Sega Genesis title screen
The Cheetahmen is a video game series created by Active Enterprises featuring three anthropomorphic cheetahs. It was introduced in 1991, as part of the Action 52 multi-game cartridge for the NES. The Cheetahmen also appear in an unpublished sequel for the NES (Cheetahmen II), and an obscure Sega Genesis title that was simply called "The Cheetahmen."
A boy called the "Action Gamemaster" is depicted in the first Cheetahmen game's intro sequence, which serves as a framing device. The boy is shown playing a video game when he is abruptly pulled into his television by a robotic arm and meets the Cheetahmen. He is never referred to again during the game or in subsequent Cheetahmen titles, although the manual implies that he transforms into the characters, one after another.
A backstory is provided in a comic book that was included with the Action 52 NES cartridge. A mad scientist named Dr. Morbis kills a mother cheetah while on a safari in Africa and takes its three cubs to his laboratory. Subjected to genetic experimentation, the cubs transform into human-cheetah hybrids who eventually turn on Dr. Morbis after gaining awareness of his true nature and future plans. Dr. Morbis responds by creating an army of various human-animal hybrids (known as "Sub-Humans") to counter the threat posed by the self-aware Cheetahmen. Dr. Morbis does not appear during gameplay, though other villains from the comic book do appear. The Genesis game provides a slightly different premise where the Cheetamen must rescue cheetah cubs from Dr. Morbis.
The playable characters included:
- Apollo – an anthropomorphic cheetah named for Apollo, an ancient Greek god. As his name may suggest, this character is an archer and a scholar versed in many academic fields. He uses a crossbow in combat. As the leader of the Cheetahmen, he was the first to question Dr. Morbis' intentions.
- Hercules – an anthropomorphic cheetah named for Hercules, an ancient Greek demigod. This character fights with his bare hands, as his mythological namesake did not use a weapon.
- Aries – an anthropomorphic cheetah named for Ares, the ancient Greek god of war. This character acquired the expertise for fighting with dual wooden clubs by watching movies shown to him by Dr. Morbis.
The enemies included:
- Dr. Morbis – a malevolent scientific expert in the field of genetic engineering. His ultimate goals are never made clear.
- Cygore – a cyborg with a robotic arm. In marketing materials, he was depicted with a number of weapon attachments that were never used in the games, including a hammer and buzzsaw.
- White Rhino – an anthropomorphic rhinoceros, one of the "Sub-Humans" created by Dr. Morbis.
- Scavenger – an anthropomorphic vulture, one of the "Sub-Humans" created by Dr. Morbis.
- Hyena – an anthropomorphic hyena, one of the "Sub-Humans" created by Dr. Morbis.
- Ape-Man – a chimpanzee-human hybrid, allegedly the most powerful of Dr. Morbis' "Sub-Humans".
The initial game of this franchise was included on the Action 52 multi-game cartridge for the NES. It was inconsistently titled "Cheetah Men", "Cheetahmen", "Cheetamen", and "The Cheetahmen" within the game selection screen, title screen, and marketing materials. Gameplay consists of six levels, two for each of the three Cheetahmen. The second level includes a boss battle. Most of in-game enemies are characters from the other games of the Action 52 cartridge, including Saddam Hussein parody Satán Hossain from Storm over the Desert.
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There were plans for a sequel, Cheetahmen II, but it was not completed (6 of 10 proposed levels were made) and was never officially released. In 1996, however, 1,500 copies of the game were found located in a warehouse in Florida 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.
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 was developed by Greg Pabich. The new version of the game was released on an actual NES cartridge and was 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 shot with the Angry Video Game Nerd, Pat the NES Punk, The Game Chasers, and Pabich himself advertising the game.