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The Cheetahmen is a franchise created by Active Enterprises. It debuted in 1991 on the Nintendo Entertainment System multi-cart Action 52. There was also an extremely rare sequel and a Sega Genesis version.
Mad scientist Dr. Morbis kills a mother cheetah while on safari in Africa, then takes her three cubs for his genetic research. Subjected to his experiments, the cubs grow into half-cheetah, half-human creatures. Once they learn of Morbis' evil plans, they turn on him, and he, in turn, creates an army of half-animal humans (known as "Sub-Humans") to stop the Cheetahmen once and for all.
The NES version of the game had an intro sequence that told a story as well, where a boy called the "Action Gamemaster" is at home playing a video game when a robotic arm reaches through the screen and pulls him into the game by his leg. He meets the Cheetahmen, who then run away. The Gamemaster does not appear in the rest of the game, although the manual summary implies that he transforms into the Cheetahmen, one after another. There is no mention of Dr. Morbis in this version of the game, but there are villains from the comic book present in the game. Cheetahmen is also known as Action Gamemaster because of the title screen, but it can't be because of his importance because he is never mentioned again.
The Genesis version is very different. In this one, the three Cheetahmen need to rescue cheetah cubs that Dr. Morbis has captured within the three levels of the game.
The heroes included:
- Hercules — named for Hercules, the Greek demigod, son of Zeus and a mortal woman. He is by nature a pacifist, but will fight with deadly force when the situation demands it. He does not use a weapon, but has great physical strength.
- Aries — named for the astrological sign Aries, that is believed to dictate impulsive behavior (as the group's combat expert he was probably intended to be named after Ares). Aries learned martial arts from movies shown to him by Dr. Morbis. He wields two wooden clubs.
- Apollo — named for Apollo, the Greek god. He is the leader of the Cheetahmen, and was the first to question Dr. Morbis' intentions. As his name suggests, Apollo is an archer and a scholar versed in many fields. He uses a crossbow.
The enemies included:
- Dr. Morbis, an evil geneticist. His ultimate goals are never made clear.
- Cygore, Dr. Morbis' assistant with a robotic arm. Sketches of him showed a number of weapon attachments, including a hammer and buzzsaw.
- White Rhino, a Sub-Species based on a rhino.
- Scavenger, a Sub-Species based on a vulture.
- Hyena, a Sub-Species based on a hyena.
- Man-Ape (or Ape-Man), allegedly the most powerful of Dr. Morbis' Sub-Species.
The Cheetahmen was included on Active Enterprises' Action 52, released on the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Sega Genesis, with a twelve-page comic book providing the Cheetahmen's backstory.
The Cheetahmen consists of six levels, two for each of the three Cheetahmen. The second level includes a boss battle. Other than the bosses, all of the other enemies are characters from the other games, including Saddam Hussein parody Satán Hossain from Storm over the Desert.
There were plans for a sequel, Cheetahmen II, but it wasn't completed (6 of 10 proposed levels were made) and was never officially released. In 1996, however, 1,500 copies of the game were located in a warehouse, and eventually put on sale on the secondary market. All copies of the game were reused Action 52 cartridges, some with a small gold sticker reading "Cheetamen II". This cartridge is now very rare and hard to find, though numerous ROM images exist on the Internet.
In Cheetahmen II the player again assumes the role of one of the three Cheetahmen (Aries, Apollo and Hercules); after defeating a boss at the end of the second level, they switch to the next Cheetahman for the following two levels, as in the Action 52 version. Due to a bug, it is impossible to get to the levels in which one plays Cheetahman Aries without altering the ROM image or experiencing a glitch that very rarely starts the game on these two levels.
A patch fixing all the game breaking bugs was made freely available by romhacking.net member PacoChan in July 2011. Subsequently, a "fixed" version of the game titled Cheetahmen II: The Lost Levels is being developed by Greg Pabich. The new version of the game will be released on an actual NES cartridge and is intended to fix the 4th level end glitch found in the original game. To fund the game, Pabich started a Kickstarter program in which donors would be given rewards depending on the amount of money pledged. The program started on August 6, 2012 and lasted until September 6, 2012. To tie in with the project, a short video was filmed with The Angry Video Game Nerd, Pat the NES Punk, The Game Chasers, and Pabich himself advertising the game.
Although they removed some graphical modifications found in PacoChan's version, they forgot to remove some not so obvious changes. For example, PacoChan fixed some spelling errors in the intro, although not all of them. Greg Pabich's version contains exactly the same fixes and mistakes.
Like Action 52, the game was not licensed by Nintendo.
References in mass media
In October 2007, it was reported that Cheetahmen II's in-game music was being sampled and remixed or arranged for use in Nico Nico Douga videos. Remixes and arrangements included classical, ballad, and heavy metal styles. More than 100 videos had been posted to the Nico Nico Douga site within only a few days of the first one appearing.