Sunday, May 22, 2011

Revisiting the 1997 N64 Game, Mischief Makers.

Note: some of my posts will be reviews of various forms of art and entertainment for my review writing class. Until I figure out a way to make a page within my blog that will be exclusive to these posts, these reviews will be on this page. Otherwise, enjoy!

The other day, I decided to revisit a game that was a major part of my childhood. Back when blowing into N64 ROM cartridges was the norm of the geeks (now it's just cumbersome and a waste of breath) 1997's Mischief Maker's was the death to my nights of good sleep.

I remember some consecutive days were spent trying to get out of a swampy, vertical labyrinth in one of world 3's levels because I couldn't figure out the order of its star teleportation. For the simplistic 2D, side-scrolling, run-jump-attack nature the game seemed to front, my forehead nerves trembled over its surprising level of difficulty. Unlike side-scrolling predecessors like the Mario and Donkey Kong series, the unpredictable emphasis on control strategy is what took me on a nauseating, tireless ride.

Here's to round two of playing through two worlds in under four hours... ten years later.

The conflict of the game involves a kidnap of Professor Theo, a self-proclaimed 'genius roboticus,' who's in planet Clancer for a visit. The protagonist you control is Marina Liteyears, Theo's robot maid who fights her way to the Empire that's behind the abduction. As you tread the various terrains of planet Clancer to get to your ultimate enemy, Emperor Leo, and find out why the kidnap happened in the first place, you overcome an obstacle of enemies and allies called "Clancers" - a species of ghoul-faced animals and humans - and the game's major trio of bosses called the Beastector Mechas.

When this game was released, a year after the inimitable Mario 64, it was the first 2D side-scrolling game for the console. What separates this from other side-scrollers is that not only does your character cover every horizontal, vertical, and diagonal grounds of your peripheral play space, you're also furiously bouncing, free-falling, swirling, swinging, teleporting, and rocketing-launching your way through the course. This brightly colored, fast-paced game is an epileptic's worst nightmare.

But this trip of a ride doesn't occur until you checked out of the first world, a deceiver of what's to come: a valley of lush greenery, flowers, and - aside from those employed under Emperor Leo - law abiding citizens of Clancer. Here, you learn the art of "grab and shake," because nothing's more mischievous than shaking the life and loot of those around you to get by. It's conveniently an all-in-one game control for just about anything in the game because not only is it used for attacks, but also transportation and weapon alchemy.

The problem is that inconvenience lies in the convenience, and this is the reason why, even on my revisit, I'm always facing troubles in this game. With full knowledge of how to get to the blue star at the end of each course, I'm still falling to my doom in the lava pits or the depth-defying skies because the calibrations to hold onto the ghoul-faced balls is both too sensitive and occasionally unresponsive. To make matters worse, the "grab and shake" tactic encompasses 60% of the gameplay. So when I think I'm holding onto a flying enemy or a ghoul ball, I see little Marina loose a portion of her life bar because of my spastic fingers.

Complaints aside, I still get a kick out of this game because it encompasses the essential attributes to, in my opinion, a good video game. The minimalist make-up of the MIDI music soundtrack, character mobility, text dialogue satirical to the heroic platform game genres, and recycled graphics make room for actual gameplay. With constant demands for CGI, theatrical storyline, and million interpretations of a hi-def explosion to please the visual jerkbooth, the craft of good, strategic gameplay is lost in today's world of video games.

Sure the strategic make-up of the game and its major bosses induce mild headaches - but doesn't that leave you striving for more? Finally finding the blue star in the endless swamp labyrinth will leave you feeling like a million bucks. Basking in the privileges to throw around both your enemies and allies à la Grand Theft Auto and shaking them up for money and vitality diamonds provides a great escape to freely be a mischief maker.

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