I know that I am not in any way alone in having vivid memories of Michael Jackson. It's probably impossible to have been sentient in the 1980's and not have the King of Pop firmly in your recollection. As a child during that time, however, the musician left a positively indelible mark on my life.
At the age of five, I could be found most evenings in my parents' living room, wearing headphones that enveloped my tiny skull and listening to Thriller on vinyl. I knew all the lyrics to all the songs and my favorite was Jackson's duet with Paul McCartney, "The Girl is Mine." That album never left the turntable until I carelessly scratched it, something neither my mother nor I have ever really forgiven.
When Bad came out in 1988, I begged my folks to buy me a copy on cassette. Seized wholly by the title track (and the convenience of it being the lead-in to the album), I only heard the other songs by accident as I repeatedly rewound the tape to listen again and again. In an even more egregious error, I loaned the cassette to a neighborhood kid who never returned it. It would be roughly a decade before I ever loaned any possession of mine without something in trade as a result.
In the early nineties, my elementary school held an assembly program where we watched Moonwalker, the feature film which released following his worldwide tour for Bad. My memory tells me that the purpose of this diversion was part of an anti-drug program aimed at scaring kids away from pharmacological pursuits. I walked away with two far more important pieces of knowledge: Jackson is terrifying as a claymation rabbit and Joe Pesci should always wear a tiny ponytail (and tinier sunglasses).
And then, there was the Moonwalker videogame, which I played any time I saw it in an arcade. It was, to my ten-year-old self, an amazing combination of two things that I absolutely loved.
The Moonwalker arcade game was a three-quarters perspective beat-em-up. Players take control of Michael across five stages as he attempts to defeat megalomaniacal drug kingpin, Mr. Big, and rescue children kidnapped by the villain. Michael fights Mr. Big's gangster underlings and robots through city streets, the Club '30s setting from the "Smooth Criminal" music video and a moon base in five stages.
Visually, it's a bit hot and cold. Of particular note are the comic book-style panels used to tell the game's story. Big and beautiful, they really catch the eye. By contrast, sprites aren't overly detailed but they look good. Animations for Michael are excellent, particularly during his dance sequences. Other characters very obviously did not get the same level of attention but you aren't likely to be playing a game starring Michael Jackson to see how well his enemies can get down.
If you should find a cabinet, feed it a quarter. Even if you have never been a fan of the "Gloved One" -- something I can't really fathom, but I'm sure there's someone out there -- it's really pretty unique as a game. The simple charm, combined with the evident style of Jackson, makes it worth at least that much of an investment.
Thank you, Michael, for everything that you gave.
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