For decades, the Cheetahmen have been locked in a bitter and futile struggle against Dr. Morbis. In Cheetahmen II, every two levels a different Cheetahmen becomes available. Theoretically, a player starts with Apollo (crossbow) for the first two levels, gets to play as Aries (fists) for the third and fourth levels, and uses Hercules (dual clubs) for the fifth and sixth levels. Unfortunately, the Cheetahmen’s feline courage and ninja skills have not been enough to pass the mutant Ape Man boss at the end of the fourth level. A software bug has thwarted years of insanely skilled and strangely dedicated players from ever getting to level five. Ironically, it turns out that beating Cheetahmen II is even more rare than this holy grail of NES cartridges.
Will we finally be able to help the Cheetahmen defeat Dr Morbis?
Last week, I had the opportunity to chat on the phone with Greg Pabich find to find out about his newest project. Since I was polite enough not to record the conversation, here’s a paraphrased version of our discussion:
Mark: Hey Greg, how’s it going?
Greg: Mark, I’ve been pretty busy! I’m excited about our next Cheetahmen project!
Mark: Ha ha! Oh dear!?! What’ve you been up to?
Greg: Well, you know how that pallet of Cheetahmen II cartridges never made it to market?
Mark: Yeah, collectors love them, but what a frustrating game.
Greg: When Active Enterprises was about to go under, I’m guessing Vince Perri abandoned them either because money wasn’t coming in on the Action 52 like he figured or because he realized it was an incomplete game.
Mark: Yeah, you can only even play the first four levels, right?
Greg: Exactly! So here’s what I’m up to. I think the world needs to have that game up and working. Love it or hate it, it just needs to get finished and put on a cartridge.
Greg: The original Cheetahmen II game carts are selling for thousands of dollars now. Most collectors can’t even begin to afford them. I want to put together a playable cartridge that will have all the levels working. Apparently, it was originally designed with more levels, but it was just too buggy to let anyone play them. Once we have a working game with all its original levels working, I’d love to put them into NES collectors’ hands.
Mark: What’s the game plan going to be for doing that?
Greg: I put a small fortune into producing and distributing the Cheetahmen Creation cartridge last year. Between development, production, marketing, and selling a repaired version of Cheetahmen 2, I know it’s going to cost some serious cash. I’m thinking Kickstarter will be a great tool to launch this project.
Mark: That’s probably wise. Plus, from one married man to another, I have a feeling your wife might like the Kickstarter plan a bit better than trying to fund it all yourself. So, I know people love, hate, and pretty much love to hate Action 52 and Cheetahmen 2. What’s going to get people to back this project?
Greg: Kickstarter has a great model of letting people support a project and get something unique as a thank you for their support. We have some pretty reasonable donation levels, and based on how much people donate, we’ll have things available ranging from exclusive posters to actual cartridges of the game once we get it produced. I’ve got Mario Gonzalez, one of the original designers of Action 52/Cheetahmen involved, and he’s created some fantastic new artwork for the posters and will be signing certain items! Plus, most items will be numbered and hologram stickered as limited editions available only to contributors.
Mark: Actually, that a pretty good plan. I’m a pretty big NES collector, and this might be a much more reasonable way for me to get a copy of Cheetahmen II into my collection even if it isn’t the original. I’m guessing you could get some good buzz in collecting circles around this.
Greg: Actually, we’re going to go bigger than that. By sheer coincidence, the Angry Video Game Nerd (AVGN) just did a video on Cheetahmen II!
After seeing it, I contacted him to see if he’d be interested in getting involved in this. The AVGN signed on, which is going to be a ton of fun and nuts as usual! I got Pat the NES Punk involved as well. We were sponsors in his last NES Marathon, which turned out to be a huge success. Plus, the Game Chasers guys from Retroware TV are involved and basically putting it all together.
Mark: Wow, seriously, that’s an amazing lineup! Are you making any video appearances yourself?
Greg: Yeah! It turns out that acting isn’t so easy though. I’ve finished working on my parts. The Game Chasers are putting it all together. It’s 100% top notch production and coming along nicely! I think people are going to be blown away by the AVGN, Pat, the Game Chasers, and some possible appearances of the Cheetahmen themselves…
Greg: The Kickstarter campaign should go live 8/7/2012.
Mark: And, any idea when you’re hoping to have new copies of the fixed Cheetahmen II game available?
Greg: In good Active Enterprises spirit, sticking to Vince Perri’s 3 month development window would put us in November or December. Either way, I’m guessing we should probably get this done before the world ends in 12/12/12.
Mark: Ha ha, nice! Even once it’s fixed, I’m hoping that Cheetahmen II won’t be the last NES game I ever play. But seriously, I’ve got to hand it to you. It sounds like this is going to be a ton of fun and a huge success. Best of luck with it!
Greg: Absolutely! Thanks for helping to spread the word on Cheetahmen II: The Lost Levels.
Update 8/6/2012: The Kickstarter project CHEETAHMEN II : THE LOST LEVELS is live! Best of luck Greg!