Welcome, one and all, to another instalment of Retro First Impressions. To date, my previous forays into retro classics that I missed out on have all been console based. This time around though, I got to try something a little different: Bucky O’Hare – The Arcade Game. That’s right! I got to experience the funky fresh rabbit who can take care of it, complete with joystick!
So, where to begin here … okay, so Bucky O’Hare began life as a comic book. Originally created by Larry Hama and Michael Golden in 1978, he didn’t actually debut in 1984 in the anthology series Echo of Futurepast from Continuity Comics. I’ve not yet had the chance to read the comics – I hope to change that eventually – but my understanding is that they were actually a little political. Or certainly more so that the franchise entry that I remember well: the 1991 – 1992 cartoon series an action figures. And so enters Konami. Hoping to capitalise on the popularity of the show, Konami licensed the rights from Hasbro and created two game adaptions, one for the NES and one for arcades.
What makes the arcade game interesting is that it combines genres. In general terms, it’s defined as a scrolling beat ‘em up. Given the gameplay style, that fits pretty well. However, in keeping with the traditions of the series, the characters also have laser guns, which meant that some of the gameplay elements could also be classified as scrolling shooter / run and gun.
If that still sounds fairly simplistic, that’s because it is. The majority of the levels are the isometric style levels you’d expect from games like Streets of Rage, Final Fight and so on. The addition of projectile weapons was a nice touch, but it doesn’t add a huge other dimension to the gameplay. If anything, it actually simplifies it because you don’t have the option to throw off fisticuff combos. What keeps this from being a standard cartoon tie-in is actually in the way it mixes things up despite the simplified base gameplay.
First, there’s the alternative level styles. There’s the free-fall level where you’re rocketing down the screen and avoiding enemies while blasting away at them. There’s a level where you’re riding a rocket bike. There’s even a level that feels more like a platformer. They’re small things, but they really do help the game avoid falling into monotony. There are a suitable number of different enemies to tackle, from toad soldiers to battle cruisers, flaming rolling pipes to gun turrets, so that keeps things interesting too. And, of course, there are the bosses. They’re big, take a ton of damage, and dish out plenty of damage themselves.
Graphic-wise, the game is as good as you’d expect from 90’s Konami. The sprites are big and colourful, and they really capture the feel of the old cartoon pretty well. They move as well as most things in the era, but are limited by the small number of different animations that they carry out.
Now, you have four characters to choose from:
- Captain Bucky O’Hare, the heroic captain of the space ship The Righteous Indignation
- Jenny, and Aldebaran cat and telepath
- Dead-Eye Duck, a four-armed mallard … think Goro from Mortal Kombat but as a duck with an eye-patch
- Blinky, a one-eyed android
I gave each character a try in my playthrough, and in the end stuck with playing as Jenny. The reason? She was the last character I landed on. There isn’t really any difference in gameplay depending on who you choose here. Even the one special move that each character has has the same effect on enemies. The differences are all aesthetic here.
The audio is decent. Nothing really stood out other than the cut-scenes though, where the cartoon voice cast were used, and all my nostalgia levels were increased.
So, the question is, is the game as good as I’d heard? Well, that’s debatable. I’m a fan of the show, so everything about it made me smile. The game was simple fun that reminded me of my childhood, and I had a real blast tackling Al Negator with Jennt. If you aren’t a fan of the series, the same will likely not ring true, at which point you’ll be left with a game that is good, but not much more. The exception to that rule is when you play in multi-player mode though. You can have up to four players at once, which goes a long way to negating the high difficulty level that comes with playing alone. If there are four of you and you enjoy the genre, you’ll get a lot more out of it I think.
But what about yourselves? Did you play the Bucky O’Hare arcade game, or even the NES game? Did you enjoy the comics, cartoons or figures? What did you think?
Just because it’s so catchy, here’s the old cartoon theme song.