Mischief Makers is a 1997 side-scrolling platform video game developed by Treasure and published by Enix and Nintendo for the Nintendo 64. The player assumes the role of Marina, a robotic maid who journeys to rescue her creator from the emperor of Planet Clancer. The gameplay revolves around grabbing, shaking, and throwing objects. There are five worlds and 52 levels, and the game is displayed in 2.5D.
The game was the first 2D side-scrolling game for the Nintendo 64, and Treasure's first release for a Nintendo console. The company began Mischief Makers's development in mid-1995 with little knowledge of the console's features. The 12-person team wanted to make a novel gameplay mechanic, and implementing the resultant "catching" technique became their most difficult task. The game appeared at the 1997 Electronic Entertainment Expo and was released in Japan on June 27, 1997, and later in the United States, Europe, and Australia.
The game received "mixed or average reviews", according to video game review score aggregator Metacritic. Critics praised Mischief Makers's inventiveness, personality, and boss fights, but criticized its brevity, low difficulty, low replay value, sound, and harsh introductory learning curve. Retrospective reviewers disagreed with the originally poor reception, and multiple reviewers noted Marina's signature "Shake, shake!" sound bite as a highlight. Video game journalists cited Mischief Makers as ripe for reissue either through the Nintendo eShop or in a sequel or franchise reboot. In 2009, GamesRadar called it "possibly the most underrated and widely ignored game on the N64".
Mischief Makers is the first single-player 2D side-scrolling platform game on the Nintendo 64 console. Its gameplay combines platform game mechanics with aspects from the action and puzzle genres. The characters and backgrounds are modeled in pre-rendered 3D similar to Donkey Kong Country's "Advanced Computer Modeling". This style, with 3D backgrounds behind 2D gameplay, is known as "2 1⁄2D". Compared to previous Treasure run and gun games, Mischief Makers's gameplay is more exploratory in nature.
The player-character, a robotic maid named Marina, journeys to save her kidnapped creator. The story takes place on Planet Clancer, a world on the cusp of civil war due to the actions of its Emperor and his Imperial forces. The Emperor brainwashes Clancers to kidnap the visiting robotics genius Professor Theo. Theo's creation, the player-character Ultra-InterGalactic-Cybot G Marina Liteyears, pursues the professor and grabs, throws, and shakes the obstacles in her way, such as enemies, floating "Clanball" platforms, warp stars, and missiles. Indeed, almost all game objects can be grabbed, which lends towards the shake-based combat system. Marina can shake "grabbed" objects to throw them as projectiles or to find loot. Objects sometimes change functions when shaken, such as items that become homing missiles and guns with multi-directional shots. Some drop red, blue, and green gems, which restore player health. The health gauge in the corner of the screen shows the amount of damage Marina can take. The player can store up to two additional stock lives. Yellow gems hidden in each level extend the final cutscene's length. Marina can run, jump, and boost (via jetpack) in the eight cardinal and ordinal directions. She can also slide, hover, and roll.
The game has five worlds with roughly twelve levels apiece.[a] Some levels are action-only while others include puzzles. The player's goal is to reach a warp star at each level's end. En route, Marina shakes enemies, breaks blocks, uses weapons, and rides "bikes" and objects along wire path mazes. Each world has both final and mid-level bosses. The levels and boss fights use scaling and screen rotation special effects to vary the gameplay.
Almost all things on Planet Clancer—including people, buildings, and pets—either wear or are inscribed with identical "sad" faces with "red, glowing eyes". A Clancer named Teran substitutes for Marina in several brief areas and uses non-shake mechanics like punching, kicking, and double jumping. A character named Calina, a petulant Clancer who imitates Marina, recurs throughout the game as a comedic device.
Treasure began to develop Mischief Makers in mid 1995. At the time, they knew little about the Nintendo 64's final technical specifications, graphics implementation, and development kit, but were nevertheless interested in the console and its improved "pixel quality". Historically, Treasure developed games exclusively for Sega consoles,[b] which made Mischief Makers their first release for a Nintendo console. Bringing Mischief Makers to the Nintendo 64 was a hardware-based decision: the Nintendo 64's cartridges were more expensive than CD-ROMs, but they loaded data instantly and were thus more conducive for action games such as Mischief Makers. However, Treasure CEO Masato Maegawa said that development for the Nintendo 64 had a harsher learning curve than even the Sega Saturn. Other than the special attention required to build a single boss in 3D, the team did not use features specific to the Nintendo 64 hardware.
