Tuesday 30 June 2009


If you somehow haven't heard Michael Jackson passed away. A tragedy to say the least, but I suppose what's also a tragedy is the fate of his video games - whereas his music will live on through the ages, chances are games such as Moonwalker, Space Channel 5 (with the MJ cameo), Ready to Rumble etc. will never see a re-release with the celebrity in them. Aside from the fact that obtaining the rights will be damned-near impossible, chances are Sega won't be jumping on the idea of having a dead man as the main character, even though they are pretty cool games, even by today's standards.

So how about the Arcade version of Michael Jackson's Moonwalker, a game that few people seem to remember, and is often overshadowed by the very different home console versions? It's an isometric beat 'em up, developed by Sega, in which you're Michael Jackson saving children from... some guy. It's based of that scene/music video in the movie of the same name, probably because it was the only decent section of the film, but as the film made no sense, neither does the game. But it has Michael Jackson in it!

In fact, as it's actually a 3-player game, it means you can also have two other Jackson clones walking about killing people too, so it's three times the Michael Jackson-ness. And if you find your chimp, Bubbles, you transform into a giant robot. It's very much like the home console ports, except that it's more linear, shorter and not quite as deep. In the MegaDrive/Master System game, MJ had a decent variety of moves, but was let down by the fact you spend most of the game opening doors and going around in circles. With the Arcade, you're on the move much more often, though since you've only really got one form of attack, that may not be a good thing (though at least it can be "charged up"). Thankfully the enemies are rather stupid, but there's a lot of them, and they've got guns while you haven't.

You can perform a special move, just like in the home console versions, which will make everyone on screen dance before exploding. The problem is, it's not quite as randomised as the home console version. For a singer/dancer, there's not a lot of singing or dancing, or that much of MJ's music (despite the graveyard level there's no sign of Thriller). Because it's on Arcade hardware it's a lot more pleasing on the eye and ears, and you're often faced fighting different enemies rather than the same guys in suits (such as dogs and robots, who will also dance).

It's a very basic beat 'em up, and it could still be considered a bit repetitive, though the same could be said for many games of the same genre. I didn't find myself getting bored with this one, but then again, it is incredibly short. And difficult if you're not armed with credits. However, since the arcade machine is reasonably rare (I mean those 90s scandals didn't really help) and probably going for a high price now, the only way to play it is on an emulator such as MAME, where credits aren't a problem.

But it's not a bad game, it's just short, and a bit unforgiving. It's a concept that needed expanding upon a bit more. It looks as if it should be a fantastic game but it falls far short from its goal. But it's not bad and is worth a look for the novelty value if nothing else. Again, it triumphs over the MegaDrive game in many places, and is arguably more playable than a lot of arcade games that Sega and others insisted on bringing to the home, it's just ruined by the fact that it's so short and basic. Worth a look though.

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