(Nintendo 64)

Mischief Makers (Nintendo 64)

Game Review

Mischief Makers Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Jamie O'Neill

Go Go!! 2D Treasure Makers

With a US release in 1997 Mischief Makers, or Go Go!! Trouble Makers in Japan, was not only an early example of a N64 centric side-scrolling 2D platformer, it also successfully made its mark in gaming history by being the first Treasure game to land on a Nintendo platform. However, it would be shallow to describe Mischief Makers as a simple Treasure-developed 2D platformer: whilst a great amount of coverage is given to Treasure’s involvement, there is more to its development background and its gameplay than pigeonholing it to one genre.

Mischief Makers was a collaboration, an awesome partnership between Treasure and Enix before its merger with Square. It is a game packed with varied gameplay, and though it may be a platformer at its heart its design has numerous instances of action and puzzle elements too.

Mischief Makers is a single player game, with a story which transports the player to the Planet Clancer, thrown into turmoil and on the brink of civil war, a situation brought about by the evil intentions of its Emperor and his Imperial forces. The Emperor is obsessed by a visitor to Clancer, a supposed genius in robotics, called Professor Theo. He has gone as far to brainwash a large number of local Clancer people and sent them to kidnap Theo, but he has underestimated the main character, the Ultra-InterGalactic-Cybot G, Marina Liteyears. Under the player's control Marina will do everything in her power to rescue Theo, grabbing, shaking and throwing anyone and anything standing between her and her mission.

The game takes Marina through 52 playable stages in total and five separate areas: Planet Clancer, Migen's Shrine, Mt. Snow, Aster's Lair and the Imperial HQ. These are all represented on a 'stage select' map, which serves to give far greater replay access to each level compared to that of N64 Yoshi's Story. For example, the second level in the first area is called 'Meet Calina!!', which is designated a hyphenated number of 1-2. Calina is a lip pouting Clancer who sets out to be a clone of Marina. This doppelganger plays a key role in events later on in the story and adds to the hilarity. Her fraudulent status, as Miracle-Outer-Galactic-Android Z, ranks alongside GCN Super Mario Sunshine's Shadow Mario as another humorous example of a video game character impersonator.

However, whilst gamers may initially delight in the fun lavished on this game’s characterisation, their first impressions of its control system may not be so endearing. Treasure/Enix created a control system that is the antithesis of a friendly, approachable and intuitive platformer. It uses almost all the buttons on the N64 pad, is completely D-Pad oriented, with subtle intricacies and complexities which the developers force the player to become proficient with to be able to progress, rewarding persistent players with an inventive and unique control system.

The gameplay revolves around grabbing, shaking and throwing, whether it is an enemy, a missile, a round floating Clanball platform, or a hidden warp star gate. Experimentation is part of the fun in exploiting the controls: an inaccessible narrow gap may be navigated, through the use of a roll manoeuvre. Marina is encouraged to shake everything within her grasp to discover new play methods: shaking a machine gun or a missile pod accomplishes three-way fire and the ability to launch homing missiles.

Whilst throwing enemies may feel like a natural evolution of Gunstar Heroes, grabbing hold of Clanballs to leap to a greater height is not instinctive at first. The game's links to Treasure have also ensured that this game is an explosive boss fest: whilst the mid-level boss's gameplay sections are unremarkable, their pun-based titles are still memorable. It is not hard to guess what type of level is home to Flambéé, Chilly Dog, Toadly Raw and Moley Cow. These characters also stand out through their pre-rendered 3D modelling, an effect which appears to be similar to Donkey Kong Country’s 'Advanced Computer Modelling' technique.

The actual end of area bosses are superb and sit alongside Treasure’s finest. The 'Migen Brawl!!' (2-11) is an early highlight: any gamer with a brother who liked to play a game of "stop hitting yourself" with them, will know exactly how to thwart that boss. Mischief Makers' true highlight is the transforming boss triumvirate of Cerberus Alpha (Lunar), Sasquatch Beta (Tarus) and Phoenix Gamma (Merco). Marina faces each separately and confronting each one of these Beastectors and beating their combination of mecha vehicles becomes a multi-tiered battle banquet. It would be unfair to reveal too much about these scraps, especially the final boss battle, except to state that if you enjoyed battling Gunstar Heroes’ Seven Force, or if you were a fan of Transformers or Power Rangers as a kid, then you are going to love these encounters.

