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Video Game / Michael Jackson's Moonwalker

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Michael Jackson's Moonwalker is a 1990 video game (loosely) based on the movie Moonwalker, specifically the "Smooth Criminal" portion, conceived and designed by Michael Jackson, featuring songs by Michael Jackson, starring Michael Jackson, and developed by... uh, Sega. The player character, Michael Jackson, alias Moonwalker, uses his trademark dance moves and magic powers (with occasional aid from Bubbles the Chimp) to rescue the children who have been kidnapped by Diabolical Mastermind Mr. Big. Did we mention that Michael Jackson's in it?

Two versions of this Michael Jackson game were produced: an isometric action game for arcades, and a Shinobi-like Platform Game for the Sega Genesis. (There was also a computer game titled Michael Jackson: Moonwalker, which has little in common with the other versions.) A port was also released for the Sega Master System and Sega Game Gear.

Shares a loose continuity with the Space Channel 5 series, with Jackson's adventures being canon to the games, and the man himself appearing in a supporting role.

This game by Michael Jackson contains examples of:

  • Awesome, but Impractical: From the Genesis port:
    • The robot form has its spiffy laser and missile attacks, but you can't rescue kids while you're in it. To compensate for this, the children are fully visible in their hiding spots during robot mode, so the player can easily find them after it wears off.
    • Dance Magic specials can clear whole rooms of enemies, but will eat up half of your health bar, making it very impractical to use in level 3 and onwards. Not to mention a few of the boss encounters are immune to the dance, making you waste your life as the enemies scurry off-screen once the dance kicks in.
  • Banister Slide: Done as an attack animation in the Sega Genesis version.
  • Bar Brawl: The first level of the Genesis/Master System/Game Gear version, and the second half of level two in the arcade version, based on the equivalent scene in the film.
  • Beat 'em Up: The Arcade version is a mix of this and a Shoot 'Em Up. The console versions plays closer to a beat 'em up/platformer.
  • Big Boo's Haunt: The fourth level of the console version, and the third level of the arcade version.
  • Bowdlerise: Mr. Big's drug-trafficking plot from the movie was adapted out, turning him into a generic Big Bad that kidnaps kids for kicks.
  • Cast from Hit Points: A bunch of special moves that come with the cost of draining your life bar, including throwing your hat as a boomerang and causing all the bad guys on the screen to get their groove on, after which they all drop dead. They don't drain health in the Arcade Game, only the console versions.
  • Catchphrase: Mr. Big's "HAHA! YOU'LL NEVER CATCH ME!"
  • Collision Damage: If you touch Mr. Big, you will take damage from him, even though he's not actually fought until the end.
  • Color-Coded Multiplayer: The first player controls Michael Jackson in a white suit, the second controls Michael in a red suit, and the third player (available in the Arcade Game only) controls Michael in a black suit.
  • Dance Battler: Michael Jackson takes out enemies using magic-enhanced dance moves.
  • Flunky Boss: Arcade version only: In the graveyard level's boss fight, Mr. Big will constantly summon ghosts to attack you, in an attempt to keep you from destroying his zombie machine.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: If Michael loses too much health in the Genesis version, he won't be able to use his Dance Magic, and will have to use extremely weak hand-to-hand attacks.
  • Guide Dang It!:
    • The game doesn't explain its own rules regarding how you can interact with the environment around Michael. Fire hydrants can be weaponized and emergency stairs can be lowered by the same control method, for instance.
    • You can transform into a robot by rescuing a specific child first in most stages and then catching the shooting star that follows. You have to know which child that is ahead of time by trial and error.
  • Idle Animation: In the arcade version, if Michael is left idle for several seconds, he will perform one of 3 random dance routines.
  • Invincibility Power-Up: In the Genesis version, a shooting star turns Michael Jackson into a robot, granting him temporary invincibility. It also enables him to fly, use far more powerful attacks, and see the kids' hiding spots.
  • Involuntary Dance: Michael's Dance Magic Smart Bomb special, which causes all enemies to dance along with him before disappearing.
  • Isometric Projection: The arcade game.
  • Killer Robot: A heroic example. Michael can turn into a robot if certain criteria are metnote . Michael's attacks will be upgraded, and he can take twice as much damage (in the arcade version; the Genesis port makes him invincible in robot mode).
  • Mooks, but no Bosses: In the Genesis version, the majority of stages end with a rush of enemies to plow through. Later stages within an area will introduce Elite Mooks with different attack patterns and weaknesses. The last level finally brings a proper, exclusive boss with Mr. Big.
  • Moonwalk Dance: The earliest example in video games.
  • Re-Release Soundtrack: The graveyard level, an obvious homage to the "Thriller" video, does not actually have "Thriller" playing in the background, instead using "Another Part of Me". Some versions do use "Thriller" for the dance (which is obviously the Thriller dance), while others persistently use "Another Part of Me" even for this. (In fact, a prototype version of the game does actually use "Thriller" as the background music for the graveyard level.) It is generally believed that the reason why "Another Part of Me" was used instead of "Thriller" is that "Thriller" was written by Rod Temperton, not Michael Jackson, and so Temperton would have to be paid royalties from his song appearing in the game — obviously a realization which came late in the game (All other songs in the game — "Smooth Criminal", "Beat It", "Billie Jean", and "Bad" — were written by Michael Jackson).
  • Rule of Cool: Aside from activating some background objects, the moonwalk in the Genesis version has no real function. It just looks awesome.
  • Shout-Out: The guns used by the helmeted soldiers in the arcade game look almost exactly like Pulse Rifles.
  • Transformation Sequence: In the Genesis version, if his robot form is acquired, a cutscene will show Michael changing into his robot form. The arcade version simply transforms him during live gameplay, but gives him Mercy Invincibility to prevent an accidental death.
  • Underground Level: The caverns level from the Sega Genesis & arcade versions.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: In the Genesis version, the last level shifts to a first-person space shooter.
  • Weaponized Headgear: One of Michael's special attacks is throwing his hat at enemies. In the Master System port, the hat throw is nerfed (it now has a short range and only shoots in front of Michael) but becomes a regular attack (with no life cost) that replaces the fist as an upgrade for the rest of the current level.
  • Where It All Began: The arcade version has Michael fighting through Mr. Big's underground lair in the first and last levels, mirroring how the movie's beginning and climax played out.

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