A lot of you may know of the SEGA Mega Drive (or Genesis) Michael Jackson game that was based off of the 1988 movie Moonwalker, but did you know two other completely different games were also developed? Continuing what is turning out to be a music themed week, let's look at all of them as well as a brief look a the movie.
In 1988, Michael Jackson was the biggest thing ever. His number one selling album Bad was released the year prior and, like Thriller earlier on in the decade, featured some expensively entertaining music videos.
There's money to be made from all this popularity so why not piece together a load of music videos with a paper thin plot guided by Jackson's crazy dream logic? That's what they did here. As stand alone videos, they can easily be considered classics. As a 93 minute piecemeal movie? Not so much.
The first game to be released was not the SEGA games, but a European game for computer systems in 1989. Developed by Emerald Software and released by U.S. Gold who are known for bad licensed games, it uses more than just the Smooth Criminal portion.
The first two levels (out of four) are based on the Speed Demon portion of the game (it's the one with the bunny suit and scary animated tourists). You must collect pieces of the bunny suit in the maze-like backlot of a movie studio while running away from crazy fans (and horses). You have no means to protect yourself other than a limited speed boost to help you get away. The levels are so overly large and confusing that even the inclusion of a map does nothing to assist you. You also have to collect the costumes in a specific order, indicated by the flashing pixels on the map, and also in an impossible time frame. The second level is much the same, but you are now on a motorbike collecting orbs.
The third level is based on the Smooth Criminal section where you run around the bar picking up ammo to shoot at enemies. Kill thirty and your done. This could've lead to a fun and welcome change of pace, but the controls are absolutely atrocious. You only have one action button so to aim your weapon light-gun style, you have to hold this down then move the cursor. This will always waste ammo as you automatically fire before you've even attempted to aim.
The last level sees you as Mecha Michael shooting lasers with your fists. Game-play wise, it is the same as the third level except all you do is shoot; you are not limited on ammo nor are you burdened with trying to move. Overall the entire game is rather frustrating, hastily put together and rather unfair. Luckily the late games fare much better.
In an effort to distinguish themselves from the immediate rival Nintendo, SEGA began to buy up licenses from other media. Amongst the likes of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, they bought the rights to develop arcade and console games based on Michael Jackson's vanity project. The first to be released was this arcade game in 1990 which also bears the distinction of being designed by the man himself.
Unlike the atrocious console games, this is solely based around the Smooth Criminal section (with a touch of Thriller thrown in for good measure). This is an isometric action game where you attack robot enemies with the power of dance. And crotch grabbing. Along the way, you'll need to rescue children from robots with giant thrusting penises which add a dark metaphor to the whole game when you realise the controversies the star would later encounter. Do you think I'm making this up? I have proof!
Lastly we have the Genesis and Master System versions, again created by SEGA. While the crotch grabbing had been ramped up to a level where someone should really see a doctor, the phallic robots are thankfully removed. This game plays like a digital version of hide and seek where Michael dances along freeing little girls from closets. There's probably a metaphor in there somewhere.
Just like the arcade game, you attack with the power of dance, but here it is standard 2D platforming fare. You have a dance special attack which varies depending on how long you hold it down. There is little in the way of power-ups here. Bubbles - unlike the arcade game where he transforms you into Mecha Michael - appears only once all of the kids have been found and will guide you to a specific spot on the level to have a dance off (read 'massive fight')with a load of enemies.
This was one of the big games that distinguished SEGA from Nintendo before the kipper app that was Sonic came along. It had an attitude, style and an unhealthy crotch fixation that Nintendo would've never allowed on their console. One of those attributes, along with Michael's style of foot-ware, was added to the personality of their future mascot to give the blue hedgehog the extra edge. It worked to such a great effect that SEGA just edged out Nintendo in the 16 bit market share in the US.
None of these games have seen a re-release on digital platforms. While the computer versions are perhaps best left unplayed, the SEGA games hold significance in gaming history by highlighting the changing trends of interactive entertainment. They're not that bad either.
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox, FS-UAE, MAME and Retroarch with the Genesis Plus GX core to emulate the games on PCs. XBox 360 controllers supported for the Retroarch games out of the game with MAME and FS-UAE having the option to configure. Tested on Windows 7.
Michael Jackson's Moonwalker for computers is © U.S.Gold
Michael Jackson's Moonwalker for console and arcade is © SEGA
Michael Jackson's Moonwalker The Movie is © Warner Bros.
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me