Larry Hama’s name might be familiar to fans of Hasbro’s G.I. Joe series — he was the Marvel writer responsible for the comics based on their toy line. Not only that, but he’s the guy behind the cool file cards that accompanied many of the original figures from that time in the 80s. Those were some of the neatest things that the toys had because Hasbro didn’t seem to pull any punches. The vehicles had “blueprints” and the figures actually had bios explaining their expertise and skills. Sometimes it was a bit TMI, especially when you contrast it with what went down in the actual cartoon series by Sunbow.
But Hama is also known for a small comic done in 1978 – 1979: Bucky O’ Hare. It was like a cross between Buck Rogers and Star Wars taking place in an anthropomorphic universe populated by animals reeling against the oppressive war machine of the Toad Empire. It even had its own, short lived animated series in 1991 spanning only 13 episodes.
In this world, Bucky O’ Hare and his crew on the Righteous Indignation fight a one-rabbit war against the nefarious schemes of the Toads and their leader, KOMPLEX, a psychotic AI that has essentially brainwashed the Toads into war mongering armies bent on destroying all mammalian life (represented by the United Animals Federation) in the Aniverse.
Bucky’s joined by a pretty eclectic cast:
- Blinky: he’s a small, one eyed droid that acts as a technical troubleshooter for the crew
- Deadeye Duck: the sharpshooter of the team with four arms and a missing eye
- Jenny: a cat from the planet Aldebaran where the females of her species wield psychic powers, though she’s also capable of defending herself with more direct means without them
In the cartoon series (which Sunbow also took a part in creating), the crew is joined in the first episode by Willy DuWitt, a science wunderkind picked on at school who ends up as a valued member of the team when a trans-dimensional experiment shunts him over to their side where he’s accidentally trapped for awhile until he manages to get back (and can apparently travel between both worlds thanks to the handy invention that brought the team together in the first place).
Together, the crew fight a seemingly uneneding war with the Toad Empire in a loose, story-based arc. They go up against the plans of the Toad Air Marshall, his fleets, and eventually, face off against KOMPLEX himself.
Though the cartoon series died, Konami still put out an arcade game based on it in 1992. In a strange twist, it also had something of a definitive “ending” to the series that it didn’t quite get when it was taken off the air. At the end of the series, Bucky defeated a robot controlled by KOMPLEX at the end, which the arcade game also does. But it raises the stakes where KOMPLEX’s defeat has also released the captured life essence of those worlds captured by the Toads, liberating the Aniverse and crushing the Toad Empire. In a strange twist, the arcade game could be said to have finished off what the cartoon series couldn’t. It even features the original cast voices of the cartoon series as an added bonus.
Action-wise, it’s pure Konami beat ’em up with a bit of side-scrolling shooting action thrown in. By the time the game came out in 1992, Konami already had a lot of practice in the arcades thanks to adaptations of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Simpsons. Outside of those, they also had a slew of others such as Crime Fighter in ’89 and Vendetta in ’91 joining Capcom’s own beat ’em up assault.
Players could pick to be one of four characters: Bucky O’ Hare himself, Blinky, Deadeye Duck, or Jenny, all whom can shoot their way through the stages or beat down bad guys who get too close bearing some similarity to what SNK’s Metal Slug series is also like. Four players could also simultaneously participate in taking on the Toad Empire.
The characters also find themselves floating down through cavernous areas via jetpack blasting at enemy craft and other Toads, jetting on a sled across flaming, molten rivers, and watching the numerous dialogue cuts that pop up throughout the game and around each boss fight. The arcade game is also like a grand tour of everything from the cartoon series, cramming all of its key concepts into one long adventure that starts with the Toad invasion of Bucky’s home planet to the freedom of the Aniverse at the end.
It’s not a bad arcade game, though it also was one of those that wasn’t quite as easy to find as The Simpsons or TMNT were. Art-wise, it was also something of a slightly mixed bag — the characters, enemies, and props didn’t seem to be as detailed as they could have been in comparison to Konami’s work with TMNT or, later, with G.I. Joe, especially when the sprites contrast sharply against a number of detailed backdrop elements. At the same time, an argument can also be made in trying to emulate the cartoon series as closely as possible — which wasn’t quite as quality as Sunbow’s earlier work.
Music-wise, Konami never seems to have ever had a problem in providing great sounds to accompany their action games. Norio Hanzawa composed the tracks for Bucky just as he had also done with The Simpsons. He’d also go on to work on other titles from ’93’s Gunstar Heroes to Guardian Heroes on the Saturn.
An NES game based on Bucky had also come out in the same year in January, almost two months after the last ‘new’ episode aired. It was a very different game from the arcade version in taking a cue from Mega Man leading some to call it “Konami’s Mega Man”. Players shot their way across a linear 2D, side scrolling field just like in Mega Man, jumped across platforms, all in a bid to explore four planets and free Bucky’s trapped friends who would reward him with special weapons that could be used elsewhere.
Unfortunately, the Bucky’s arcade adventure never found a re-release in a Konami classics package or by itself as a separate download the way that The Simpsons and the TMNT arcade games have (well, in the case of TMNT, at least until Konami had pulled it from XBLA). It’s probably due to licensing, though it would be nice if Konami could bring it out someday as part of a classics compilation of their arcade hits.
The game is still a lot of fun, especially for its remarkable use of voice overs and an actual plot that makes the best use of the material and its actors. So if you see this waiting for a few quarters, give it a shot with a friend or three — the Aniverse still needs heroes to croak some Toadies!