Co-Op Classics: Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa
Only a real jerky person would have a beef with this top steer title
In the late 80s and early 90s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were big. Very big, with a hit cartoon, a live action movie series, a couple fantastic video games, and a toyline that was extremely popular. As with most such properties, a slew of imitators, if not outright ripoffs, followed. Talking, human-like animals of all varieties were on TV, toy store shelves, and even in the arcades. In the video game world, one of the greatest of TMNT's followers was Battletoads, a game that has become legendary due to its difficulty. On television, a Saturday morning cartoon featuring anthropomorphic cows found some success: the Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa.
The similarities to the sewer-dwelling, green-shelled ninjas were obvious, but that didn't make the show any less fun. A radioactive meteor from outer space (groan-inducingly dubbed a "cow-met") smashes into a plateau, mutating the animals into smart talking, upright walking versions of themselves. An entire society sprang up, based around the tales of the Wild West, with a hefty dose of garish colors and bad puns. Just listen to the names of the main characters: Marshal Moo Montana, the Dakota Dude, and the Cowlorado Kid. Totally awesome, or painfully inept? Either way, the show was memorable, and remains so to this day.
Following in the footsteps of Ninja Turtles, a toyline and an arcade game based on Moo Mesa were released. Konami, who proved they knew a thing or two about good co-op brawlers with 1991's Sunset Riders, brought Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa to arcades in 1992. The two games are very much alike, from the neon color palette to the run and shoot gameplay. Sunset Riders was already an excellent game, one of the best of the era, and taking the same formula and adding in talking cows fighting bad guys with names like Boot Hill Buzzard and Sherriff Terrorbull (not even making this up) took Moo Mesa to a whole other level of greatness.
Though the cartoon featured three main C.O.W-Boys, the arcade game added in a fourth character, in order to support four player co-op. (Incidentally, C.O.W. stands for "Code of the West", in case that ever comes up on Jeopardy sometime.) Buffalo Bull, a huge bovine decked out in Native American themed gear, fit in quite nicely among the other pun-laden characters. While the four lawmen (or would that be law cows?) shared similar moves, they were all slightly different, mainly due to their default weapons. The most interesting of the lot has to be Marshal Moo Montana, who shoots stars from his sidearm.