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Bucky O’Hare – The Arcade Game

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Bucky O’Hare (1992)

One of the underplayed downsides to the death of the arcade in America is the amount of arcade games that remained solely in the arcade realm. Arcade technology was always ahead of what was available in-home. Arcade cabinets were also often equipped with 4 or 6 player possibilities while virtually every home console in the 80s and 90s could only natively handle 2 players. Sometimes, companies would release two distinct games for the arcade and the home console. While gamers were enjoying co-op play with X-Men at the arcade the home console gamer was forced to experience Marvel’s most famous mutant team via a hideous top-down shooter/action game with horrendous technical issues. X-Men was a popular enough arcade game that it would eventually be released digitally about 20 years after it first hit arcades. It took awhile, but it made it. Other games were not so lucky, and one of them is Bucky O’Hare.

Bucky O’Hare has been a topic more than once here as I take a small sense of pride in being one of the small areas of the internet where Bucky can still exist. Bucky originated in the comics, and when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles exploded he was one of the main beneficiaries. Suddenly, toy companies and television studios were scooping up licenses for any kind of anthropomorphic action series that could be tossed in front of children to make piles of money. These properties were often fast-tracked to the consumer as everyone assumed the TMNT were just some fad that would die a quick death. This meant television shows, toys, and even games were all put into development at around the same time and Bucky O’Hare got the full treatment. So even though the cartoon series would only last 13 episodes and see a quiet cancellation, the aspects of the license that took the longest to develop would still see release after the fall of the show.

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Good luck finding one of these.

Most people into retro-gaming or who had a Nintendo Entertainment System back in the day are familiar with Konami’s Bucky O’Hare for the NES; the Mega Man clone of surprising depth and skill. It’s become a bit of a cult hit these days and copies of the NES cart fetch a pretty decent price on the after-market. Lesser known, is Konami’s Bucky O’Hare game for the arcade, also simply titled Bucky O’Hare.

Like most of Konami’s  arcade games for licensed properties, Bucky O’Hare is a 4-player beat-em-up where the player takes on wave after wave of enemies before reaching the game’s conclusion. And like most games of this style, it sometimes feels like it was designed first and foremost to eat quarters and force gamers to spend a decent chunk of change in order to see the game to its conclusion. Where Bucky O’Hare differentiates itself from Konami’s other brawlers is in that the primary attack for each character is a projectile. All four characters; Bucky, Jenny, Deadeye, and Blinky – all possess a handgun to shoot at the bad guys with. This naturally allows the player to maintain some distance between them and the enemy which actually seems to result in fewer deaths when compared with X-Men or Turtles in Time. Each character also possesses a special attack, referred to as a gimmick weapon, that can be activated at any time and surprisingly doesn’t cost any health to activate. There’s also bomb attacks available and they’re pretty abundant and clear the screen of enemies or deal a significant chunk of damage to a boss, which feels really generous for a game of this genre.

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The game is enjoyable with one of two players, but these ones are always best with four.

The game also further distinguishes itself in style. The previously mentioned gimmick weapons though are sadly the only thing that really differentiates the characters. Of the four, I found Deadeye to be the most useful (though you would think a four-armed duck would possess more than one pistol) as his weapon is basically a temporary shield that orbits around him until it hits something. Jenny’s is a homing attack that’s also useful, though her attack animation is a liability. Bucky just tosses a bomb forward, and Blinky has a flame-thrower. Most of the levels move from left to right, but there’s variety from stage to stage. Some levels have the characters moving at an angle towards the screen (think the second stage from the first TMNT arcade game) and there’s a stage where you’re falling and another where the characters are all riding Toad Croakers that can even stomp on the enemies. Brawlers can get quite stale by design, and Bucky O’Hare does as good a job as any in keeping things as fresh as possible for the game’s duration (of roughly 45 minutes).

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Minimally animated, but fully voiced, cut scenes help to move the story along.

Perhaps surprisingly, the production values on Bucky O’Hare are quite high. It’s very bright and visually appealing with all of the characters looking like the source material. Bucky is the only one that looks a bit off to me, and Blinky is definitely too tall, but for the most part the characters and animations look great. The enemies are especially striking, though the variety is not great as you’ll mostly spend the game fighting Toad Storm Troopers and these little robots. The boss characters look awesome though and they’re mostly taken straight from the cartoon series. Toadborg is appropriately menacing looking and the final battle is against a Komplex-to-Go contraption that even looks like it’s suffered some damage since its encounter against Bucky in episode 13 of the series.

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You’ll be killing lots of Toad Storm Troopers in this one.

