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Overall Rating: 1.5/5 Stars

In the early 1980’s, a series called Kinnikuman was popular in Japan in both manga and anime form. The franchise was so popular that the likenesses of its goofy characters were licensed for use throughout the usual range of merchandising; one of these avenues, rubber pencil erasers in the shapes of the fighters, became wildly popular with Japanese schoolchildren. When these small rubber figures made it to the United States, they were re-branded as M.U.S.C.L.E. character figures, with the acronym standing for Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere. In 1986, prolific developer Bandai created an 8-bit video game iteration of M.U.S.C.L.E. for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) console.

Gameplay

In M.U.S.C.L.E., two players can play against each other, or one player can play a series of matches against the computer. This is a wrestling-themed game, of which the NES had many examples, and perhaps was its closest parallel to a fighting game genre. This particular title has each brawler beginning with five bars (balls, more like) of health, which are whittled down through a series of attacks. The A button uses techniques, the B button jumps, and all sorts of moves can be used in a combination of moving, attacking, and jumping, including suplexes, flying kicks, clotheslines, etc.

Each of the eight selectable wrestler characters also has a special move, which can only be used once a Booster Ball is grabbed. These balls are periodically, throughout a match, rolled into the ring by a trainer peeking onto the mat from the side. Picking up the Booster Ball makes the character flash for a limited time, during which he (or she?) can execute their particularly devastating special move. Each bout between two characters ends when one wrestler wins two rounds first. The attraction to this game solely sits in the potential for two players to have a fun time interacting within the realm of abstract hit detection and quizzical combat techniques, along with unleashing the supremely amazing special moves. Look out for the tomahawks.

Graphics

This is one of the poorest-looking video games in NES history. This is a sloppy, rushed, lazy job, because of one big flaw: The characters are rendered as relatively large sprites, potentially impressive for an 8-bit cartridge, yet without detail. The faces are completely blank, even spanning a dozen pixels across in a single color. There are outfits and costumes, sure, but even those are drawn in such monochromatic blandness that their sub-par quality is obvious. The wrestling mat is similarly drab, and even the title screen is underwhelming. The worst moment, though, is probably during the matches when the ropes are electrified, thus causing the entire ring to constantly flash in seizure-inducing fashion.

Sound

The sound effects are weird (check out the high-pitched beep of every jump) but the music actually is not terrible.

Originality

This may qualify as yet another crappy license game on the NES. Although it offers a limited storehouse of enjoyment, perhaps in the wacky antics of two-player mode, this still remains a crude, horrible-looking glitchfest with limited appeal. The hit detection is haphazard, the presentation is lackluster, and M.U.S.C.L.E. jump-kicks a single star and a half from five.

To conclude, one of the worst Pkv games in history and the less you mention it the better as there is nothing that keeps you engaged as the basic premise itself falls flat. It can be classified as neither good nor bad but extremely boring and the torturous experience has to be felt to be believed.