By Tyler Lubben / January 25th, 2014
Though Marina usually has to do everything herself, she does have a few friends to help her along the way. Key among these is young boy named Teran, who assists Marina in fights a few times, as well as taking over as a playable character when Marina gets knocked out of commission for a few levels. There are a few other supporting characters, but they are seen so rarely that I really didn’t get a chance to care about any of them. Everything else is pretty much secondary to the relationship between Marina and Theo anyway, which is funny, yet also heartfelt in its approach. After saving Theo at the end of each chapter, she’s usually extremely relieved to have him back, but he then says something inappropriate that ends up infuriating Marina, who proceeds to throw him across the galaxy in classic “Team Rocket’s Blasting Off Again” fashion.
To be honest, I was a little turned off by the 2D graphics in the face of 3D titles like Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time back in the day, but I find them charming now. Marina’s model and movements are pretty detailed, and the various environments, from verdant and peaceful village environments in the beginning, to snow-capped mountains, to the urban military bases later on in the game, all look great. What I was less impressed by, however, was the general look of about every standard enemy, item and platform inhabiting the world. It seems the general theme of Planet Clancer is that every single object on the planet must have this sad, creepy face resembling the mask worn by the villains of the Scream movies. In addition, almost every single inhabitant of the planet uses the exact same character model. The only difference between them is their coloration, their size and the hats they’re wearing. I don’t know if it was laziness or lack of resources, but it sure gets confusing when the game says I’m supposed to care about the good characters when they look exactly the same as the bad ones.
While I’m not wild about the standard enemies in the game, the boss battles are quite a different story. Some of the mini-bosses are a bit of a puzzle, trying to figure out how to damage them when just trying to throw them doesn’t work. The Beastector members are by far the best, though. Marina meets each member twice, once midway through a world for a one-on-one fight, and then at the end of that world for a final battle with each member’s war machine. These battles are much more drawn out, and call for quick reflexes and endurance to be successful. Each fight generally involves Marina finding some way to use her opponents’ attacks against them, as they are too strong to simply be thrown around like the Empire’s ground troops. These fights are definitely the highlights of the game, and I always look forward to each one whenever I play the game.
As is to be expected from games of the time, the voice acting in Mischief Makers is pretty light. Most of the game’s dialogue is done through text boxes, though many of the more prominent characters have a collection of different portraits to convey their mood while talking. There are a few voice clips from Marina, Theo and the members of the Beastector, so it isn’t completely silent. Much of it is the same as you might expect from games of the era, with Marina and others making various grunts and yells when jumping and fighting. There are a few iconic sound bites that I’ll always remember though – like Marina’s “STOOOOOOPPPPPPP!” and Theo’s classic cry, “HEEEEELLLPP MEEEEE, MARINAAAAAA!” My favorite though, would have to be the simple “Shake, shake” that Marina says every time she shakes an item or enemy.
While I wouldn’t say that the game’s soundtrack is particularly memorable, I did enjoy it, and many of the tracks are pretty catchy. What’s important is that the tracks capture the mood of the game’s various stages, and it does succeed in that respect. Early game tracks are calm and playful, while boss battle tracks are exciting and fast-paced. The soundtrack certainly helped with the game’s immersion, so I can’t ask for more than that.
One of the most memorable parts of Mischief Makers would have to be the way they handle the game’s ending. Remember those gold crystals that I mentioned earlier? Well, they’re more than just healing items. Every level in the game contains a single gold crystal for Marina to find. After beating the final boss, players can start the epilogue any time they wish. As the final cinematic plays, there is a box on the bottom of the screen showing the count of gold crystals that the player found during the course of the game. Each crystal equals a few more seconds of the epilogue for players to watch. Once it runs out, the cinematic ends, and you get kicked back to the stage select screen. So, the only way to see the entire epilogue is to find every single gold crystal in the game.
I’ll always remember Mischief Makers for being the 2D game in the 3D ocean. In a time when both developers and customers were all about 3D, Mischief Makers held to the old traditions, and made something truly memorable. It isn’t an especially long game, taking only a few hours to complete if you just blow through the levels, but you’ll probably add a few more hours if you want to find all the gold crystals and see the ending. It really is one of the most underrated games of the N64 era. As is the case with most of my retro reviews, it’s a game that I would love to see on the Wii U Virtual Console, and, while it’s hard to say how likely that is, it definitely deserves a spot in the library. However, if you still like to dust off your N64 from time to time, you can find a used copy on Amazon for around $10. If you have a few bucks burning a hole in your wallet, Mischief Makers is certainly worth your time.
Game purchased by the reviewer. Images captured on an emulator.
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