If the short phrase “Shake, shake!” brings a flood of nostalgia, or at least a faint remembrance of your childhood, then you’re like me and had parents that for some strange reason decided to buy you a game called Mischief Makers. When I was asked to take over Retro Luster, this was honestly one of the first games that came to mind when deciding on what games I should share with the readers of this site. Mischief Makers has garnered somewhat of a cult following as an underrated gem of the N64’s platformer/action collection. Having my fond memories of this game close at hand when my copy came in the mail from Amazon (at the steep price of $11.99 I might at), I popped it into my N64 and hoped my childhood memories weren’t deceiving me.
Mischief Makers was developed by Japanese company Treasure, most notably known for making Sin & Punishment, Wario World, and critically acclaimed shoot ‘em up Ikaruga, and was released state side in October of 1997. I think the main reason that so many of us have fond memories of this strange little Japanese game was that its release and localization coincided so closely with the launch of the N64, which was released in November of 1997. I know that Mischief Makers, along with Super Mario 64, was among the first few games that I got as a kid.
I’m going to be honest; the story of Mischief Makers is garbage. It’s nonsensical, unimportant, and the levels have very little reflection of the story elements that go on in the cut scenes outside of the levels. For example one of the first main boss fights is fought while riding a cat, that can jump on missiles to fly the missiles and the main character can throw more missiles back at the boss, but we’ll get into the boss fights later. The story focuses on a main character with possibly the most ridiculous name that I have ever heard: “Ultra-Intergalactic-Cybot G Marina Liteyears” or Marina for short. Marina wants nothing more than to live in peace with the man who created her, Professor Theo. The evil Emperor uses mind control and brainwashing to use the locals of Planet Clancer to kidnap professor Theo and it becomes Marina’s job to return him to safety. In all honesty you could blindfold yourself and face the other direction during cut scenes and it would have almost no effect on your enjoyment of the game.
Graphically the game is very inspired…by what I’m not sure, maybe drugs. Nearly every single thing in the environment, from enemies, to “buildings”, to literally nearly everything else has faces on it. We’re not talking happy 1997 smiley face doodled on a quiz in elementary school. No we’re talking gaunt, unnerving flashing red holes on everything. Eventually though they do just kind of fade away into the background to the point where they mostly go unnoticed. The game looks about average for the time it was released, nothing stands out in particular except for a couple of cool back grounds that would probably go unnoticed unless someone pointed them out to you. You can tell what everything in the game is at least, and sometimes that’s all you can ask of a retro game.
While it was the faces on everything that stood visually, when it comes to the sound of the game, it’s the dialogue that immediately comes to mind when you ask anyone about this game. Unless I’m mistaken, there are about 7 phrases in English in the whole game. That’s not to say the rest of the game is in Japanese or some other language, there just is not any other dialogue. Which is actually to the game’s benefit, since the story doesn’t matter essentially, what they say doesn’t matter particularly. For some reason though the few lines that Marina and her cast of characters say have stuck with me, as I’m sure it has with others, “Shake, shake!” in particular has taken on some small life of its own outside of the game.
Presentation: 5/10: I wish I could have scored Mischief Makers higher here but the story is honestly just too inconsequential. It has little bearing on what happens in the levels and the cut scenes are more or less just a waiting game until they’re finished. The graphics are average, and the sound design is strange but quotable in the least.
I feel like what I’ve said so far probably isn’t enough to convince someone to pick up this game, but the way the game feels completely makes up for it. I’ll admit, the game is short, probably about 6 to 8 hours depending on a few levels that will give you some trouble, it’s a great 6 hours though. The controls feel amazing once you get used to using the D-pad instead of the stick, and the C buttons get a hefty usage also. The control scheme feels weird at first, making use of every button in conjunction with the D-pad controls but you’ll find yourself adjusting and soon it feels fluid and natural. You can use the C buttons or double tap a D-pad direction to dash around the levels to advance and reach the end of the level. The game has about 50 levels, but manages to make every one feel different from the last and stick out in your mind. Using the mechanics built into the game like dashing, shaking objects to change their properties or find hidden objects, and a myriad of other features to complete puzzles within the levels feels rewarding and makes up for some of the weaker parts of the game.
The highest points of the game are the boss fights that I mentioned earlier. Marina faces off against the three members of “The Beastector” throughout Mischief Makers with each one being the final boss of each world. While their reasons for being in the game might not make sense, their fights make them a necessity to the game. They’re epic with (in true anime style) constant scrolling backgrounds, epic attacks, and some seriously awesome music. On top of all that they are the most difficult part of the game, as they should be. I spent about an hour of my first play through on the first of The Beastector, with a huge sense of relief when I beat him.
Gameplay: 9/10: By far the highpoint of this game. Controls are tight and feel natural after a few levels of play. Fun in game mechanics keeps level after level fresh and interesting to progress through and the boss fights are fantastic and challenging.
As for replayability the biggest reason to replay is to collect the gold gem in every level to get the true ending of the game. Well not so much the true ending to the game, but you actually get to see the ending cut scene. As the scene plays out, the amount of gold gems you collect ticks down on the top of the screen, when it runs out the scene ends. Other than that you’ll probably remember how to beat every level and every boss and have pretty much no reason to replay.
Replayability: 3/10: I feel bad for writing this part of the article so short, but there is honestly almost no reason to replay this game, especially if you got all the gold gems on your first play thought.
Mischief Makers is at best an enjoyable fast experience, and at worst a strange Japanese game with good controls and some fun boss fights. If you’re looking for a strange little side scrolling adventure in the bone-dry 2D side scroller market on the N64 to add to your collection, Mischief Makers is a cheap buy off of Amazon or eBay. If you don’t really need that in your life, then I cannot recommend Mischief Makers
Overall: 6/10: Probably seems a little high for the amount of things I said that was wrong with Mischief Makers, but it’s a good underrated game that is cheap and fun. In the end, isn’t that what everyone wants when they play retro games?