- Action 52
North American NES cover art.
Developer(s) Active Enterprises (NES)
FarSight Studios (Genesis)
Publisher(s) Active Enterprises Distributor(s) Active Enterprises Director(s) Raul Gomila
Producer(s) Vince Perri (executive producer) Designer(s) Vince Perri Programmer(s) Cronos Engineering, Inc. Artist(s) Vince Perri Composer(s) Vince Perri (NES)
Ed Bogas (NES; uncredited due to lack of permission)
Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock (NES theme; uncredited due to lack of permission for "It Takes Two")
Nu Romantic Productions (Mark Steven Miller and Jason Scher) (Genesis)
Engine Proprietary Active Enterprises NES engine Platform(s) NES
Release date(s) NES
Genre(s) Action-adventure Mode(s) Single-player
Rating(s) N/A (Pre-ESRB) Media/distribution 16-megabit cartridge (NES)
Action 52 is an unlicensed multicart consisting of 52 individual and original video games, released in September 1991 for the Nintendo Entertainment System and in May 1993 for the Sega Genesis consoles by Active Enterprises (a Super Nintendo Entertainment System version was advertised in some magazines, but never released). It initially retailed for the comparatively high price of US$199 (or "less than $4 for each game"), and became notorious among gamers for the abysmal quality of its games. Many video game collectors value Action 52 for its notoriety and rarity.
The cartridge states that it contains 52 "new and original exciting games". The games cover a variety of genres, although the most common are scrolling shooters and platform games. Examples of scrolling shooters include Star Evil, G-Force, Thrusters, and Megalonia. Some of the platform games available are Ooze, Non Human, Alfred N the Fettuc, and Bubblegum Rossie.
Nintendo Entertainment System
List of games
- Fire Breathers
- Star Evil
- G-Force Fighters
- Silver Sword
- Critical Bypass
- Jupiter Scope
- Alfredo and The Fettucini*
- Operation Full-Moon
- Dam Busters
- Haunted Halls of Wentworth
- Chill Out
- French Baker
- Atmos Quake
- Space Dreams
- Bubblegum Rosie
- Rocket Jockey
- Non Human
- Cry Baby
- Crazy Shuffle
- Fuzz Power
- Shooting Gallery
- Evil Empire
- Storm Over the Desert
- Mash Man
- They Came...
- Lazer League
- City of Doom
- Bits and Pieces
- Beeps and Blips
- Manchester Beat
- The Boss
- Hambo's Adventures
- Time Warp Tickers
- Ninja Assault
- Robbie and the Robots
- The Cheetahmen
'*' Crashes upon startup
The NES version of Action 52 was internally developed by Active Enterprises, also the publisher of the game. The games cover a variety of genres, although the most common are scrolling shooters and platform games. Examples of scrolling shooters include Star Evil, G-Force, Thrusters, and Megalonia. Some of the platform games available are Ooze, Non Human, Alfred N the Fettuc, and Bubblegum Rossie. The majority of the titles included on the cartridge had major glitches. The games have been known to freeze or crash due to programming flaws, have incomplete and/or endless levels, unresponsive controls, and confusing design. In the game manual, each title had a one-sentence description. Some titles were described as completely different games and some were incorrectly described or miscategorized.
The "Think" drum break from Lyn Collins' song "Think (About It)" is used in the beginning sequence of the NES version. The sound generated for moving the select cursor on the NES version was used for the Power Player Super Joy III's menu. Active Enterprises advertised a competition in which anyone who could complete level 5 of the NES version of Ooze would be entered into a prize drawing to win $104,000 ($52,000 cash and scholarship of same value). The game was reported to crash on level 3, making this prize impossible to win without use of emulator or using in-game exploit, further making the contest a failure.
The Cheetahmen was the "featured" game on the Action 52 multicart, and there were initial plans for a line of merchandise including action figures, t-shirts, a comic book series and even a television cartoon based on the characters (an advertisement for Cheetahmen action figures, displaying prototype sketches, was included in the aforementioned comic book). These plans quickly fell through as negative word-of-mouth and reviews mounted.
Sega Mega Drive/Genesis
List of games
- Dyno Tennis
- Star Ball
- 15 Puzzle
- Star Duel
- Haunted Hill
- The Cheetahmen
- Depth Charge
- Minds Eye
- Alien Attack
- Billy Bob
- Force One
- Sunday Drive
- Star Evil
- Air Command
- Bombs Away
- Speed Boat
- G Fighter
- Man At Arms
- Armor Battle
- Magic Bean
- Sky Avenger
- Black Hole
- The Boss
- First Game
The Sega Genesis version of Action 52 was developed by FarSight Technologies. This version features a different lineup of games, some with more work put into design and technical issues than the NES version. Each game is color coded on the main menu screen; "Beginner" games are displayed in a green font, "intermediate" games are displayed in a purple font, "expert" games are displayed in a yellow font, and multiplayer games are displayed in a blue font. In addition to the 52 games listed above, the Mega Drive/Genesis version features a music test mode, and a "randomizer" option. If selected from the main menu, the randomizer will randomly choose and start one game from the 52 available on the cartridge. The fifty-second game, Challenge, is an endurance test to see how long the player lasts in a random series of the highest levels of the other games.