Treasure's founders had come from Konami, where they worked on Nintendo Entertainment System games such as Castlevania and Contra. They found their development environment restrictive and left to try riskier concepts and to singularly focus on making "great games". In the three years between Treasure's founding and Mischief Makers's development, the company released highly regarded games such as Gunstar Heroes—known as "one of the definitive 16-bit action games"—and Dynamite Headdy. An average of 12 people worked on Mischief Makers, with up to 15 at times. Though the team was different in composition from that of previous Treasure titles, it included the lead programmer and character designer from Gunstar Heroes. Treasure's CEO said that the company liked to expand into new genres, though they primarily work in genres where the staff had experience. The company sought to depart from the Gunstar Heroes shoot 'em up design, and chose to build Mischief Makers around an original "catching" gameplay mechanic, which became the hardest aspect to implement. While foreign (non-Japanese) aesthetics were popular with other Japanese developers, Treasure's CEO felt the company's games did not look "particularly foreign" and could appeal to Japanese audiences.
The game was Treasure's first to be published by Enix. The publisher sought out Treasure for their reputation in the action game genre, and had approached Treasure several times before the Nintendo 64 project surfaced.[c] Upon choosing to make the game for the Nintendo 64, Treasure thought it would be a "good idea" to work with Enix. And similar to how Treasure ended its historic loyalty to the Sega Genesis by developing Mischief Makers for Nintendo, Enix had just recently ended its historic loyalty to Nintendo by signing Dragon Quest VII of their Dragon Quest franchise to Sony. Neither Square or Enix built a "special relationship" with Nintendo specific for Mischief Makers's release, though Nintendo later served as the game's publisher for Western markets. When their English localization of the Japanese game finished ahead of schedule, the North American release date was advanced two weeks accordingly.
Mischief Makers was the only game displayed at the Enix booth at the April 1997 Tokyo Game Show. It was later demonstrated at the 1997 Electronic Entertainment Expo and released in Japan on June 27, 1997, the United States on October 1, and Europe and Australia on January 15, 1998. Its Japanese title is Yuke-Yuke Trouble Makers, or Go-Go Trouble Makers. Near the time of the game's Japanese launch, Treasure announced that they would continue to develop for the Nintendo 64 with the Japan-only Bakuretsu Muteki Bangaioh, which was released in September and later introduced to North America as Bangai-O.
Mischief Makers received "mixed or average reviews", according to video game review score aggregator Metacritic, and a "Gold Hall of Fame" score of 32/40 from Japanese magazine Famitsu. Critics praised the game's inventiveness, personality, "variety", and boss fights, and criticized its brevity, low difficulty, low replay value, sound, and harsh introductory learning curve. Retrospective reviewers disagreed with the game's originally poor reception, and multiple reviewers noted Marina's signature "Shake, shake!" sound bite as a highlight. Electronic Gaming Monthly awarded the game their silver award.
IGN's Matt Casamassina said that the game compensated for its average graphics with excellent level design and gameplay challenges. He added that the game's puzzles require thought, unlike those in other action/platform games, and that the game's objectives were not clear until after the first few levels. Casamassina praised the game's transparency effects, anti-aliasing, mipmapping, and scaling rotations. IGN described anticipation for the game as "tremendous", particularly among the game's market of "younger gamers and 2D fans". Nintendo Power thought that the game was the best side-scroller since Super Mario World. Next Generation wrote that "only diehard 2D platform fans" would be interested and did not feel that the game lived up to standards set by Mario 64. In contrast, GameFan said that Mischief Makers did for 2D what Mario 64 did for 3D, and suggested that Sega should be influenced by the game. GamesRadar retrospectively called Mischief Makers "pure, unadulterated awesome" and "2D brilliance". The website summarized the game to be about "grabbing sad-faced aliens, shaking them until gems come out, and then hurling them at other sad-faced aliens." Zachary Miller of Nintendo World Report asserted the game may be the console's most bizarre and surreal, but Gamasutra's John Harris said that the game's premise is "only strange to people who have never heard of anime". GameFan described the game as "obviously deeply Japanese", where "old school gameplay and 64-bit visuals finally meet".