Mischief Makers is overloaded with variety and introduces a new gameplay mechanic around every turn. The player will be scratching their head to a mind-bending 'Snowstorm Maze' or 'Aster’s Maze!' puzzle level one moment and be outrunning a hot rush of lava or escaping a tumbling, rolling rock in the next. Not many developers build into their game a completely fresh character with his own dedicated move set for players to control, and then only utilise all of their design work for two extremely brief levels. That is exactly what happens in Mischief Makers, when you take fleeting control of Teran instead of Marina.

This variety extends to the visuals and audio. It is surprising that Mischief Makers has been criticised for its sound, as it is unique, varied and dramatic. It builds based upon each level's theme, from upbeat dance tunes with as much personality as its quirky characters to an excellent implementation of a creepy and eerie score for its 'Ghost Catcher!' level. The graphics are similarly diverse: attention has been lavished upon the bosses, which display a viewpoint that zooms out to reveal a wider battle field and scales the size of its characters. Scaling effects and screen rotation are also implemented to complement gameplay sections, as is demonstrated by the dizzying rocking motion of 'Seasick Climb'.

There are only a few detrimental points to stop Mischief Makers earning a higher score. The controls are intricate and complex, but they subsequently create problems for the gameplay. Initially control is frustrating and appears to be imprecise, but once they are actually mastered the move set empowers the player to such an extent that it makes the general game too easy to complete. You can also obtain three separate health bars for Marina, making the game even easier.

Similarly, challenging boss encounters become a cakewalk once you've determined how to defeat each of their separate manoeuvres and counter specific attack patterns. In many ways Treasure and Enix cannot win with this game: they are criticised for making it too complex and then derided for enabling the player to develop skills which allow Marina to easily outwit her enemies. Ultimately, Mischief Makers rewards players who are determined to master its intricacies, equally ensuring any gamer who chooses to give up early will end up missing out.

Conclusion

The combination of Masato Maegawa's Treasure team and Keiji Honda's Enix staff gelled together to synthesise a title brimming with invention, character and personality quirks.

Its complex mechanics and unique control system made it inapproachable to some during early play attempts, and it does not truly blossom until the player has mastered its intricacies, and even its stunning boss encounters do not completely shine until two thirds of the way into the game. Anyone who invests the time to engage in its subtleties and complexities will be rewarded with a fun experience, but whether or not it is ultimately convoluted or bordering on sophistication and genius is for you to decide.

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User Comments (44)

ZarroTsu

#1

ZarroTsu said:

Through fire, justice is served!
A hero, with shining armor is called!
To punish evil forces, I have been charged!

accc

#4

accc said:

One of the best games on N64.

What's with the reviewer complaining about the lack of difficulty? Obviously he wouldn't have said that if he tried to get all the gold gems and 'A' rankings.

winter123

#7

winter123 said:

the better question being when is it coming to virtual console? or has nintendo completely forgotten virtual console by now??

Aenaida

#9

Aenaida said:

This game is only easy if you plough through all of the levels and bosses without caring about what kind of ranking you receive. If you want to get an S Rank for every level, you'll need to master the controls and be able to perform split-second moves like that. snaps fingers It's still an incredible game regardless, and one of my favourites from any console.

Klapaucius

#10

Klapaucius said:

Love this game! Needs to be released on VC so that everyone gets a chance to enjoy it - those who missed it and another chance for those who already played it. The music is also excellent... I still occasionally find myself humming tracks from it.

accc

#13

accc said:

I don't think the 'S' rankings were meant for normal players to attempt. Aren't they based on the actual developers' best times? Anyway you only need to get all 'A' rankings to get the best ending IIRC.

BTW this game is dirt cheap on Amazon, so if anyone still has their dusty old N64 lying around like me it'll be worth your while to pick one up now instead of waiting around for a VC version!

You_from_the_Future

#14

You_from_the_Future said:

This game is phenomenal, with fun gameplay combined with a weird comedic quirkiness. However, I do remember HATING the "olympic" levels when I was little, simply because it took me forever to win the track events...

KeeperBvK

#15

KeeperBvK said:

@ accc: The rankings have no influence on the ending or on anything for that matter. The ending's only influenced by the amount of yellow crystals you've collected.

@ You from the future: Try pressing the directional pad rapidly instead of the C-buttons. This way you can dash a lot quicker, thus rendering the track events quite easy.