Several new games were introduced in the Sega version. A number of these have the same name as games on the NES cartridge, although they are not the same game; the Sega Haunted Hills, for instance, is entirely different from the NES Haunted Hills. Other games feature other changes, including a version of The Cheetahmen in which the titular Cheetahmen rescue captured cheetah cubs from monsters, which is completely different from the original NES game. The bosses from the NES version appear as enemies.
Vince Perri of Miami, Florida created Action 52. He showcased the game at the International Winter Consumer Electronics Show. The breakthrough came by accident. "I happened to see my son playing an illegal product made in Taiwan that had 40 games on it. The whole neighborhood went crazy over it," Perri said. "I figured I'd do it legally. It's obvious when you see something like that, you know there's something there."
Several of the songs from the NES version of Action 52 were plagiarized from example tunes included in Activision's The Music Studio for Atari ST. The games with plagiarized music include Fuzz Power, Silver Sword, French Baker, Streemerz, Time Warp Tickers, and Ninja Assault. Those songs were composed by Ed Bogas. Additionally, programmer Kevin Horton analyzed the music code of Action 52, and found that it matched a music engine programmed by Sculptured Software. This sound engine also appears in other games by Sculptured Software, including Day Dreamin' Davey, Eliminator Boat Duel, the NES version of Monopoly, and Metal Mech.
For the original NES collection, Perri raised $5 million from private backers in Europe and Saudi Arabia. He and Raul Gomila employed several college students to do the programming which was programmed on an Atari ST, and contracted out technical work to Cronos Engineering Inc., a Boca Raton company that had done work for IBM. Action 52 may have originally been designed to include 60 games, as evidenced by eight menu templates present in the ROM, as well as many unused tiles. The extra eight games may have been cut due to the large size of the cartridge (two megabytes), and a probable increased production cost.
The Sega Genesis version, released two years later, was developed by FarSight Studios, who had also developed Color a Dinosaur for the NES. Plans for a Super NES version of the cartridge were announced, but Active Enterprises withdrew from the video game industry shortly thereafter, and no copies are known to exist.
Released on the Action 52 cartridge, The Cheetahmen was Active Enterprises' attempt to compete with the success of franchises such as Battletoads and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Action 52 cartridge came 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, a simple overhead tank game where running over Hossain, who appears very frequently, gives the player another life.
The backstory of the Cheetahmen was given in a 12-page comic book included with Action 52. 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's evil plans, they turn on him, and he in turn creates an army of half-animal humans (known as "Sub-Species") 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.
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's 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.
- 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.
There were plans for a sequel to The Cheetahmen. Although mostly completed, Cheetahmen II was made, but it 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 hard to find, though numerous ROM images exist on the Internet. Copies of the game value at almost $1,000.
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.
Cheetahmen II is famous for its music, and for its lack of quality in all other areas. Like Action 52, it was not licensed by Nintendo.
References in mass media
In October 2007, it was reported that Cheetahman 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.
- ^ "Top Ten Shameful Games". Archive.gamespy.com. 2002-12-31. http://archive.gamespy.com/top10/december02/shame/index2.shtml. Retrieved 2009-11-14.
- ^ a b "Action 52 for NES - MobyGames". MobyGames. http://www.mobygames.com/game/action-52. Retrieved 2009-11-14.
- ^ Harris, Andrew; Allwein, Dave (2003). "Jay Obernolte Interview". Cheetahmen Corner. http://cheetahmen.silius.net/obernolte.html. Retrieved 2010-10-04.
- ^ Chiucchi, Vincent (2008-01-17). "411mania.com: Games - The Hall of Shame 01.17.08: Action 52". 411mania.com. http://www.411mania.com/games/columns/67085/The-Hall-of-Shame-01.17.08:-Action-52.htm. Retrieved 2009-11-14.
- ^ a b "Active Enterprises exposed". atarihq.com. http://www.atarihq.com/tsr/special/active.html. Retrieved 2009-11-14.
- ^ "Action 52 - th' Stuff". Arkfullofsorrow.com. http://www.arkfullofsorrow.com/a52stuff.htm. Retrieved 2009-07-22.
- ^ a b c Jave. "Action 52 - NES (1991) / Action 52 - Genesis (1993) / Cheetahmen 2 - NES (unreleased)". Hardcore Gaming 101. http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/action52/action52.htm. Retrieved 2010-10-04.
- ^ "Cartridge has 52 video games". Austin American-Statesman. 1993-01-30. http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=AASB&p_theme=aasb&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_topdoc=1&p_text_direct-0=0EAD91978A7B82C7&p_field_direct-0=document_id&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&s_trackval=GooglePM.
- ^ a b "Video Creator Plays 52 Games to Win.." The Miami Herald.
- ^ "Youtube Video demonstrating matching songs from "The Music Studio" and "Action 52"". 2009-02-12. http://www.youtube.com/all_comments?v=PGQAhV8Ga1k.
- ^ "Post on NESDev forums by Kevin Horton". 2011-04-05. http://nesdev.parodius.com/bbs/viewtopic.php?t=7626.
- ^ "Things you never knew about Action 52!". YouTube. 2008-01-20. http://youtube.com/watch?v=lz_5JucV8TQ. Retrieved 2009-07-22. [unreliable source?]
- ^ "Worst NES Game Evar Has Awesomest Music". http://kotaku.com/316014/worst-nes-game-evar-has-awesomest-music.
- ^ "伝説のクソゲー『チーターマン2』が15年ぶりに復活！ ニコニコ動画でブーム". livedoor News. http://news.livedoor.com/article/detail/3359112/.
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