Hirokazu Hamamura of Famitsu commended Mischief Makers's gameplay, which balanced its poor character design. Other Famitsu reviewers admired Treasure's signature robot designs and were puzzled by the company's choice to use buttons instead of the 3D analog stick. Nintendo Life's Jamie O'Neill praised the game's characters and disliked the controls. He compared the Calina character to the role of Shadow Mario in Super Mario Sunshine. O'Neill wrote that the intricate controls were "the antithesis of a friendly, approachable, and intuitive platformer" because the game used every button on the controller (including the directional pad), though he felt that players who persevered through the difficult controls would find them "inventive and unique". He added that the complex controls allowed for experimentation that led to new and fun gameplay, and though the throwing enemies mechanic seemed to follow from Gunstar Heroes, the Clanball platforming was unintuitive. John Harris of Gamasutra wrote that the game borrowed other elements from Gunstar Heroes, as the games were similar in protagonists, collectible gems,[d] and bosses.[e] As the game took time to learn and understand, O'Neill left the reader to decide whether the game was "ultimately convoluted or bordering on sophistication and genius".
Nintendo Life's O'Neill thought the five world bosses were among Treasure's best (in particular, the transforming "Cerberus Alpha" boss), but found the mid-level bosses uninteresting. Peter Bartholow of GameSpot and Electronic Gaming Monthly's reviewers felt similarly. Sushi-X of Electronic Gaming Monthly added that the technique of looking for a boss's weak spot was similar to Metroid. Famitsu reviewers praised how the game encouraged players to experiment with the basic "grab, throw, and shake" gameplay. They also appreciated the cadence of Mischief Makers's short levels. O'Neill (Nintendo Life) thought the game had great variety in gameplay mechanics (from maze puzzles to outrunning lava), graphics (from bosses that scale back the screen to levels with screen rotation), and audio (from upbeat quirk to scary), and added that he was surprised to hear critics speak against the "unique, varied, and dramatic" sound. Scott McCall of AllGame too appreciated the sound, from the voice to the "almost indescribable" music. Gamasutra's John Harris noted its "tremendous variety" in gameplay—from a Track & Field remake to outrunning a missile barrage—as rare for 2D platformers, and commented that "it is obvious that Treasure poured their hearts into this game."
Peter Bartholow of GameSpot summarized Mischief Makers as "a good game that will leave players wanting more". He liked the bosses, which made the player use all available skills, but felt they were short-lived and easily solved in the context of a short game with tutorials as one fifth of its levels. He did not consider the ending extension a suitable reward for returning to the levels, and predicted that most players would not finish the game more than once. Game Informer echoed Bartholow's comments about the game's brevity, and named the game's seven-event olympics as a highlight. Sushi-X of Electronic Gaming Monthly wrote that the game felt incomplete and lamented that "a decent player can finish the game in under three hours", though Next Generation said the game was "certainly long enough". The game's frequent reuse of a small selection of tiles, objects, sound effects, soundtracks, and bland backgrounds (compared to the "impressive" boss battle animations and effects) led GameSpot's Bartholow to suggest that Mischief Makers was limited by its cartridge space. He concluded that the "decent" game would be "truly excellent ... on another medium". Zachary Miller of Nintendo World Report reported that the graphics did not age well into 2010. Electronic Gaming Monthly wrote that the game is "definitely a sleeper hit". As Hardcore Gamer's Ryan Cartmel put it, the game went "largely unnoticed".
Video game journalists from outlets such as GamesRadar and Nintendo World Report cited Mischief Makers as ripe for reissue either through the Nintendo eShop or in a sequel or franchise reboot. Retro Gamer placed the "masterpiece of mayhem" 80th on their list of "essential" Nintendo 64 games for its "unbridled quality". In 2009, GamesRadar called it "possibly the most underrated and widely ignored game on the N64".[f] The website wrote that Mischief Makers was received poorly because players wanted 3D instead of 2D gameplay from Nintendo 64 games. Gamasutra's John Harris added that those who gave it a "bum rap" missed a "surprisingly clever" game. UGO remembered the game as innovative, though imperfect, and asked to see Marina reinterpreted and resurrected in a new game.[g]
Notes and references
- The five worlds are Planet Clancer, Migen's Shrine, Mt. Snow, Aster's Lair, and the Imperial HQ, and there are 52 levels accessed via a stage select screen.
- Treasure continued to develop for the Sega Genesis even while Nintendo had market control because they found the Genesis development process easier.
- Treasure CEO Maegawa was already fond of Enix, having applied to work there as a student (though he did not get the job).
- He added that the gems awarded for "A" rating finish times were difficult to collect.
