Michael Jackson's Moonwalker
Developer(s) - Emerald Software / Keypunch Software
Platform(s) - Amiga , Atari ST, Commodore 64, MS-DOS
Release date(s) - 1989
Music Produced by - Michael Jackson
Genre(s) - Maze game/Beat 'em up/Platformer/Shooter game
Mode(s) - Single-player
Rating(s) - ESRB: N/A
The 90's were a strange time for everyone. Society was altering, values were changing, and popular culture was hitting an all time high. This strange era saw the rise and fall of a rather peculiar, race confused man named Michael Jackson. In his prime, Mister Jackson released number 1 pop songs on a regular basis, and was credited as being the King of Pop. From his popularity was birthed a movie, and from that video game. Michael Jackson's Moonwalker found itself in quite a lucrative position, right between the idols world wide sensation Thriller and his eventual downfall in allegations and scandals.
The story catches up on the films side of things. Michael Jackson, playing as himself, is on a mission to save the kids of the world from the evil, corrupt clutches of antagonist Mr. Big. The game makes it clear from the start; the plot is definitely not the main attraction. There are absolutely no plot twists, character development, and there is even a predictable fairy tale ending. The story may be bare-boned and straight to the point, but the appeal is obviously laid elsewhere.
Jackson's entire arsenal revolves around his world renown dance moves. He can spin, flip, and even throw glitter at suited thugs. Every action performed has emphasis thrown into it. Jumping will cause Jackson to do a mid air pose, and he can even toss his hat at foes a la Odd Job from the James Bond series. Using the titular Moonwalk, Jackson's most signature chorographical move, he can balance a group of successful hits and finish off with a prominent crotch grab.
Honestly, Michael Jackson Fu may possibly be the most unique fighting style ever created. He also has a set of special attacks. One in particular hooks all enemies into the middle of the stage and forces them to perform as background dancers until they literally "boogie oggie till they just can't boogie no more". However, Jackson's greatest feat is that once in a blue moon a shooting star will appear, and capturing it will transform Michael into a robot. I wouldn't quote me on this, but I'm pretty sure that that's one of the Seven Wonders of the modern world.
The goal in each level is searching and saving these children. As dull as it may seem, the laziness of the producers hurts the final product even more. Enemies are copy pasted in various themed locations, which are often copies of other levels with different color schemes. From a dark nightclub to a dark street corner, you'll fight an endless amount of the same thick headed bad guys. And since there's a lot of back tracking to be done, this becomes an even bigger nuisance.
The appeal of Moonwalker of course lies in the games sound track. Most of it is made up of repeats of Jackson's most famous songs. Namely Thriller, Smooth Criminal, and Bille Jean. No matter what you think of the man, his music is superb, and it's no different in the video game form. The virtual version of Jackson himself is even dressed in full Smooth Criminal regalia as a service to the fans.
The most interesting thing about the game, while not wanting to sound presumptuous, is how much it possibly speaks about Jackson himself. One can't help to wonder if the game is more ambiguous than it lets on. It's widely known that Jackson had Peter-Panesque fantasies, and saving children in the game fits the role snuggly. Who is Mr. Big? Jackson's inner sexual perversions? The media's future portrayal of his character? There's lots of questions left unanswered, and had the video game medium been more widely accepted as more than a toy I believe that the game speaks a lot about Jackson's inner conscious despite its shallow pretense.
Despite the unanswered moral issues, the game reeks of the whole "so bad its good" cliche. Regardless if you're a fan of Jackson's work, the game is insanely unique. The third rate production value and laziness can be considered the fault of "the movie tie-in" syndrome, but the game still has a lot of charm. "Slightly crazy" would be an understatement. Like the man himself, the game is one of a kind, and there will never be a parallel experience within our life time.
Rest in Peace
1958 - 2009
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