Previous Article - X-Entertainment - Next Article --- By Matt - 9.18/'02

Some people have written in asking me if this new Ultimate Muscle cartoon has anything to do with the original toy line. As far as I know, it certainly does - the show has been around in Japan for years, and while we didn't get it here till now, all of the old figures found their roots there. And there you were, blindly thinking that zero thought went into the little pink guys. Give the Japanese a little credit. There's the masters of marketing. How else do you explain paying seven or eight bucks for a spoonful of rice shoved under a piece of raw octopus?

Though more popular on the other side of the globe, M.U.S.C.L.E. definitely left a small mark on our own culture. There was just no way any kid could avoid collecting the things. There were too many pros and too few cons. Boys usually shunned the color pink for the sissy factor, but we couldn't deny that there was something heavenly about these almost flesh-tone figurines, sized perfectly to carry around in your pocket, or maybe inside your mouth if you were planning a M.U.S.C.L.E. Spit Attack™ against one of your enemies.

They were a lot more fun to trade than cards, too. Frankly, the main reason I got into sports card collecting was so I could participate in those great trade session afternoons with my more athletically inclined friends. I had no idea what I was doing, and was left totally open to exploitation from my friends who knew that Nolan Ryan was worth a little more than the checklist card. I had no such insight. It was a private, unspoken shame for me. Not because I didn't know a thing about baseball, but because I was being consistently outsmarted by kids who thought Gizmo from Gremlins was a real one-of-a-kind animal seen exclusively in movies. When M.U.S.C.L.E. trading became fashionable, I cut my losses and moved onto a genre I was more comfortable with.

The figures also helped kids learn the value of money, and how to use it to their fullest potential. The classic four-packs were only a dollar, so of course, they were a parental favorite. But you were cheating yourself if you only got one of the four-packs. The real goal was to get Mommy to agree to buying you an eight-dollar toy, and at the last second, change your decision to eight four-packs of M.U.S.C.L.E. figures. Your parents couldn't complain because it was the same price, and after all, the fact that you figured that out was worth rewarding in itself, because it proved you paid attention to your teacher's math lessons.

You can learn more about the M.U.S.C.L.E. phenomenon in two older X-E articles, found here and here. The line became way popular...maybe a little too popular. These were simple toys. They weren't meant to expand on. But you know how it is - once something becomes a cash cow, the farmer toy companies start seeing dollar signs in the grass field, and before you know it, you end up with one of the worst video games anyone's ever seen.

Yes, the M.U.S.C.L.E. Nintendo game. I'm glad it exists, but it's scary in a way since only Lucifer himself could've okayed a game this bad to go on the open market. The thought of Satan walking among us is sobering enough, but when you realize he's controlling the video game market, it's positively terrifying. I have no explanations as to how this game ever came to be. The toys were popular, but they weren't so popular that kids were gonna buy a crappy game just because it said 'M.U.S.C.L.E.' on the box. And I don't think I'd be going too far in saying that most kids who played it probably stopped caring about their Nintendos altogether. This was the type of game that made you lose faith in the industry.

Loss of faith? See, I told you the devil was at work.

It was bad. Real bad. Bad to the point where the word 'bad' had to take on a much heavier definition to justify how terrible it was. The popularity resurgence of playing jacks in 1986 was a direct result of kids being afraid of buying more games this awful.

The general idea was that the M.U.S.C.L.E. characters engaged in tag team wrestling matches on the road to gold. It had been done before, but that's not why people hate it so much. There's no fun, bad graphics, bad sound, bad controls, bad everything. There were eight characters to choose from, with only some of them actually based on the toys.

The moves were pretty basic, even by the era's standards. I hope you like the suplex move, because you'll see a lot of it. I hope you like jumping atop your opponents, because that's pretty much the only thing you can do besides supplexing them. I hope you like learning how to experience frustration with grace, because you'll need to if you don't want to throw the Nintendo against a wall.

