By Tyler Lubben / January 25th, 2014
|Release Date||JP: June 27, 1997
NA: October 1, 1997
EU: January 15, 1998
|Age Rating||ESRB: E|
I’m going to go ahead and start with a disclaimer right off the bat. Mischief Makers is a game near and dear to my heart. It’s one of my favorite titles from the Nintendo 64 era. I think the gameplay, characters, story and music are just fantastic. Marina is one of my all-time favorite video game heroines, as evidenced by the fact that, even today, I tend to name every female character I play after her. However, what kind of critic would I be if I couldn’t take off the nostalgia glasses, and give this game the same treatment that I give all games I review? So, with that in mind, let’s jump in with my very professional, very not gushy review of this N64 gem.
In an age when gamers were up to their eyeballs in exciting new 3D games, Mischief Makers sought to keep things simple. Developed by Treasure, and published by Enix before the Final Fantasy-spewing machine known as Square Enix (#NotBitter) came to be, Mischief Makers is a 2D platformer with pre-rendered environments more along the lines of the classic SNES titles that came before it. The game actually uses the D-pad for movement exclusively, completely foregoing the use of the control stick in any way. This caused no small amount of confusion the first time I fired the game up back in the day, thinking that my controller or the game was broken in some way. Players control Ultra-InterGalactic-Cybot G Marina Liteyears who, along with her creator, the mildly-perverted self-proclaimed robotics expert, Professor Theo, has come to the Planet Clancer because of reasons. Theo seems to have a penchant for being kidnapped, with the evil Empire’s forces imprisoning him multiple times throughout the course of the game. Marina then springs into action to take down the Imperial forces to get her creator back.
Despite being a super cool robot, Marina’s arsenal is pretty minimal. Much like in the Kirby games, most of Marina’s strengths come from her enemies themselves. Rather than shooting or jumping on them, she can grab, slam and throw her adversaries around levels, turning her foes into high-speed projectiles that decimate the Empire’s ground forces. Marina is also outfitted with a jet booster that is controlled with the C-buttons or the D-pad. This lets her boost forward or backward, hover in the air or shoot straight down to the ground when the situation calls for it. Marina can also roll by pushing the down C-button when on the ground, letting her fit through tight spaces Metroid-style. Finally, Marina can dash forward by pushing the Jump button while ducking, allowing her to blast past enemies in front of her, as well as cross short gaps that might be too low to jump over conventionally.
Mischief Makers offers a pretty varied selection of levels to play through. You have your standard fare of “fight enemies to the end” stages, but there is a good number of more unconventional stages, as well. There are also levels where Marina will be tasked with finding certain objects for another character before she can finish the level. Some stages are also made up of puzzles and mazes, making players find hidden warps to get farther before finally reaching the end. This is on top of the many mini-boss battles that pepper each of the game’s worlds, ensuring that players won’t get bored with any particular level type. Levels aren’t usually that challenging, but things can get a little annoying in stages with lava or other similar pitfalls. Falling into such a trap throws Marina back to an indeterminate checkpoint, so things can get pretty annoying if you have to restart the same section over and over when you keep falling into the same trap. These problems are pretty few and far between, however, so it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the game much.
Throughout the course of each level in Mischief Makers, Marina will come across large numbers of different colored floating crystals: red, blue, green and gold. Each one serves a purpose on her adventure. Red crystals are the closest thing to currency in the game, being used to buy another life any time Marina runs out of health. The alternative is being forced to start the level over from the beginning. Some of the game’s levels can get pretty long and involved, so having a way pick up from where you die is nice. Blue crystals give back a sliver of health every time one is picked up. They aren’t that great individually, but finding a stockpile of them can be pretty helpful. Greens are just a better version of blues, giving a larger chunk of health any time you grab one. Finally, golds give a significant chunk of health to Marina, but also serve an added benefit that I will get to a little later. Players usually start with just one health bar, but can store up to two more if they keep finding healing crystals at full health.
Aside from the Kirby-style combat in the game, Mischief Makers also features a mechanic where Marina can shake just about anything she’s holding. This will have various effects depending on what she’s holding. Shaking most enemies usually will cause them to drop one of the colored crystals. Shaking other items can have a variety of effects. Shaking bombs will shorten their fuses, or it can cause other items to grow in size. One of the most interesting aspects of this feature, though, is the mixing mechanic. In some levels, Marina will come across brown pots in which she can store different items. If compatible items are placed inside the pot, Marina can then shake the pot, and the items will be mixed together to make something new. For example, placing flowers inside a pot and shaking it up will mix them together into a shuriken. Mixing a number of shurikens together will cause them to transmute into a re-usable boomerang. There are many other recipes in the game, so experimenting is encouraged.
While there is something of an overarching story about fighting the Empire on Planet Clancer, each of Mischief Makers’ five worlds has a pretty episodic storyline. It becomes apparent to the Emperor early on that his ground forces alone won’t be enough to defeat Marina, so he enlists the help of the warriors of justice known as the Beastector to bring her down. Though they seem pretty mean, Lunar the Jackal, Taurus the Gorilla and Merco the Eagle are actually good guys. Problem is that they’ve been tricked by the Emperor into thinking that Marina is an evil attack robot who is terrorizing the general populace of the planet. As such, they go after her with the same ferocity that they would against other evildoers.
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