Overall Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Bucky O’Hare was a comic-book character and star of an animated television series that proved to be a popular enough license to eventually lead to Konami producing a video game based on the canon. Concerning the space-faring green rabbit Bucky O’Hare and his ragtag crew of anthropomorphic creature-person heroes and their fight against the dread forces of the toad menace to save the Aniverse.
This one-player game begins with the player controlling the protagonist Bucky O’Hare, whose four shipmates have been captured and stowed on four planets generically named after colors. From an initial stage-select screen, Bucky can tackle the planets in whatever manner he wishes in order to save his comrades before taking the fight directly to the Air Marshal of the frog fighters.
Gameplay is in the style of a two-dimensional platformer run-‘n’-gun type of title, whereas the A button jumps and the B button fires a blaster. The player can fire directly upward with Bucky’s gun and also fire while crouches. Each level offers their share of pattern-based enemies, precision-jumping puzzles, and fast-paced battle scenarios, all of which end in a nice little boss fight.
Where Bucky O’Hare begins to become somewhat distinctive is in the fact that after each crew member is rescued, you can instantly switch to playing as that character, and scroll through all available cast members by pressing Select. Each squad member has a slightly different weapon (Deadeye’s pistol fires in three directions but at a short range, Jenny has a quick laser that fires from her forehead, etc.) and a special ability activated by holding the B button (Jenny can launch a “crystal ball” attack that the player can control with the directional pad, Blinky can hover for a limited amount of time, etc.). It is this combination of character traits that enhances the challenge of each level as the player must decide which is best for the given situation. What complicates (or makes more tactical, at least) matters is that there are power tokens spread out throughout levels that upgrade each character’s inherent ability, each of which can be upgraded a few times, usually resulting in a longer duration of their particular specialty.
With the standard platformer formula in place, Bucky adds items and power-ups, character selections, a robust health bar, a smattering of one-ups and continues to go along with a decent password system, and “hidden” levels apart from the initial four offered to form a thorough sci-fi laser-blasting adventure.
The character sprites are big enough to pose distinctive characters against some just-okay backdrops, but in some cases it is the enemy designs that outclass the heroes. For example, there is a portion of the Green Planet (Act 5, specifically, as the levels are divided) when multiple large crafts fly overhead, firing at the character, and all done with minimal flickering and slowdown issues. Then, at the end, a solid boss match with a toadbot who throws enormous boulders that crumble into deadly shards. On that same stage, though, this game shows its occasional “meh” qualities, with running water that is only bothered to be animated at its surface, lending an odd, ethereal appearance as it seemingly hovers a couple feet over the ground, yet landing in it instantly kills the controlled character.
This title boasts the usual high-quality Konami effects, many of them recognizable from their library of other NES games (try the Start/pause button in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartridges, or notice the explosion sound of the defeated bosses), along with good background music in place for appropriate ambiance. The skillful renditions reflect painstaking attempt at optimizing what the hardware had to offer, and results in an action-oriented, multi-layered beat throughout.
While other sci-fi themes had been done before for two-dimensional platform titles, and anthropomorphic protagonists had been seen before, no game was quite like Bucky O’Hare. This does not represent a perfect video game, nor is the experience without its aggravations, flaws, and outright bizarre bits (a spider enemy that drops down from a tree and explodes?!). Nonetheless, this game came late in the support cycle of the Nintendo Entertainment System console, long after Konami had mastered the basics of game-crafting and was able to spin a unique, enjoyable romp here, deserving of a respectable three and a half stars out of five.