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As part of a challenge to make a game that borders on sue-worthy territory, designer Aaron Meyers recently made a game called Michael E Michael and it features the late Michael Jackson battling against himself in an isometric, eight-direction fighting game.
Siliconera picked up the news after the game recently went live over on the indie game distribution service itch.io. The game was designed as part of a challenge to not only include doppelgangers in the game, but also tread dangerously close to infringement territory.
The rules of the challenge were quite simple, reading...
The game must tread dangerously into the intellectual property of an existing game or game franchise, but be cleverly altered and culturally mangled enough to not be worth the effort to sue.
In this case the game Michael E Michael is pretty darn close to the official Michael Jackson game for the Sega Genesis called Michael Jackson's Moonwalker. Like some licensed games back then it sucked pretty hard, but the music was great.
In this case the game is very similar to old SNK classics like King of Monsters, where both players will battle it out using eight directions and a handful of moves to beat their opponent into a pulp. You can see it in action with a video from YouTuber Alpha Beta Gamer.
It's a strange but functional game, as players will be able to utilize Michael's signature kick to knock down the other Michael, or throw a punch, or charge up and shoot out various specials, including unleashing an army of miniature Michael Jacksons against their opponent.
The sprites and animations actually aren't that bad and the music is spot on.
The game really does walk straight up to the line of copyright infringement, spits over the line but doesn't bother to take that final step across. Since the game is called Michael E Michael and doesn't actually mention “Jackson” next to the name it's technically not Michael Jackson. And the fact that it's a fighting game and not a music game removes any semblance to the character pulling off dance moves as opposed to just fighting and defending himself. The only thing that really could be construed as copyright territory is the 16-bit remix of “Smooth Criminal”. Then again, it could be construed as a cover and not actual copyright infringement.
Either way, the project really does come close to that barrier without actually breaching it.
Meyers should actually consider making a full fledged fighting game out this. The groundwork is already there and it just needs a few more cast of characters... maybe a 1980s Bobby Brown, an early 1990s M.C. Hammer and Paula Abdul... heck he could throw in The New Kids on The Block, Prince, Milli Vanilli, Salt 'n Pepper, Vanilla Ice or Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch to round out the roster while he's at it.
If you're keen on playing Michael E Michael feel free to grab a digital copy from itch.io.