A collector says he found a cartridge of Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker for the Sega Genesis in which the King of Pop’s “Thriller” — apparently left out of the game because of licensing issues or similar reasons — accompanies the second board of the game’s third stage.
The video was uploaded yesterday. It shows Jackson in his Smooth Criminal getup, getting down to a “Thriller” chiptune as he karate kicks the zombies. The original music for stage 3-2 was “Another Part of Me.”
According to the poster, the cartridge was found at a flea market for $20. Some Redditors challenged its veracity, wondering if it was a bootleg cart with a custom ROM. No, insists the poster. “It's a preproduction with EPROMs. This thing is real. He provided this image of the cart and its label.
The Collecting subreddit references this cart, or at least a description of it, two years ago. “From what I can gather online, there is a copy (REV00) that includes Thriller in the graveyard scenes when triggering Michael's dance move.” A post on GameFAQs seven years ago acknowledged the different versions
Yes there are copies of this game that have 4 small clips of Thriller on levels 3-1, 3-2, 3-3 and 5-3 which are activated by holding down the A button until Michael starts dancing. Only the original release also known as REV00 has Thriller in it, the second release also known as REV01 replaces the Thriller clips with clips of the level song Another Part Of Me. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell the difference between the two without playing the game up to level 3-1 and activating the Dance Magic (hold A button).
Whether licensing kept “Thriller” out of the video game, it still wouldn’t have fit with the Moonwalker’s theme anyway. This was a multimedia vehicle for Jackson’s worldwide Bad tour, his first as a solo performer. While the film, which launched on VHS in the United States at tour’s end in 1989, included a biographical segment involving earlier work the point was to promote the newest album. By 1990, when this game launched, Thriller was ancient history.
If nothing else, it’s a throwback to the days of licensed celebrity vanity products, ranging from Moonwalker to Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball. We tend to think of licensed video games today as well disciplined products, usually adapting sports leagues under tight controls (movie adaptations died about 10 years ago). But there was a time when neither developer nor celebrity really knew what they had on their hands, only that they could make some money in this newfound medium. That’s what you’re seeing here.