- Harris also put Marina's "grab" in a lineage of Treasure's signature counterattack mechanics (where a player can escape an attack with a well timed button press), which he extrapolated out to counterattacks in Viewtiful Joe and Soul Calibur.
- In the years since, Retro Gamer reported Mischief Makers as a somewhat rare collectible, with a rarity score of 7/10.
- Marina reappeared as an unlockable character in Treasure's 1999 Rakugaki Showtime.
- Treasure (October 1, 1997). Mischief Makers. Nintendo. Scene: Credits.
- Casamassina, Matt (October 1, 1997). "Mischief Makers". IGN. Archived from the original on May 6, 2014. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
- O'Neill, Jamie (June 12, 2010). "Mischief Makers (Nintendo 64) Review". Nintendo Life. Archived from the original on May 7, 2014. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
- "Now Playing". Nintendo Power (101): 95. October 1997.
- IGN Staff (August 5, 1997). "Griffey, Mischief Makers Trade Spots". IGN. Archived from the original on May 7, 2014. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
- Miller, Zachary (August 13, 2010). "Retro Revival #3: Mischief Makers". Nintendo World Report. Archived from the original on May 10, 2014. Retrieved May 10, 2014.
- Harris, John (August 23, 2007). "Game Design Essentials: 20 Difficult Games". Gamasutra. Archived from the original on May 10, 2014. Retrieved May 10, 2014.
- McCall, Scott. "Mischief Makers - Review". AllGame. Archived from the original on May 10, 2014. Retrieved May 10, 2014.
- Mischief Makers Instruction Booklet. Nintendo of America. 1997. p. 15.
- Bartholow, Peter (April 17, 1998). "Mischief Makers Review". GameSpot. Archived from the original on May 4, 2014. Retrieved May 9, 2014.
- IGN Staff. "Treasure Talks Yuke Yuke". IGN. Archived from the original on May 6, 2014. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
- IGN Staff (June 10, 1997). "Nintendo to Publish Mischief Makers". IGN. Archived from the original on May 7, 2014. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
- "TGS 1997 Spring". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 95. Ziff Davis. June 1997. p. 62.
- IGN Staff (June 23, 1999). "Unearthing Treasure for N64". IGN. Archived from the original on May 7, 2014. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
- "Mischief Makers (N64: 1997)". Metacritic. Archived from the original on March 4, 2009. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
- "Mischief Makers". Electronic Gaming Monthly. January 21, 1998. Archived from the original on January 21, 1998. Retrieved May 9, 2014. Electronic Gaming Monthly's component scores were 7.5/8.5/8.0/8.0.
- ゆけゆけ!! トラブルメーカーズ [Yukeyuke! Trouble Makers]. Famitsu (in Japanese). No. 446. 1997. Archived from the original on June 23, 2014. Retrieved June 22, 2014. Note: Review text only available in print magazine.
- Glitch; Knightmare; E. Storm (September 1997). "Viewpoint". GameFan (57): 26–27.
- "Mischief Makers". Game Informer. November 1997. Archived from the original on January 21, 1998. Retrieved May 9, 2014.
- "Finals". Next Generation. No. 34. Imagine Media. October 1997. p. 169. Archived from the original on February 4, 1998. Retrieved May 9, 2014.
- "123 games with untapped franchise potential". GamesRadar. April 30, 2009. Archived from the original on May 10, 2014. Retrieved May 10, 2014.
- E. Storm (September 1997). "Mischief Makers". GameFan (57): 76–81.
- Cartmel, Ryan (September 19, 2013). "Graveyard: Mischief Makers". Hardcore Gamer. Archived from the original on May 10, 2014. Retrieved May 10, 2014.
- Brown, Andrew (May 7, 2014). "Virtual Console Could Help Wiisuscitate U". Nintendo World Report. Archived from the original on May 10, 2014. Retrieved May 10, 2014.
- Allen, Mat (November 9, 2006). "Essential Nintendo 64 Games". Retro Gamer (31): 23, 26.
- Davies, Jonti (May 27, 2004). "Nintendo's Greatest Games". Retro Gamer (4): 24.
- "11 Strong Gaming Girls We Never Saw Again". UGO Networks. June 30, 2010. Archived from the original on May 10, 2014. Retrieved May 10, 2014.
- Bevan, Mike (June 19, 2008). "Full of Eastern Promise". Retro Gamer (52): 36.
- Additional sources
- Official website (in Japanese)