Release Date: September 1991
Platform Played On: NES
2018 Placement: #21 (=)
What It Is:
A lesser known platformer from the late NES days, Rockin’ Kats is a somewhat straightforward NES game with a unique format: each stage is presented as an episode from a TV show. The plot of each “episode” is the same: you are Willy, a jazzy cat with a punch gun, and Mugsy, a mafia gangster bulldog, kidnaps Jill your girlfriend and you have to get her back. You can tackle the four episodes of the game in any order: from an amusement park to the Wild West, each episode has its own unique flavor. There’s also a “shopping channel” where you can go and buy upgrades for Willy to use in the stages with money earned from a “bonus channel” where you can wager money to get more money or extra lives.
The mechanics of the platforming are also fun: Willy’s punch gun can be used to grab onto platforms and swing around. You use momentum to fling Willy across pits or grab onto another platform, adding a different kind of traversal to a simple NES platformer. You can also use the punch gun to bounce on enemies and the ground to gain height, and if you hold down punch you can grab projectiles with the gun as well. All together it makes for a more complex mechanical system than you might expect from an older game.
Why It’s Important To Me:
Every gaming enthusiast has that *one* game that’s special to them that is seemingly random. This is that one for me. I originally rented Rockin’ Kats from Blockbuster (hah!) and fell in love with the game so much that I ended up asking my parents to get it for me. Thankfully they did, and I went back to this game as much as I played Mega Man games for single player entertainment. I loved the mechanics of Willy’s travel, and the punch gun was such a unique weapon with its different upgrades that it is still one of my favorite weapons in any game.
I was so enamored by the setup of the game, I thought for *sure* there had to be an actual show it was based off of, too. Of course, this was before the internet so I couldn’t just Google whether it existed or not. For a while I hunted Saturday morning cartoons hoping to find the mythical Rockin’ Kats TV show but alas, it did not exist. Still, this is probably the game that left the most impact on me and didn’t end up being a big franchise or hit indie game.
My Strongest Memory:
When I was a kid my family would take week-long vacations to visit my grandparents over summer or winter break. I would dutifully pack up my NES and bring it with me and set it up on my grandpa’s TV in the main living room. I still can see the setup of the living room, where I would be sitting on the carpeted floor a little too close to the television while the adults maneuvered around me.
While I have plenty of memories of my grandpa’s, one of the games I associate the strongest with that place is Rockin’ Kats because it was there that I beat it for the first time. I remember getting super excited finally unlocking the fifth and final episode and actually getting all the way to Mugsy. I remember trying to explain my excitement to my teenage cousin who absolutely did not care this seven year old was at the final boss of a video game but she pretended to be excited with me anyway. This game will always have a special place in my heart not just because of its content, but how it also drums up memories of a favorite place in my childhood.
Why It’s #21:
It’s just outside the top 20 because we’re getting into the games that I think are just phenomenal. This used to be a top 10 game of mine but so many things have come out that I can’t justify keeping it further up propped up by nostalgia alone. Everything from here on out is important to me. One of my friends once said (paraphrased) “I want to see your top games because nobody else is gonna talk about Rockin’ Kats” so I hope they’re happy with this entry. Sorry for taking so long to get this out, life is busy.