By Sarumarine 3 Comments
Past expiration is my clever term for talking about a game that is way past its prime. In this case, a shake-em'-up from 1997 that came out on the N64. Topical!
Mischief Makers (Shake Shake: The Game)Back in the late 90's, when video rental stores were still relevant, I rented quite a few games for the N64 when I was growing up. One of them happened to be a game called Mischief Makers. I remembered seeing a tiny article about it in a Nintendo Power but didn't know much else. The only reason I ended up giving it a chance was because all the good games were gone so it was practically my only choice. I didn't know what to expect but as I started playing it I got to know one of the craziest games ever released on the N64. I get the impression that this is one of the more obscure games, which is a damn shame considering how awesome it is. It comes from the insane people at Treasure where you play as a super powered robot maid named Marina Liteyears as she tries to save her creator Professor Theo over and over again.
Now, the most important thing to know is how crazy Mischief Makers is on all fronts. Unlike most games where you stomp, shoot, or shoryuken your way to victory- you grab, shake, and throw in this game. You can grab damn near anything from giant knuckles, missiles, or freaking laser beams. Part of the fun of this game is figuring out what you can grab and turn into an unconventional weapons. Most of this will involve shaking that will trigger Marina's catchphrase "shake, shake." There's also quite a bit of platforming which is navigated with Marina's rocket boosters she can use to dash and fly around. It's definitely not an easy game to adjust to. I had a very long warming up period to the play mechanics (especially the dash jump) but the pay off is the ability to enjoy plenty of crazy action. Especially boss battles.
The art style is a mix of 3D objects and sprites that gives it a rough appearance (even when the game first came out). Treasure has been known to play around with all sorts of perspectives like bosses in the background or objects that fly at the screen. Even with the graphics, things get pretty hectic and add a lot to the general insanity going on. The story is also nuts mostly because it plays on a lot of Japanese style and sensibilities. Characters have no respect for the fourth wall and will call out things like boss battles on a regular basis. Plot takes a backseat to the action and I guess it helps that the characters don't take it too seriously. I know games that are too Japanese can wear thin on some people, but I think it really helps with the oddball character design and pacing of challenges.
Levels, and the game itself, can be quite short. But in that small amount of time they try to get a lot done. There are standard "fight your way through all these dudes" but then there are stages where you ride a tricycle for no reason whatsoever. You'll fight a bee in a volcano, explore amusement parks, surf on a cruise missile, climb up a volcano shaft as it sways back and forth, and play punch out with a giant lizard creature by catching his fists and throwing them back in his face. The game does a good job of mixing things up from area to area. And it probably comes at no surprise that the boss battles in this game are amazing considering this game is made by Treasure.
For instance, one of my favorite boss battles involves riding a cat while battling a motorcycle that fires missiles. As you ride on the cat, you can jump on a missile and ride it around. While this is going on you can still grab and throw things back at the boss. It's pretty incredible to pull off. Another battle involves mercilessly body slamming a boss with his own giant mech. If any of this sounds like it could be tricky, you'd be right. For the most part these are not easy fights. Most of the challenge involves figuring out what you're supposed to grab and where you're supposed to throw it. The bosses will not make this easy as they fill up the screen with projectiles or constantly jump in your face to beat you senseless.
The downside of this game, as mentioned before, is the difficulty. If you're jumping in cold there's a lot to adjust to. Sometimes the way to beat a boss or overcome a challenge isn't immediately obvious. The game has a hint system in place, but it's not always helpful. When I first played through Mischief Makers, I was almost forever stuck at a part of the game where you suddenly participate in a Track and Field-esque mini-game collection. I could not beat a series of meter dash events no matter how hard I tried. The idea was simple enough to outrun your opponents using Marina's dash, but it never seemed enough. I just about wrote off Mischief Makers as a broken piece of garbage until accidentally figuring out how to win.
The trick was that the C-Buttons are mapped to Marina's dash. But you can also use the D-Pad to dash faster by double tapping it. Using the D-Pad, you can easily smoke the competition with enough button presses. It really pissed me off, but I'm glad I got past it because the upcoming boss battles were totally worth it. Apparently there's a hint in the very beginning of the game that outlines the D-Pad dash abilities. But the Track and Field events are two worlds later. Plenty of time to forget.
I think that Mischief Makers is absolutely awesome. If I had to compare it to a recent game, I'd probably say Bayonetta without the overt sexual themes. However, I can totally understand if someone has a problem with this game because it's certainly different. Unique can be awesome, but it can be hard to handle sometimes. This game is also pretty short if you're not going for 100 percent completion. The only way to see the full ending is by collecting gold gems scattered throughout every level. Getting them from bosses often involve beating them without getting hit. This can be insanely hard to pull off, especially on fights like Cerberus Alpha and Phoenix Gamma.
Still, I'm glad Mischief Makers got made. It's another one of those N64 games I wouldn't mind seeing a sequel on another console if just so I can shake, shake or grab lasers out of the air.