I think, in truth, the game only masqueraded as a wrestling match. It seems more like you're controlling a bunch of clumsy janitors who randomly knock each over other while mopping the blood of real wrestlers off the mat. On the plus side, there was a mysterious figure who occasionally showed up outside of the ring to throw power pellets in - once you got those, your character could utilize his special move. Of course, the player who gets the power pellet immediately wins the match. All you had to do was stand closer to the top of the screen than your opponent. That's all it took to win. What a terrific game!!

Okay, it's not that easy. It's only like that when you're playing the two-player version. In the one-player version, it's you against the computer. The computer never loses. What a terrific game X2!!!

It's only worth noting for me because it's got eight colorful M.U.S.C.L.E. characters. Not surprisingly, the designers felt that none of them needed names. But, according to the one and only M.U.S.C.L.E. Nintendo Game F.A.Q. I found, they did indeed have names and distinct personalities. I'm a little skeptical, but it's enough for me to go on to create the point of this article: the M.U.S.C.L.E video game character database!

"Red Warrior": The only wrestler in the game who truly resembled one of the toys. Red Warrior took his name very seriously. That's why his underwear is red. It's why his boots are red. It's why he put his lips in a vice for two hours so they'd turn plump and red. He even wears red contacts. My only gripe is that he didn't paint the horn on his head red. I mean, you go through all this trouble to be the reddest pro-wrestler on the could you miss something like that?

Red Warrior's special move is the 'fifty foot piledriver' - he grabs his opponent, jumps so high that he's actually off-screen, and returns to plant the foe's face into the mat. It looks like it hurts. It's probably the best special move in the game, mainly because none of the other special moves grant your character the ability to fly.

"Amazonian Bushman": Mother Nature sends out her best troop to take over the wrestling industry and bring balance to the swamplands. I guess. Aside from the green/brown earthy clothes, Bushman wears a twig in his hair. He never uses it as a weapon, but the option's still there. Though he has the weakest offense in the game, Amazonian Bushman makes up for it with the strangest special move.

Once he eats a power pellet, Bushman is afforded a small amount of time to throw axes at his opponent. Since the designers forgot to include a referee, he can't be disqualified for it. I'm not sure where he gets the endless supply of axes from. I don't really care, either.

"Fuji": Fuji prides himself on the code of the ninja - stealth and silence. He's fast, and he had surgery to remove his mouth entirely to enforce the 'silence' part. Red Warrior is his mortal enemy, the two have constant battles because they both wear red pants. Since all you get for your victory in this game is a poorly rendered graphic of a trophy, the wrestlers seek out other things to fight over. Hence, red pants!

Fuji's special move is the 'wicked dropkick.' It's like a regular dropkick, just with a cooler name. If the crowd was even slightly animated, they might very well cheer for a move like that. But Fuji isn't in this contest for fame and glory - it's just that half-bald ninjas with fu manchus and beads stapled to their arms don't have many career paths set for them besides professional wrestling.

"Blue Knight": I call foul. Blue Knight shouldn't be allowed to wear armor. It's illegal protection against all the suplexes, suplexes, and suplexes found in the game. He's not fooling anyone here, I can clearly see that he's wearing steel armor. The fact that he wears black tights over the armor isn't throwing me off one bit.

Blue Knight's special move is the 'side winder' - it lets him throw his opponent over his head to the mat. Of all the contestants, I think Blue Knight might look the most sinister. Check out those evil eyes. It'd be way more frightening if he didn't do the Macarena after winning a match.

"Viking Warrior": You know, I bet he's not really a Viking. I think he just wears that horned helmet so he's got something memorable working for him. Take the helmet away, and he's just another half-naked mouthless freak with gray slits for eyes. Like Linus with his blanket or Vanna with her giant revolving letters, Viking Warrior is nothing without his magic helmet.