Which brings me to the aspect some Bucky fans seem to appreciate most is that this game seems to take place after the cartoon ended and serves as a nice book-end to the series. You take the fight straight to the Toad homeworld and vanquish Komplex seemingly forever. Konami made liberal use of the voice talent from the show and only a couple of voices are off (Blinky most notably being voiced by Scott McNeil). Even characters who aren’t playable still make voiced appearances like Willy and Bruiser. And if you’re into the comic, the omniscient mouse race that never made it into the series shows up in this game and it really feels like someone at Konami really cared about the representing the license as best as possible. It’s pretty cool considering they must have known already that this was to be the last major release for the license and that no season two was coming for the animated series.

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Willy and Bruiser even get to cameo in some cut scenes.

Bucky O’Hare for the arcade is a satisfying experience, especially so for fans of the license. It possesses some of the short-comings inherent with the genre, and I do wish a character like Bruiser or Dogstar was playable as neither was in the NES game, but this is a fun title worth tracking down. Of course, being that it’s been over 25 years since the game’s release, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to find a cabinet in the wild and it’s even rare to see them come up for sale on eBay. There are other means available to you, if you want to seek them out, and I’ll let you research that on your own should you wish to play it. Sadly, licensed games like these rarely receive a digital release in this day and age, but maybe this very mild Bucky comeback in 2017 could lead to a digital release of this game and the NES game, though I certainly wouldn’t hold my breath for either.


The Return of Bucky O’Hare?

boss-fight-buxky-o-hare-anouncement-928x483Just announced today, toy company Boss Fight Studios is bringing Bucky O’Hare back to the world of action figures in a four inch scale assortment. Bucky O’Hare fans will likely refrain from getting too excited, as it was about ten years ago the company Shocker Toys promised to do the same and never delivered. Bucky O’Hare has largely been a dormant franchise since the early 90’s when his television show and toy line were cancelled after one season and series, respectively. Efforts to bring the characters back have been fruitless, so it will be interesting to see how this turns out. Likely this will be a one and done affair as I don’t see a new toy line resurrecting the brand from obscurity, but it’s certainly better than nothing. Should these things make it to retail, you can bet that yours truly will be doing a write-up of them on this very website.

 

Update April 2017 – Boss Fight has unveiled the first images of completed Bucky and Jenny prototypes for release this fall! Check out the coverage FWoosh.com has for images.


Bucky O’Hare – The Video Game

Bucky O'Hare - Nintendo Entertainment System (1992)

Bucky O’Hare – Nintendo Entertainment System (1992)

I’ve been away for awhile, a combination of life events and vacation, but I’m back and ready to talk about some old things.  Here is one such old thing and a topic I’ve discussed before:  Bucky O’Hare.  Bucky O’Hare was a part of that glut from the late 1980s into the 1990s of anthropomorphic cartoon characters riding on the coat tails of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Very few of these properties (Street Sharks, Biker Mice From Mars, Battle Toads) had any staying power and Bucky proved to be no exception.  His show lasted one season, and it was a half season at that, before getting cancelled.  There are a number of theories why from poor marketing decisions, bad distribution of the toys, too serious, though I personally think a lot of boys just didn’t buy into the idea of a green space bunny saving the galaxy.  Despite Bucky’s outward appearance, I liked him and the show quite a bit as did a number of my friends.  Bucky probably dominated a good six months of my young life and during that time period he was even able to overtake the TMNT for a brief spell.

Even though Bucky didn’t last long as a cartoon hero (he didn’t last long as a comic book hero either), he was still around long enough to have his likeness inserted onto just about every product imaginable.  From the obvious items like toys and clothing to the less obvious such as dishes and light-switch covers.  Not surprisingly, another item that took advantage of the Bucky O’Hare license was a video game, simply titled Bucky O’Hare.   The game was developed by Konami and released in 1992 a short while after the cartoon had finished its run.  Right away, it should be noted that Bucky dodged a major bullet in that his game was developed by Konami, and not LJN, whom Konami had a tendency to hand all of its licensed products to.  LJN is known as one of the worst game developers from that era; it possessed the opposite of the Midas Touch when it came to game development.  The fact that Bucky managed to avoid such a fate is really quite surprising, in hindsight.  Even more popular properties like the X-Men were unable to avoid LJN but somehow Bucky snuck through.

DownloadedFile-33Bucky O’Hare on the NES is an action platformer starring Bucky O’Hare himself.  Players control the funky fresh rabbit and navigate him through various levels, mostly going left to right but not always, as they run, jump, and gun down the evil toads to save Bucky’s crew.  The game starts off giving the player a choice of 4 different stages, represented by different planets, that Bucky can choose from.  On each planet, one of Bucky’s crew-mates is being held captive:  Blinky is on the green planet, Jenny is on the blue planet, Dead Eye the red, and Willy DuWitt is on the yellow planet.  Bucky can choose to rescue his mates in any order, though at least one planet requires the aid of one of Bucky’s comrades, for when Bucky rescues a character that character becomes playable.  The player can switch on the fly with a press of the select button.  All characters share the same health bar but have their own power bar.

