There are a select few who could survive the transition to video game protagonist. One can’t quite imagine Super Bono RPG, for instance. But Michael Jackson? There was a guy ripe for gamedom.
I first ran across Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker in a run-down mall arcade in Mexico. I had only the vaguest idea of who Jackson was, and absolutely no notion that the game before my grubby hands was based on a film of his. It didn’t really matter, because a sharply-dressed gangster who killed kidnapping robots with magic bursts of energy was, as far as I recall, an untapped niche in the 90s arcade scene. There was also the ability to dance the enemies to death and an out-of-nowhere robot power-up in the form of Bubbles the Chimp, just to reinforce the whole Michael Jackson theme it had going on.
Note to kids: learn how to dance and you can be this cool, too!
Interestingly enough, I never got close to finishing the game. It was always a guilty pleasure I could plunk a few quarters in to pass the time. It didn’t whip me into a spastic frenzy the way that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles could, but there was a certain bit of charm to holding the attack button down so Mikey could moonwalk all over the stage. I like to think I walked away from the game feeling just a slight bit cooler. Also of note, the machine stuck around for many, many years. For close to a decade’s worth of sporadic tourism, I saw the cabinet as my relatives took me on the customary mall excursion.
In this odd fashion, Moonwalker became a staple of my childhood, and it’s my choice for our Classic Game of the Week.
No doubt, the immediate future will be filled with all kinds of tributes directed to The Gloved One. To these outpourings of loss and love, I can only offer one comment: He made a damned fun game.