Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker – A Retro Review

It’s time to shine up your shoes, wax the dance floor and toss one glove into the trash because we’re going back to a time when Michael Jackson ruled the world. A strange time indeed. It was when a pop star could have their own video game. And I’m not talking about some lousy Kinect dance along either but a real Sega Genesis video game. Moonwalker gets listed as a beat ’em up, and that of course caught my eye. The question is, is it one? And the answer is no. But I played it anyway.

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The first reason I do not consider this a beat ’em up is because it has the same issue as Kung Fu on the NES. The player’s character isn’t actually fighting the enemy. Most of the time after suffering one hit the bad guys will sail off the screen like a gust of wind suddenly hit them. Secondly there is a lot of jumping. Which leans this game into platformer territory. It’s closer to Revenge of Shinobi, than a side scrolling fighter. And Moonwalker also reminded me a bit of the first Ninja Turtles game on NES. Parts of it anyway.

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There is no set up for any story in Moonwalker. All we get is Michael Jackson walking into a nightclub and tossing a coin into the jukebox. Then the music begins and so does the dancing. When I say dancing I mean whenever Michael does anything, he dances. We’re left to figure out that these little girls need to be rescued, and they can be hidden anywhere. As I said earlier we find ourselves in a nightclub, and it happens to be infested with well dressed henchmen.

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As a responsible writer should, I did some research. I learned that the band Mr. Big – once again, is up to no good and for whatever reason kidnapped the little girls and stashed them in the many closets that are found within the nightclub. After Michael saves the girls, a monkey pops onto his head and kind of points in the direction we need to go. Yes, a monkey – Michael Jackson did have a pet monkey in real life but I didn’t know they were partners in search and rescue missions. Seems far fetched. So, once we reach the area that Bubbles – the monkey led us to it’s time for a boss fight. Not the typical boss fight, it’s just a wave of the common enemy found within the stage. And that is the game in a nutshell. It does not deviate from that formula until the very end. And I’ll get to that in a bit.

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The main attack is simply a weak looking kick that sprinkles star dust onto the enemies. And it’s very effective. Michael also punches star dust when crouching or aiming up. There are special attacks and it’s a well done system. When the button is tapped he will do a spin move that deals damage to near by henchman. If the button is held down and released he will toss his hat as a boomerang, exploding any enemies who comes in contact with it. If the button is held down even longer then all the enemies on screen join Micheal for a choreographed dance which ends up killing them at the end of the routine. It’s the best thing about this game, I could not get enough of the move. And it’s actually very useful.

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One of the stages takes place in a cemetery and the enemies are zombies and the song Thriller is not playing. I should mention that each set of stages features one Michael Jackson song played on repeat. Not the actual song but the best version they could do in a 16 bit game. And I find it odd that Thriller wasn’t playing in the so called scary level. It’s also a bit morbid that the girls are hidden underneath tombstones. Maybe they weren’t buried alive, but it seems that way. And speaking of the zombies, who for some reason stick around into the next couple stages, are the worst obstacles in the game. I hate bouncing enemies. Especially when there are 8 of them bounding at you at the same time in different patterns.

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The so called drug lord, Mr. Big, is no genius. The kidnapped children basically created a path that led Michael Jackson to his secret lair. The hidden hideout is the most interesting stage in the game. It’s bright, no more of the dark grave yard and the shit colored cavern level that followed it. The player must figure out how to travel through the maze by using teleporters. The things on the roof shooting lasers were a pain though. And the sound effect they used for the lasers are horrible. It sounds like something from an Atari game.

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The last part of the game really surprised me. First of all Michael Jackson turns into an Iron Man thing and can shoot lasers from his face. And it’s a good thing he has lasers because there are a bunch of bad guys to get through. And even more shocking is the battle with the end boss. The game turns into a Top Gun cockpit view space shooter. Things got crazy really quickly. And just like that it was all over. Curve balls like that are one of the many reasons I love playing games from that era. Sometimes you can’t tell what’s coming next.moonwalker13moonwalker12

I understand that it loosely follows the plot of the film that this game is based on, where Michael does turn into Mecha-Jackson and then a spaceship. But seriously, who’s even seen that movie?moonwalker14

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