A Little Over-Shaken
Games based off anime are terrible!
Those that happen to wonder upon such statements usually consider it a truth. However, it is not too often that a platform title takes on the image of a japanimation-esque image and actually turns out to be good. In a world where three dimensional adventures were emerging, one secluded title managed to stand foothold in forgotten territory. The territory I am speaking of is the world of the two-dimensional side-scroller. The Nintendo 64 was the epitome of overlooked titles, and Mischief Makers was one of them. On top of my excitement to find such a unique game, there was even more to be mounted by the fact the developer was Treasure; also known for their work on popular games like: Gunstar Heroes and Ikargua. From top to bottom, the formula seems meticulous; however, several jagged edges assist in giving this forgotten game a rather empty persona.
Using classic anime-style visuals and a straight-forward storyline, Mischief Makers spends no time dabbling in an unnecessary plot. Therefore, we get a "save-the-day" style adventure, which we are all too well aware of. A perverted old man named Professor Theo is kidnapped by a group of strange creatures and it is up to his creation, Marina, to come save him. Being an android, she has several useful abilities, such as: wave dashes, enhanced strength, and a strange urge to shake everything. Okay, maybe there is not much to her, but short-changed or not, it is all we get. Now though she should feel like a protagonist, a new emperor sees her as the opposite and sends his henchmen to finish her off. Going out on a simple note here, it is obvious the storyline is shallow and even from that, it definitely takes time to get going.
Gone are the need for high tech gadgets and the vivid array of vigilante weaponry; all you need in this world is your hands. You will be moving across said world in a stage format, with each world having eleven stages, most of which not taking any more than fifteen minutes to complete. There are literally some levels in the game that can be simply run over and there is nothing in the way to stop you. However, each stage will have its own theme, from gathering a group of rebellious children, to kicking the hell out of a union of bandits. The most bizarre aspect of the game, though, is the previously mentioned attack moves. Though there are some weapons you can pick up and use, such as knives and machine guns, you will mostly be shaking your enemies. That's right... shaking them, back and forth, and back and forth. While you may be questioning this title's sanity already, it is an interesting formula. Following Super Mario Bros. 2 style of game-play, you can pick up enemies, shake them for loot, and either toss them or slam them into the dirt. While it all sounds well and good, what hurts this game the most is the distinct, but poor control.
Now I would not say it is completely abysmal, but I would have liked the option to use the analog control stick instead of what they put on the table. Moving the beautiful Marina around requires a strange mix of the control pad and the C buttons. Using these in a correlating, simultaneous fashion will allow you to dash forward and back, and doing so while jumping will cause you to hover over intimidating canyons. The response time is tight, however, there is a bit of lag involving said C buttons. So, in the end, crossing some large gaps throughout the game became frustrating as all hell. Also, at times you would need to get a high head start to cross that narrow canyon, but the camera does not allow auto focus. This resulted in me dying several times because I had absolutely no idea where I was landing. It is times like this when I thought, “Hey, that old man really needs to give his little sex-bot a tune up.”
Mischief Makers tends to be a simple premise game with fluctuating challenge. However, to give players a sense of urgency, Treasure provided a grading system for each and every stage. Depending on the time you complete the level and how much you can complete in that span, you will be rewarded with a grade. Now, I personally hate grading systems since they remind me of the sickly high school days, but I will not get those memories going again. Speaking of getting through each stage, the puzzles, while quirky, are imaginative and will require thought. Most of them revolve around shaking certain hovering balls in order to cross certain obstacles. Arouses you doesn't it? Well, hopefully not, and to your assumed relief, there are more things to do. Escorting a team of Clancers to safety, racing to the finish to avoid that wall of lava, or just plain kicking the asses out of the many intriguing, but simple bosses, all sum up a slice of what you will be working on.
On the other side of the coin, Treasure wanted to give players a reason to keep playing and that comes in the form of hidden gold gems. Blue and red gems will provide health and completion points, but the true prize will land you a greater reward. Each of nearly sixty stages in the game hides them and the most fun I had, had been trying to figure out where each one was. Some may involve shaking one of several nearby pedestrians to death or finding hidden passageways through a series of trials. What I thought was neat was how I could progress back through the stage again, just in case I passed what I was looking for. Gone are the shortcuts or hints and I was pleased that the game actually makes you find those habiliments on your own for a change. It is just a shame that most of the stages are so similar; I would have liked more variety in the shuffle.
If I could sum up the visuals in one word, it would be resplendent. Naturally, if this title had been on the Super Nintendo, many would have been blown away. However, in the 64-bit area, they can simply share an above average quality. Backgrounds are beautifully rendered and articulate, while the character motions are fluid and smooth. I would have liked to see a bit more unique character designs, as the previously mentioned Clancers are all alike with the exception of a color change here and there. Boss fights are excellently rendered and take advantage of the system's aliasing. Just picture a tremendous, crimson dragon spewing acidic flames, all the while trying to hammer you to death with his knuckles. Yeah, I am being descriptive, which is just what was implemented.
The funky, techno beats all provide an upbeat charm, alongside the excellent scenery the game encompasses. From the orchestral like trumpet playing of the lava stages, to the more quiet and serene sense of the snow world, everything is done fine. Voice acting is all but absent, besides a couple evil laughs, the screaming rambles of the old man, and a couple quotes from Marina. Speaking of which, all she really says in the game is... you guessed it…”Shake, Shake…Shake.” It gets kind of redundant after a while, as it will be your primary attack throughout the adventure. So, refuse the urge to shake your cartridge senselessly against the wall, it really is not that bad.
With a mix of up's and down's, Mischief Makers comes off as a bizarre and charming, yet overall, disappointing outing. It should have had a lot going for it, but the poor control system, lack of additional game modes, and repetitive game-play overshadow the positives. So much so that I could not exaggerate this outing with anything other than a feeling of mediocrity. I will say this though, the game really is a sight to behold and if you can bypass the fluctuating faults, you can come out with a fairly decent platformer.