michael makes his entrance into the game in the first stage by flicking a coin across the room where it lands in a jukebox and sets “Smooth Criminal” to playing. All the music is wonderfully MIDI-fied and usually fits the level you’re on at the time. The only time the game’s soundtrack let me down was in the zombie and graveyard level, “Thriller” was not the song playing. Most of the tracks are off of the “Bad” album which was released shortly before the Moonwalker movie which came out in 1988. In-game sound effects are kind of underwhelming, but a great feature is Michael’s trademark vocalizations on the splash screens between stages (the game has five three-part stages). Sega even animated his mouth to kinda-sorta match the noise he was making.
Real voice acting in a game: cutting edge in 1990.
The game does have multiplayer support which just involves player 1 playing until they die, and then player 2 takes a turn at the same stage. The only real difference is player 2 gets a red outfit, which is disappointing because the white one is much more dashing. I was able to make it to stage 3-3 without losing a life, so if I had been playing with another person they obviously would’ve been bored. While both players playing cooperatively would’ve been fun, we all know there is only room enough for one Michael Jackson in the world at a time and two onscreen at the same time would probably have fried the Sega Genesis’s circuits to a crisp.
What all of these elements boil down to is a moderately fun beat ‘em up/platformer that will illicit a few giggles from any child of the 80’s or closet-case Michael Jackson fans. It’s sad to me that you don’t see games like this anymore. No game developer or publisher today would be brave enough to put their name on a game that features a grown man dancing around and sprinkling pixie powder on other men and then “saving” children, only to have them whisked away to who-knows-where on a blue comet. It just doesn’t get much kitschier than that.
Image credit: Me, and en.wikipedia.org