Merso X is an independent game developer working through the website gamejolt. His library of independent games ranges from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to Thundercats. Right now he’s hard at work on a game that is something of a love letter to the Konami-era of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games and the characters found within that have been lying dormant since the early 90’s.
Turtle Tracks Blog: Rescue-Palooza is an incredible love letter to the classic TMNT games from Konami, but what made you start with the old games from the 90’s? Why not try to make something more modern?
Merso X: I’d say its three things. Ever since the release of Super Mario All Stars for the SNES, I have wanted to see many other NES titles get a graphics makeover and some fine-tuning, and Rescue-Palooza allows me to do that with the NES TMNT games from that era. Add to that the goofy and playful tone of the original cartoon and the Playmates toy line (they’re both chock-full of dad jokes), which are great ingredients you want to make a FUN video game. And of course I can’t ignore the power of nostalgia.
How did you get started with making your own games?
MX: As I kid, I always wanted to create games but had no idea how. In the mid-90s I was finally able to give it a try, using a program called Klik and Play (this app would later become Multimedia Fusion and I believe it exists to this day). I remember that my very first mini-game was a top-down view shooter similar to contra. It was pretty basic. After some time I tried to develop beat ’em ups, but the engine wasn’t really designed for that and I lost interest until I learned about Beats of rage (which evolved into OpenBOR), I believe around 2007 or 2008.
You’ve also made games featuring the Power Rangers and Thundercats. What is it about a particular property that makes you think there needs to be a new game in a franchise?
MX: Going back to the Mario All Stars stuff I said earlier, both Thundercats and Karate Kid had official games that I felt could really benefit from a revisit, while improving their presentation and gameplay mechanics.
Power Rangers is different because the MMPR season did get quality video games in the 90s. I was very curious on a game would be like if it mixed the qualities of the SNES games (colorful graphics and energetic gameplay) with the beat ‘em up structure of the MMPR The Movie game for the Genesis, all while bringing over as many elements from the show like music and sound effects. Sort of by accident, I realized that my secondary motivation was that I wanted to create a game that more closely represented the show itself (which is pretty much a beat ‘em up game in live action, if you think about it: every episode had an intro sequence that established a paper-thin plot, followed by un-morphed fight with identical-looking minions, followed by morphed fights against minions, which is then followed by a boss battle, and lastly some dialogue scenes to wrap the plot). Ultimately the hand-drawn graphics limited me in that regard, which is why I am using digitized sprites for the sequel.
There are a host of unlockable characters to play as in this game, from fan favorite characters like Mona Lisa, to characters I never thought I’d see in another game like Tora. Can you give us a brief explanation of how you “create” one of the new characters?
MX: Tora, Shogun, and other characters are a straight repaint of their NES sprites with some minor alterations. Due to hardware limitation, NES sprites could only have three different colors. Rescue-Palooza gives me a chance to add more colors and shading to each sprite. I do this on Photoshop and it is a very slow but rewarding process for me. In fact, recoloring 8-bit era sprites is one of my favorite tasks in the development of my games.
In the case of characters that hadn’t been featured in games before, I sometimes take sprites from other games as a base – for example, Aska’s walking cycle used Blaze’s (from Streets of Rage) sprites as a base, but hopefully the end result is different enough as to not be distracting. Most of the time though, I create the sprites from scratch, using the animated series as a base.
How is progress going now as opposed to making your first game? Are things easier now, or is there always a new challenge for you?
MX: Always a challenge, always. I think it is due to a combination of me getting more ambitious on what I can achieve with the OpenBOR engine, as well as my pathetic memory ( I keep forgetting how I achieved things earlier in the project and have to look the same things up time and time again)
Bonus question: I’m a huge fan of Scratch the cat and I noticed on Facebook that you have done work on him being playable in your game. Is there a timeline on when we can expect him? Or am I blind and I just haven’t figured out how to unlock him?
MX: Scratch is not yet part of the demo that is currently available on GameJolt, I am reserving him as well as all the Technodrome levels for the final version of the game. I don’t have a release date but I am forcing myself to have it ready this year!
You can download the latest demo for TMNT Rescue-Palooza here.