TLink9

#19

TLink9 said:

@19 same thoughts
Is it me or is there are hardly any updates today. I'm pumped for E3. :D

Token_Girl

#22

Token_Girl said:

It's almost a shame that it's a partnership. Squeenix and Treasure both releases their games on VC but being a partnership means profits would have to be cut 3 ways. Doesn't seem like it'd be impossible to see, but I'd imagine we'll be waiting a while either way.

LordJumpMad

#23

LordJumpMad said:

This is what you Call a Classic N64 Game ;)

its also one of those games that no one played...

Nickno

#24

Nickno said:

Wow. This game is obviously popular yet I have never heard of it. Sorta weird. Looks interesting. :)

BJWanlund

#25

BJWanlund said:

The crazy thing is, I've heard of it... but I have NEVER played it!! Please put this on VC and then I can try it for my own self!

BJ

devillinko

#27

devillinko said:

Very Cool Game !! If they approached more games with this kind of 2D graphics, the console would have a better reputation!

JamieOStaff

#28

JamieO said:

I am super pleased to be able to have another retro review posted on Nlife, cheers loads to everyone on the Nlife team, I've even posted a li'l Twitpic to show how much I am buzzing.

@accc @Aenaida and @KeeperBvK I agree 100% with your comments, but hear me out for a second, because I can explain and elaborate upon your points. As I compiled this review, I basically became carried away with my research and my final piece was humongous. I was excited about this retro title, but my writing desperately needed to be cut and edited, because it was far too long winded.

I apologise to everyone at Nlife, the Nlife team and its readers, because I definitely need to work on my writing style to become more concise. I also directly apologise to @accc @Aenaida and @KeeperBvK because I wrote an analysis of Mischief Maker's rankings and gold gem system, but it contributed to an overly long review and was therefore edited. If anyone wants to discuss more about Mischief Makers here, I will post some of my edited writing as comments. For example, here are a couple of cut paragraphs, which didn't make the final review, but are relevant to your comments:

  • The full multitude of treats and surprises that this game has to offer is commendable. There are even more ideas bubbling inside this cartridge that have not yet been mentioned, including a Clanpot recipe and ingredient mixing system used to conjure up player built power-ups, timed bomb explosion puzzles, as well as a collectible gem system to extend longevity. Once the controls have been conquered a player may easily blast through Mischief Makers from start to finish within three and a half hours.
    However, it will be unlikely that they would have collected a significant number of hidden gold gems to unlock the more detailed, revealing ending. It is also doubtful that they would have earned many dignified rankings, such as an excellent 'A', or particularly a perfect 'S' rating throughout their journey. Mischief Makers openly encourages players to return to each level, even if it is to simply to build up some extra blue or green health gems, or collect red gems to amass more continues.

Cheers to everyone, I really enjoyed repeatedly completing this game for the review. :)

Stuffgamer1

#31

Stuffgamer1 said:

I agree with Token Girl regarding the reasons a VC release of this would be difficult. It also doesn't help that Squenix's output in general has been painfully slow and concentrated more on the Square side for the most part.

I'm in the group that got frustrated with the controls early in. I found myself wondering why this game is even popular to begin with. Now that I know it's one of those "hard learning curve" things, I may give it another go sometime.

JamieOStaff

#32

JamieO said:

Cheers @Stuffgamer1, your comment has summed up my initial experience of Mischief Makers, too. I hit a barrier with its controls at first, but I would recommend that you return to it and persevere through to its final stages. Once you reach the later boss battles, I am sure that you will really enjoy it. I keep on returning to it now.

I can also appreciate @devillinko's comment about 2D games on the N64. The N64 may have been a strong 3D console in 1996, yet it never became renowned for its 2D games. However, within a year of its release Treasure/ Enix unleashed this brilliant side-scrolling 2D platformer and it even bested Nintendo and HAL's N64 games in this genre, by creating a title that was superior to both Yoshi's Story and Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards.

If you were to grab a pen and paper and list all of the notable 2D games on the system, the chances are that you would struggle to fill a page. You could make the task easier by including polygon games which present a 2D perspective and 2.5D games in your list. Presumably you would include Killer Instinct Gold, Bangai-O, Star Soldier Vanishing Earth and Mortal Kombat Trilogy. You may even note down a nod to the magnificent Ogre Battle 64.

Narrow the parameters of your list to the genre of 2D or 2.5D N64 platformers and the task becomes more challenging. Without a doubt Yoshi’s Story and Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards would make that list, possibly Donald Duck: Goin’ Quakers/ Quack Attack could be included too. Most likely of all is that you would write down this underrated classic at the top of your list. If you think that my 8/10 score is too low, you may be even more disappointed if you were to see some of the lower scores that this game received when it was first released. It is with hindsight and in the context of viewing its role as one of the few great 2D games on N64 that ensures that Mischief Makers is appreciated as a real marvel....