His special move is the 'flying cartwheel kick.' That's pretty self-explanatory, but you know any real Vikings who can do a cartwheel? Even if they could do cartwheels, they probably wouldn't. He's no Viking. He's nothing. You've got enough to worry about in this game - don't pick the one guy with an identity crisis.

"Christian Crusader": Serving God's will inside the squared circle, Christian Crusader seeks to use his success in pro-wrestling as a platform to sell bibles. If Jesus ever came back again, he'd make a great pro-wrestler. Aside from being all-powerful...who's gonna hit the guy? Christian Crusader hopes that the same goes for him. You don't hit that which is holy. Unless it's a priest who keeps imitating the kid from the Dell commercials. Then it's okay.

With a cross on his forehead, he utilizes the 'running sidewalk slam'. The maneuver is very devastating and very Roman Catholic. While people like the Viking Warrior draw their power from silly helmets, Christian Crusader does 'em one better - he digs deep for help from the Holy Spirit. Amen.

"Dark Ninja": Dark Ninja's main rival is Fuji. They disagree on who's the better ninja. Fuji believes it's him, but it's hard to argue against Dark Ninja's virtues. Everyone knows ninjas wear black football helmets.

His special move is the 'Lunging Sai,' which admittedly sounds like something a ninja would do. It basically consists of him jumping across the ring and knocking his opponent to the floor. Sadly he doesn't scream 'HIYYYA!'. I forgive that, if only because if you look at his torso area in just the right way, it appears to be a gray frog.

"Four-Armed Terror": How could you not pick this guy? He had four arms! He had blue skin! He's wearing a crown! HE HAS A MOUTH!!!!! I'm pretty sure I remember owning a M.U.S.C.L.E. figure that looked just like Four-Armed Terror, but I think I gave him a better name, like 'Joe' or 'Four-Armed Trevor.' Could be the same guy, but I always pegged mine for a car salesman. Guess he could've moonlighted in pro-wrestling if the money was good.

His special move? The 'guerilla press'. Using all the might within his many arms, Terror throws his opponent straight up into the air, and when they finally come back down, boy does it hurt!

Those are all the characters - your goal in the game wasn't to pin your opponent, rather to just deplete their energy level until they could no longer continue. It was frustrating since the normal moves inflicted almost no damage, leaving the outcome totally up to whomever got a power pellet first. There wasn't any real reason to get all involved with the game, either. If you won in the two-player game, you got a trophy graphic. If you made it all the way through the impossible one-player game, all of the characters would jump off the ring posts to form a pile of wrestlers in the middle of the screen. What a payoff!

Up above is the step-by-step process of the power pellet special move crap. First, some guy appears at the top of the screen. When you see him, you know a power pellet's coming. If you're able to grab it, your wrestler will start glowing and blinking different colors. I take this to mean power pellets aren't terribly edible. Finally, you're able to use a special move, all but guaranteeing victory. Pleh. If this is one of 400 wrestling video games, it means there's 399 better wrestling video games out there for you to play.

If you're obsessed with the idea of making M.U.S.C.L.E. characters wrestle, there's a better way:

The M.U.S.C.L.E. Rockin' Ring was essentially a smaller version of Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Robots, only you could use whichever figure you wanted. And instead of knocking a robot's head up, you'd knock a M.U.S.C.L.E. figure clear out of the ring. The toy was pretty easy to break since kids got so into it, but was still entertaining. Plus, it came with the two 'leader' figures - the aforementioned Red Warrior, (under a different name, wrestlers always use pseudonyms) and Terri-Bull the Terrible. Honestly, the box could've been empty or filled with bear urine samples and it still would've been a better buy than the stupid Nintendo game.

If you never collected M.U.S.C.L.E. figures, don't bother ever looking for this one since it offers nothing but torment. It's worth checking out as a curiosity if you liked the toys, though. Keep in mind I only say that because we live in the era of emulation. I could never suggest actually paying for something like this. If you want to play it and agree not to hold it against me, here it is. Enjoy!

- Matt
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