The power bar is where the characters distinguish themselves.  Each character had a unique attack and unique ability.  Attacks are simply done by pressing the B button.  Bucky can shoot horizontally and vertically and his special ability is a super jump.  By pressing and holding the B button, Bucky crouches down and charges up a jump.  The power meter determines how high he can go and it can be increased in size by collecting certain power-ups.  Blinky has a jetpack that allows him to fly for a short duration.  His attack is a canon-ball like  weapon that fires in an arc.  It can also break certain blocks found in the environment.  It’s more powerful than Bucky’s attack, but has limited range.  Jenny fires a laser that may or may not inflict more damage than Bucky’s gun, though it’s rate of fire doesn’t seem to be as good.  Her special ability is some kind of telekinetic ball that the player can control with the d-pad once it’s been fired.  It’s useful in certain spots where the player can sit out of danger and attack from cover.  Dead Eye has a scatter-shot for his main weapon.  Think the spread gun from Konami’s much more popular Contra series. His special ability lets him crawl on walls for a short duration.  Not particularly useful.  Willy has a fairly normal attack with his special being a charged shot.  Unlike, say Mega Man, Willy is stationary when charging making his special ability the least useful.

Mega Man fans, does this look familiar?

Mega Man fans, does this look familiar?

Willy’s special ability isn’t the only comparison to Mega Man one will find when playing Bucky O’Hare.  In many ways, the game is like a Mega Man clone.  The non-linear setup at the start is certainly reminiscient of the blue bomber’s games and the general run, jump, shoot mechanics seem to be clearly inspired by Mega Man as well.  There’s also some levels, or parts of levels, that are inspired by some of Mega Man’s more famous levels such as the red planet’s nod to Quick Man and the vanishing blocks from the Toad Mother Ship.  A quick google search will reveal that, in some circles, this game is known as the Konami Mega Man.  I’ve never heard anyone actually refer to the game as such, but the internet never lies.  Bucky owes a lot to Mega Man, but it’s different enough to maintain integrity and similar enough that it’s safe to say most fans of the blue bomber will enjoy the green rabbit.

Bucky O’Hare may not be among the most popular NES games, but most people who are into NES games seem to know about it and associate it with one word:  hard.  Many games from this era are hard, but Bucky O’Hare is often placed in that upper tier of really difficult games.  I’ve never heard anyone outright call it the hardest NES game ever made, but I’ve seen it included in several lists or youtube videos amongst the elite.  This is mostly a good thing, as Bucky O’Hare is able to achieve it’s difficulty without being too cheap.  There are some areas, when playing for the first time, that will piss a gamer off.  The most obvious to me occurs on the yellow planet where the player has to hop on these futuristic mine carts that zip along a track.  Jumping from one to another is not difficult, as they slow down long enough to make the timing easy, but before long a wall of spikes will pop up that result in a one-hit death if the player doesn’t react fast enough.  These one-hit deaths comprise the majority of player fatalities in Bucky O’Hare.  Very rarely can I recall actually having my life depleted slowly during a non-boss encounter.  And even the boss fights, as one might imagine, include a number of instant death attacks that can put an end to the fight rather quickly.  What keeps Bucky O’Hare from being among the hardest of the hard is its generous continue system.  Each level is broken up into several acts which, by themselves, are pretty short.  If a player loses all of his or her lives the continue screen is displayed and electing to go on will bring the player to the start of the most recently completed act with a new set of lives.  Continues are unlimited, and completing a full level gives the player a password which isn’t overly complex or long.  This means anyone of moderate skill can probably complete Bucky O’Hare so long as they’re persistent.  And given that much of the game’s difficulty comes from being surprised, practice does indeed make perfect.

Right around the time it seems like the game has thrown everything it can at you, it introduces the flying stages.  Prepare to die.

Right around the time it seems like the game has thrown everything it can at you, it introduces the flying stages. Prepare to die.

Bucky O’Hare is deceptively long and offers a good amount of gameplay.  After completing the first four stages the player is abducted by the toads and (annoyingly) must also re-rescue the trio of Jenny, Dead Eye, and Willy.  The setup, beyond the run and gun nature of the game, is pretty straight-forward but there are areas later in the game that are non-linear as Bucky explores the Toad Mother Ship.  After the conclusion of each level, a boss encounter occurs.  They’re usually fairly challenging, but there are some easy ones, and part of the challenge is knowing which character works best.  For the most part, Bucky on his own is enough to take down a boss but I did find some uses for Jenny’s special attack (namely the yellow planet boss) and Blinky has his moments too.  Only Willy comes across as feeling useless as I was able to make regular use of the other four characters.  Bucky never had another console video game release, but he did have an arcade game released after this one though it wasn’t very popular.  This game, along with the cartoon’s catchy theme song, is probably the way most remember Bucky O’Hare.  Considering most of those other shows, TMNT included, received mediocre to terrible games, I’d say Bucky came out ahead in one respect.  If you like NES games and have never played this one, I whole-heartedly recommend it.