NES cover art.
|Developer(s)||Active Enterprises/EMI (NES)
FarSight Studios (Genesis)
|Producer(s)||Vince Perri (executive producer)|
|Programmer(s)||Albert Hernandez & Cronos Engineering, Inc.|
|Composer(s)||Mario Gonzalez & Javier Perez (NES only) (NES)
Ed Bogas (NES; uncredited due to lack of permission)
Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock (NES theme; uncredited due to lack of permission for "It Takes Two")
Nu Romantic Productions (Mark Steven Miller and Jason Scher) (Genesis)
|Distribution||16-megabit cartridge (NES)|
Action 52 is an unlicensed multicart consisting of 52 individual and original video games, released in September 1991 for the Nintendo Entertainment System and in May 1993 for the Sega Genesis consoles by Active Enterprises (a Super Nintendo Entertainment System version was advertised in some magazines, but never released). It initially retailed for the comparatively high price of US$199 (or "less than $4 for each game"), and became notorious among gamers for the abysmal quality of its games. Many video game collectors value Action 52 for its notoriety and rarity.
The cartridge states that it contains 52 "new and original exciting games". The games cover a variety of genres, although the most common are scrolling shooters and platform games. Among the games is The Cheetahmen, Active's attempt at creating a franchise similar to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Nintendo Entertainment System
List of games:
- Firebreather (also known as "Fire Breathers", according to its title screen)[a]
- Starevil (also known as "Star Evil", according to its title screen)[b]
- G-Force FGT (Fighters) (also known as "G-Force", according to its title screen)
- Silver Sword
- Critical BP. (also known as "Crytical Bypass" [sic], according to its title screen)
- Jupiter Scope
- Alfredo (also known as "Alfred N The Fettuc", according to its title screen)[c]
- Operation Full-Moon
- Dam Busters
- Haunted Hill (also known as "Haunted Halls of Wentworth", according to the manual)
- Chill Out
- French Baker
- Atmos Quake
- Space Dreams
- Spread Fire
- Bubblegum Rosy (also known as "Bubble Gum Rossie", according to its title screen)
- Micro Mike
- Rocket Jock (also known as "Rocket Jockey", according to its title screen)
- Cry baby
- Crazy Shuffle
- Fuzz Power
- Shooting Gallery[b]
- Lollipops (also known as "Lolipop", according to its title screen)
- Evil Empire
- Storm over the Desert
- Mash Man
- They Came...[b]
- Lazer League
- Billy Bob[b]
- City of Doom
- Bits n Pieces
- Beeps n Blips
- Hambo (also known as "Hambos Adventures", according to its title screen)
- Timewarp (also known as "Time Warp Tickers", according to its title screen)
- Ninja Assault
- Robbie Robot
- The Cheetahmen (also known as "Action Gamemaster", according to its title screen)
- a.1 Two-Player only game.
- b.1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Crashes upon some parts of the game.
- c.1 2 Crashes upon startup. Note: If one were to use a working ROM image with an NES emulator, these games would become playable.
The NES version of Action 52 was internally developed by Active Enterprises, also the publisher of the game. The games cover a variety of genres, although the most common are vertical space shooters and platformers. Examples of space shooters include Star Evil, G-Force, Thrusters and Megalonia. Some of the platform games available are Ooze, Non-Human, and Billy Bob.
The majority of the titles included on the cartridge had major glitches, however, and have been known to freeze or crash due to programming flaws; there were also incomplete and/or endless levels, unresponsive controls and confusing design. In the game manual, each title had a one-sentence description, with some titles described as completely different games and some incorrectly described or categorized.
The Yeah! Woo! drum break from Lyn Collins' song "Think (About It)" is used in the beginning sequence of the NES version. The sound generated for moving the select cursor on the NES version was used for the Power Player Super Joy III's menu.
Active Enterprises advertised a competition in which anyone who could complete level 5 of the NES version of Ooze would be entered into a prize drawing to win $104,000 ($52,000 cash, and a scholarship of same value). The game was reported to crash on level 2, making this prize impossible to win without the use of emulator or an in-game exploit, further making the contest a failure.
