Hoo! Who's bad?
So, I recently went to see Public Enemies (which is, for those of you who don't know, a loose account of the life of mob boss Al Capone where ol' Scarface is renamed "John Dillenger" for reasons unknown to me) and, though it certainly is a good film, I couldn't help but let my mind wander to the greatest gangster movie of all time: Moonwalker. I mean, that motion picture had everything a human being, animal, or plant could ever want in a gangster film. There were guns; dance numbers; Joe Pesci kidnapping children and sporting a ridiculous topknot; Wesley Snipes learning what it truly means to be "bad"; and, arguably the two most necessary components for a good gangster film, Michael Jackson turning into both a car and a robot. Ah, Moonwalker. What an awesome piece of the 1980s you were. Sega, in its infinite wisdom, saw Moonwalker for what it was always meant to be: a money machine.
You would think that these superfluous moves would at least restore
health...especially the crotch grab...
And so in 1990, Sega developed a game for the Sega Genesis that celebrated the King of Pop’s music career within the confines of Moonwalker’s largely incoherent storyline. Those who grew up in the late 80s and early 90s know that this game needs no review and no introduction. For those of the new generation, however, I'll try to give you a brief run-down of the object of the game. Starting out in the Club 30 pool hall (with “Smooth Criminal“ playing in the background), the player as Michael Jackson must rescue all of the children kidnapped by Mr. Big (Joe Pesci’s character from the film). This is a requirement in order to advance in the game; Bubbles the Chimp won’t lead Michael to the stage boss until the player saves every single solitary child in the area, whether hidden behind doors, inside car trunks, behind tombstones, or out in the open. To impede the player’s progress, Mr. Big employs several henchmen ranging from mobsters and street thugs to zombies, dogs, and what look like Cobra Vipers from GI Joe. From Club 30, Michael makes his way through the streets (with “Beat It” playing as the background theme), a graveyard (“Another Part of Me” in the background with “Thriller” playingduring the dancing sequences), caverns (“Billie Jean” as background theme), an inner sanctum that resembles the Technodrome (“Bad” as background music), and a final battle in which the player pursues Mr. Big via Michael's "Battle Plane" while speeding through space. Each level plays out like one of Jackson's music videos, with the exception of the cavern level. Really, how does one associate caves with "Billie Jean"? The final level is a bit of a departure from the platforming in the rest of the game, as well, since the perspective shifts to a sort of flight simulator (Michael's in a spaceship, so it makes sense).
This picture is somehow appropriate. This joke, however, is not.
Michael comes up against some pretty steep odds in the game. Jacko’s not unarmed, though, and this is where the game gets even more interesting. The player can utilize what I can only guess is fairy dust in order to dispatch foes, as well as Michael’s patented spin, hat, and something called “dance magic” in which all enemies on-screen will dance with Michael for a few seconds before dropping dead. In addition to these offensive attacks, the player can make Michael perform a number of moves that have no in-game affect whatsoever, including the incredibly cool moonwalk and the infamous crotch grab (no one can ever accuse this game of being an incomplete Michael Jackson experience). At random, a star will fall from the sky and, if the player can catch it quickly enough, Michael will change for a short time into a robotic death machine that fires bombs from its shoulders and lasers from its eyes, effectively killing every enemy in sight. Absolutely classic. The game is difficult, sometimes to the point of being ridiculous (especially during some of the boss fights), but this is a minor flaw that is easily disregarded. Michael Jackson's Moonwalker is an above average game and truly worth a try (which, considering the game’s recent status as a “collector’s item”, might be easier said than done).
All joking aside, I can think of no better thing to do on the day of Michael Jackson’s memorial service than play this game. Love him or hate him, no one can deny that Michael Jackson changed music forever. Though his actions within the confines of his personal life were scandalous and, by most accounts, unpalatable and unacceptable, let us mourn the artist at his craft if we cannot mourn the man. This isn't for Michael Jackson the father, Michael Jackson the son, Michael Jackson the husband, Michael Jackson the brother, or Michael Jackson the accused. This is in memory of Michael Jackson the musician. Here's to Michael Jackson, forever the King of Pop. Respect him or beat it (pun intended).