A game where the fighting was done with dance moves, music, robots, and transforming magic, Sega’s Moonwalker was only one of the ways that Michael Jackson’s talented persona brought together everything that made him the King of Pop.
UPDATED: Added video links to Captain EO and Moonwalker’s Genesis and Arcade versions
Despite the controversy surrounding his life, the one thing that has always struck me was in watching his public rise and fall from the eighties and through to today. As I grew up in the eighties, especially, you couldn’t turn on a pop radio station without hearing one of his hits and to see the effect that his persona and his music has had on the world. I remember that when his Thriller jacket first came out, I would hear stories of how kids in my class would become green with envy on learning that one of their friends had it.
Everyone wanted to learn the moonwalk. It was wild! Everyone I knew…even adults at the time…were entranced by the magic he brought through the radio. At Epcot, I remember my brother and our parents standing in line for an hour and a half outside of the Imagination pavilion…not for the ride, but to watch Captain EO in 3D which cast him as a singing, dancing space captain out to save the galaxy. Not once, but two or three times. I’ll admit it: I love sci-fi, but the music was awesome cool, too.
And then Sega came out with Moonwalker for the Genesis which was great fun. The game was also available in the arcades. Beating down bad guys with dance moves, his white hat, and the power of his music was as unique an experience as you could probably find on the console at the time.
That’s probably how a lot of people are going to remember him, me included…not for the the fall of his public persona or what the scrutiny of his life had shaken loose, but for the incredible inspiration that he had awakened through his music and his work, defying borders and making fans in the most unlikely of places even during the final years of the Cold War.
The musical legacy that he leaves behind and the magic that has given so many of his fans is nothing short of an amazing phenomenon that I feel privileged to have been a part of in my lifetime. I sometimes wonder what that kid ultimately did with his jacket, or if his friend had finally learned the moonwalk, but we can all hear just what his music had brought the world by turning on the radio.