The Cheetahmen was the "featured" game on the Action 52 multicart, and there were initial plans for a line of merchandise including action figures, T-shirts, a comic book series and even a television cartoon based on the characters (an advertisement for Cheetahmen action figures, displaying prototype sketches, was included in the aforementioned comic book). These plans quickly fell through as negative word of mouth and reviews mounted.
List of games:
- Dyno Tennis
- Star Ball
- 15 Puzzle
- Star Duel
- Haunted Hill
- The Cheetahmen
- Depth Charge
- Minds Eye
- Alien Attack
- Billy Bob
- Force One
- Sunday Drive
- Star Evil
- Air Command
- Bombs Away
- Speed Boat
- G Fighter
- Man at Arms
- Armor Battle
- Magic Bean
- Sky Avenger
- Black Hole
- The Boss
- First Game (a port of Pong)
The Sega Genesis version of Action 52 was developed by FarSight Technologies. This version features a different lineup of games, some with more work put into design and fewer technical issues than the NES version. Each game is color-coded on the main menu screen; "Beginner" games are displayed in a green font, "intermediate" games are displayed in a purple font, "expert" games are displayed in a yellow font, and multiplayer games are displayed in a blue font. In addition to the 52 games listed above, the Mega Drive/Genesis version features a music test mode, and a "randomizer" option. If selected from the main menu, the randomizer will randomly choose and start one game from the 52 available on the cartridge. The fifty-second game, Challenge, is an endurance test to see how long the player lasts in a random series of the highest levels of the other games.
Several new games were introduced in the Sega version. A number of these have the same name as games on the NES cartridge, although they are not the same game; the Sega Haunted Hills, for instance, is entirely different from the NES Haunted Hills. Other games feature other changes, including a version of The Cheetahmen in which the titular Cheetahmen rescue captured cheetah cubs from monsters, which is completely different from the original NES game. The bosses from the NES version appear as enemies.
Vince Perri of Miami, Florida, created Action 52. He showcased the game at the International Winter Consumer Electronics Show. The breakthrough came by accident. "I happened to see my son playing an illegal product made in Taiwan that had 40 games on it. The whole neighborhood went crazy over it," Perri said. "I figured I'd do it legally. It's obvious when you see something like that, you know there's something there."
Several of the songs from the NES version of Action 52 were plagiarized from example tunes included in Activision's The Music Studio for Atari ST. The games with plagiarized music include Fuzz Power, Silver Sword, French Baker, Streemerz, Time Warp Tickers and Ninja Assault. Those songs were composed by Ed Bogas. Additionally, programmer Kevin Horton analyzed the music code of Action 52 and found that it matched a music engine programmed by Sculptured Software, featured in their games titled Day Dreamin' Davey, Eliminator Boat Duel, the NES version of Monopoly and Metal Mech.
For the original NES collection, Perri raised $20 million from private backers in Europe, South America and Saudi Arabia. He and Raul Gomila employed several college students (Mario Gonzalez, Javier Perez and Albert Hernandez) to do the game design, music, graphics and programming, which was programmed on an Atari ST, and contracted out technical work to Cronos Engineering, Inc., a Boca Raton company that had done work for IBM. Action 52 has 8 extra game templates, since the distributor had the carts come with 60 games by default, as well as many unused tiles. This has been confirmed by an interview with Mario Gonzalez. The Sega Genesis version, released two years later, was developed by FarSight Studios, who had also developed Color a Dinosaur for the NES. Plans for a Super NES version of the cartridge were announced, but Active Enterprises withdrew from the video game industry shortly thereafter, and no copies are known to exist.
In 2010, a prototype cartridge of Action 52 surfaced, owned by movie and video games distributor Greg Pabich. Originally, Vince Perri had proposed a deal with Pabich asking him if he would be interested in working for Active Enterprises as a business partner. At this time, Perri only had a few prototype cartridges and not the final product. For various reasons, Pabich turned down the offer, but not before leaving with one of the prototypes in his possession, which was stored in his warehouse for over twenty years before it was "rediscovered".
