We open on a desolate, rocky lain, with craggy hills and buttes scattered about the landscape. The sun burns the arid desert floor as a small, odd-looking lizard scurries into frame. After a few errant licks at the air, the lizard zips away, scared off by a larger, even more bizarre creature, who then gives chase. Turning our attention away from the small creatures, our camera pans up to reveal the long shadow of a man, cast across the dry ground by the setting sun. As we approach, the darkened figure steps out of the shadows to reveal his muscular frame, bizarre costume, and distinctly feline facial features, just as he draws a silver longsword from its scabbard. From the other side of the plains, another figure emerges, this one even larger and more imposing than the first. Long blonde hair flowing, the massive barbarian draws his own blade, a broadsword, and begins running towards his opponent. The two warriors hurtle toward each other, eyes flashing with the anticipation of battle, as their inevitable epic clash approaches. Finally, both men attack, their swords clanging together and filling the scene with a bright light that drowns out everything, eventually revealing a title screen. This is the opening scene of Masters of the Universe Vs. ThunderCats, or at least my vision of it. So why hasn’t this game been made yet?
As the GI Joe movie and the two Transformers movies proved, 1980’s action figures are big business. The sense of nostalgia that 30-somethings feel towards the classic toys of their youth translates into huge profits for the owners of these properties, and Hollywood and the video game industry have taken notice. In addition to a GI Joe sequel and a third Transformers movie (at the very least), filmmakers are also tossing around ideas for new projects based on Voltron, the Smurfs, and Jem, just to name a few, and games for each are sure to follow. Two of the biggest franchises of the era, He-Man and ThunderCats have been somewhat overlooked. A ThunderCats animated feature was planned, but shelved after the poor performance of Speed Racer, and a live-action Masters of the Universe movie has been stuck in development limbo for the last decade, possibly out of fear of repeating the mistakes from the awful 1987 Dolph Lundgren film.
Perhaps these two IPs are just too silly for the live-action treatment, but the world of gaming opens up all sorts of possibilities. A He-Man game or a ThunderCats game might not hold enough pull to sell well on their own, but a fighting game that combined the two would almost certainly attract not only fighting fans, but those who grew up with the franchises.
Imagine a 2.5D two-on-two fighting game featuring the biggest heroes and villains from Thundera and Eternia battling in front of series landmarks like Castle Greyskull, Snake Mountain, and the Cat’s Lair. The ThunderCats “Universe” is a bit small, with only a few good and evil characters ever appearing on the cartoon or on toy store shelves, but He-Man’s world is more heavily populated, meaning that the roster of fighters could be quite expansive. The two fictional worlds share many similarities, like the struggle between the clearly good versus the clearly evil, and the simultaneous use of arcane magic and futuristic technology, so they would mesh well together, creating a continuity that’s still s bit silly, but cohesive enough to avoid the head-scratching dissonance we experienced in Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe. Throw in some stylisytic effects like the ones seen in Super Street Fighter IV, and a paper-thin story of Mumm-Ra and Skeletor breaching the dimensional barriers between the two worlds, and you’ve got yourself a million seller, easy.
So why hasn’t this happened yet? Well, there’s the aforementioned movie projects that have tied up the IPs, and the fact that ThunderCats is a Warner Bros. property, while Masters of the Universe belongs to Mattel, and its film rights to Sony, who took over from Warner in 2009. There are also fears that the characters and plots of both properties aren’t as well remembered as those from GI Joe and Transformers, and their inability to stay in the spotlight supports that. A game featuring both properties would mitigate those fears, however, as it would certainly draw back fans of both, as well as anyone who has ever thought “Who would win in a fight; Lion-O or He-Man?” I can tell you right now, that list includes damn near everyone I know.