.... and spot on to all of the VC/sequel comments posted here. I would also like for Mischief Makers to be granted a release on Virtual Console, but as @Token Girl and @Stuffgamer1 state there may be issues of publisher rights between Treasure and Square Enix. Also @Klapaucius, I would love to see a sequel too, as well as a remake or even a fancy ReBirth style update. ;)

MeloMan

#33

MeloMan said:

This is like one of three N64 games I never got to play and always wanted to.

motang

#35

motang said:

I never got to play this game (since I skipped that whole generation), but I do hear it's good.

GrangeGrover

#37

GrangeGrover said:

@JamieO: thanx for the review and the list of 2d games on n64! I'd like to add.a couple to that list: Mystical Ninja Goemon's Great Adventure, and the original Super Smash bros. Both of which fall into the "3d graphics, 2d gameplay" category, which I think is still sorely underrepresented in games.

GrangeGrover

#38

GrangeGrover said:

@JamieO: thanx for the review and the list of 2d games on n64! I'd like to add.a couple to that list: Mystical Ninja Goemon's Great Adventure, and the original Super Smash bros. Both of which fall into the "3d graphics, 2d gameplay" category, which I think is still sorely underrepresented in games.

bioniccheese

#39

bioniccheese said:

i remember this game being too strange for me back in the day-control and gameplay wise.
maybe ill give it a shot once again if it comes out.as i consider myself more open minded now :-)
anyway, even back then i really appreciated the unusual themes and
style and the crazy storyline.

JamieOStaff

#40

JamieO said:

Spot on in your mention of N64 Goemon's Great Adventure, not only does it qualify as a side-scrolling platformer, but the Goemon games have always been great for co-op. I have loved the Mystical Ninja titles since the SNES days. If @Stuffgamer1 puts it in the top spot, we have the making of a 'Best 2D N64 game' discussion. Has that one been covered by the forums yet? Nice one for your kind comments and Super Smash Bros. mention too, @GrangeGrover.

@KeeperBvK Thanks mate, and no worries, you did not criticise my review. The comments simply raised an issue which I was already conscious of before I submitted it. There is lots that I have not covered here. I have not mentioned that Mischief Makers does not have a difficulty option or a menu configuration screen, I should have said more about gold gems/ rankings and I could have included more detail about the controls (e.g. to reach height and distance from a jump the 'slider jump' can be mastered, by pressing down and double pressing 'A' quickly).

I would have liked to discuss the story in greater detail, for examples its humour is excellent and its dialogue is superbly self-referential. The Clancers are quirky and mischievous, like a cross between Joe Dante's/Spielburg’s maniacal Gremlins, but each wearing a Wes Craven style Scream mask. Also, if the cut-scenes become too much, they can be skipped with the 'Z' trigger.

I definitely should have written more detail on Clanpot recipe mixing, as well as the Teran levels and I have not even mentioned riding Cat Clancer, the Ostrich or especially the brilliant Flambéé shmup type level. This is only my 7th retro review, so I'm still learning. I think I need to realise that gamers do not especially want a reviewer to cover everything, that would spoil the game. It is most important to prioritise the important parts, because the extra details can be discussed as comments. Writing a few reviews here makes me appreciate the work of the other Nlife writers even more. They consistently review and inform, so I am grateful as a user for all of their contributions. I predominantly visit Nlife as a reader, so I have loads to learn from the team.

I'll hang around here and happily chat more, as long as people want to talk about about Mischief Makers. I'm interested in what Nlife's gamers think about its graphical style and the N64's ability as a 2D machine, when compared to a machine heralded as a 2D legend, like Sega's Saturn. :)

EdEN

#41

EdEN said:

I just replayed the whole game at the end of 2009 since I own it on cartridge and it feels like one of the best N64 games. The fact that it was pretty much a launch title is even better.

RetroNL

#42

RetroNL said:

I also own the cartridge, and have played it (also finished it that I can remember) Still it was one of the better platformers on N64 with many fun details, I loved the 'cat' fights ;).

niner

#43

niner said:

How funny, I was just thinking about this game a couple of days ago. 8 out of 10 is pretty generous IMHO for this title, however. I own the cartridge but after playing it all the way through back in the day, I don't think I've played it once since. Not a classic in my mind.

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