The prototype itself contains numerous differences from the final Action 52 cartridges. It contains minor text differences for the game titles as well as different color backgrounds for the game selection menus. The final version contains the words "Action 52" in its header and copyright information in its footer. The prototype simply contains section numbers in each menu screen's header. The code for Action 52 appears to be heavily based upon the pirate multicart 52 in 1. This is evident due the menu template in the Action 52 prototype being identical to that of 52 in 1. However, the biggest difference between the prototype and the final game is that while the final copy contains the game Cheetahmen, the prototype does not. In its place is a completely different Cheetahmen game titled "Action Gamer" (presumingly taken from the main character the Action Gamemaster in Cheetahmen). Action Gamer features only two levels, one of which is incomplete.
On November 11, 2011, Greg Pabich publicly released reproductions of Action Gamer, calling it "Cheetahmen: The Creation". This special package contains a sealed version of the game for collectors, an unsealed copy, a reproduction of the original Cheetahmen comic book, a Cheetahmen music CD, special edition T-Shirts and a poster.
In August 2012, one of the four original Action 52 developers surfaced and surprised the gaming community with their find, their very own original boxed Action 52 NES prototype cartridge, the only other Action 52 prototype known to exist. Along with never-before-seen original Action 52 and Cheetahmen posters and artwork, they posted an eBay auction selling the items for a $97,000 Buy It Now option or Best Offer. The auction generated over 10,000 views and 50 offers. They have since created a blog documenting the auction, the prototype, and their part in the development of the Action 52 NES cartridge. Their version of the story of Action 52, Active Enterprises, Vince Perri, and the other developers can be read there.
- List of commercial failures in video gaming
- List of video games notable for negative reception
- Caltron 6 in 1
- Cassette 50
- Don't Buy This
- The Cheetahmen
- "Top Ten Shameful Games". Archive.gamespy.com. 2002-12-31. Retrieved 2009-11-14.
- "Action 52 for NES - MobyGames". MobyGames. Retrieved 2009-11-14.
- Harris, Andrew; Allwein, Dave (2003). "Jay Obernolte Interview". Cheetahmen Corner. Retrieved 2010-10-04.
- Chiucchi, Vincent (2008-01-17). "411mania.com: Games - The Hall of Shame 01.17.08: Action 52". 411mania.com. Retrieved 2009-11-14.
- "Active Enterprises exposed". atarihq.com. Retrieved 2009-11-14.
- "Action 52 - th' Stuff". Arkfullofsorrow.com. Retrieved 2009-07-22.
- Jave. "Action 52 - NES (1991) / Action 52 - Genesis (1993) / Cheetahmen 2 - NES (unreleased)". Hardcore Gaming 101. Archived from the original on 10 October 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-04.
- In Memory of Vincent D. Perri Funeraria Memorial Plan Westchester, Miami FL, March 6, 2012
- A Legend Passes, Action52prototype.com, January 14, 2013
- "Cartridge has 52 video games". Austin American-Statesman. 1993-01-30.
- "Video Creator Plays 52 Games to Win.." The Miami Herald.
- "YouTube Video demonstrating matching songs from "The Music Studio" and "Action 52"". 2009-02-12.
- "Post on NESDev forums by Kevin Horton". 2011-04-05.
- "Things you never knew about Action 52!". YouTube. 2008-01-20. Retrieved 2009-07-22.[unreliable source?]
- "What's Rarer: A Prototype Action 52 Cart or a Person Who Met Vince Perri?". The Video Game Museum.
- "The Evolution of Action 52". The Video Game Museum.
- "Cheetahmen Fever!". The Video Game Museum.
- "Action 52 Prototype". Retrieved April 14, 2013.
- List of all Action 52 games A comprehensive website detailing all 52 of the games in the collection.
- Active Enterprises exposed - A website with information on both Action 52 and Active Enterprises.
- Cheetahmengames.com - Official website to the Cheetahmen.
- Action52Prototype.com - Action 52 Developer #4's firsthand story of the development of Action 52 and the rare Action 52 Prototype NES game cartridge.