Circus Caper (NES)

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Circus Caper
Circus Caper- NES.jpg
Platform: NES
Year: 1989
Developer: Advance Communication Company
Buy: Amazon

Circus Caper is an action adventure game developed by Advance Communication Company and published by Toho. In this game, you play as a young boy named Tim with his sister Judy. Tim wins a ticket into the circus, but only one of them can get in since he got the last ticket. Tim lets Judy go in. Later, when Tim returns to pick his sister up, he notices it is quiet in the big top tent. The main antagonist of the game, Mr. Magic appears and tells Tim he's taken Judy and Tim has no chance of rescuing her. It is up to Tim to defeat Mr. Magic and his cronies and rescue his sister.

The game consists of six stages. Most of the stages are linear, but there are a couple levels that have different paths and you have to figure out the right way to go. In each level, there are several bonus segments you can play, but it only increases your score. Some of these bonus games include racing a car through a road collecting points, jumping with two characters to avoid fire that moves on the ground, as well as a Space Invaders clone. However, the score in this game has no effect on the player.

When an enemy is defeated, they can drop either a health powerup or weapons. There are a range of weapons to choose from. Most function the same, but move in different patterns. For example, the hammer shoots straight across the screen, while the soccer ball falls to the ground first before going across the screen. There is also a yo-yo which will circle around Tim for an extended period of time, defeating any enemies that touch it. In addition, there is a brick powerup that Tim can use to reach high places, which is required in some levels. The problem is that the weapons are limited, and the game does not tell you how many of each you have remaining.

At the end of each stage is a boss that must be defeated. Most of the bosses are defeated the traditional way by hitting them a bunch. However, one of the boss battles is played like a mini-game; when there is a piece of meat in the pan, the player must grab it before the computer does and get a point. If the player grabs a bone instead, they lose a point. Unfortunately for the developers, there is an exploit they overlooked, in which as long as the player grabs all the meat and bones by repeatedly mashing the A button, there's no way the player can lose. On stage 6, there is a boss rush of the previous bosses that the player faced (albeit greatly weakened) before confronting Mr. Magic. The game's continue system works the same way as most other games by Advance Communication; there are infinite continues, but dying causes the player to start from the beginning of the level.

Circus Caper is actually an Americanized version of a Famicom game called Moeru! Oniisan which is a different game based on the Japanese anime The Burning Wild Man, but still contains the same levels, bosses, and bonus games as the US version, just in different order. In Moeru! Oniisan, Yukie (called Princess Yukie) has been kidnapped by a dragon simply known as Dra Gon. Kenichi, Rocky, Hidou, and Shiranui must partner up and save Yukie from Dra Gon.

In the Japanese version, the order of the stages and bosses were completely rearranged. Of course, it features different backgrounds and enemies than Circus Caper. Additionally, all of the weapons are replaced by speech bubbles, but have the same effect. However, there are two bigger differences; in Moeru! Oniisan, it is possible to "win" the dice minigame at the beginning, which causes the player to lose the game before they even get to start the first level, and in Circus Caper, the result was fixed so that the player to win and proceed to the first level. Also, in Moeru! Oniisan, the final boss is played in an RPG battle setting a la Dragon Warrior, but much worse; Here, the player must use Kenichi's turns to use each of the five balls to power himself up to do enough damage to defeat Dra Gon. However, Dra Gon does such a massive amount of damage that Kenichi will usually be wiped out before he gets a chance to power himself up, which makes beating the final boss a real chore, as well as a game of chance.

Circus Caper received some mixed and negative reviews. Some critics criticized the game for its boring gameplay and clunky controls. In Japan, gamers who have played it usually refer to it as Kusoge (bad game).

Moeru! Oniisan was translated into English on January 4, 2023 by BlackPaladin, Ratty, cccmar, and nf6429.


Circus Caper NES - Title Screen.png

The title screen.

Circus Caper - NES - Cutscene - 1.png

How convenient that whenever you roll you win...

Circus Caper - NES - Cutscene - 2.png

The guy behind all of this mayhem.

Circus Caper - NES - Gameplay 1.png

The clowns in the background spell out 'Circus Caper'.

Circus Caper - NES - Bonus Game - 1.png

Beating one of the bonus games.

Circus Caper - NES - Boss Battle - 1.png

What kind of boss is this?!


Circus Caper has quite a nice soundtrack. As one would expect, most of the music sounds like something you'd hear at a carnival. Each stage has its own unique music, and there are also a couple different cutscene themes. Cutscene 2 sounds similar to the title music heard inDr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (NES), which in turn is taken from Rygar (NES); both games by Michiharu Hasuya. We had Hasuya listen to the soundtrack, but he said he had no memory of working on this title. However, all of the game's original music resembles his style, and so we have attributed the music to him. In addition, the game also shares a portion of its soundtrack with the original Japanese release, which has a completely different style.

Moeru! Oniisan also has a nice assortment of music by lead Advance Communication composers Osamu Kasai and Masaaki Harada. Of course, the music has a completely different style than Circus Caper. Most of the music is written in the style of rock. The game's title music is also a nice 8-bit arrangement of the anime's theme song, Dreamy Dreamer by Yuko Ishikawa.

Both games share the bonus game, boss, and stage clear themes and jingles. However, when you lose a minigame in Circus Caper, a new jingle plays instead of the one that plays in Moeru! Oniisan.

The composers wrote their music in assembly using Sound Routine 4.

The US soundtrack starts with a '1' and the Japanese soundtrack starts with a '2'.


# Title Composer Length Listen Download
01 Title Screen Michiharu Hasuya 1:48
02 Cutscene 1 Michiharu Hasuya 0:44
03 Cutscene 2 Michiharu Hasuya 0:45
04 Stage 1 Michiharu Hasuya 1:40
05 Stage 2 Michiharu Hasuya 1:31
06 Stage 3 Michiharu Hasuya 2:50
07 Stage 4 Michiharu Hasuya 1:51
08 Stage 5 Michiharu Hasuya 1:20
09 Stage 6 Michiharu Hasuya 2:02
10 Bonus Game 1 Osamu Kasai, Masaaki Harada 0:36
11 Bonus Game 2 Osamu Kasai, Masaaki Harada 0:39
12 Boss Battle Osamu Kasai, Masaaki Harada 1:19
13 Final Boss Osamu Kasai, Masaaki Harada 1:44
14 Game Over Osamu Kasai, Masaaki Harada 0:03
15 Lose Minigame Michiharu Hasuya 0:03
16 Win Minigame Osamu Kasai, Masaaki Harada 0:03
17 Boss Defeated Osamu Kasai, Masaaki Harada 0:04
18 Stage Clear Osamu Kasai, Masaaki Harada 0:03
19 Ending Michiharu Hasuya 1:47
# Title ComposerArranger Length Listen Download
201 Cutscene Osamu Kasai, Masaaki HaradaOsamu Kasai, Masaaki Harada 1:36
202 Dreamy Dreamer Yuko IshikawaOsamu Kasai, Masaaki Harada 2:38
203 Stage 1 Osamu Kasai, Masaaki HaradaOsamu Kasai, Masaaki Harada 1:53
204 Stage 2 Osamu Kasai, Masaaki HaradaOsamu Kasai, Masaaki Harada 0:48
205 Stage 3 Osamu Kasai, Masaaki HaradaOsamu Kasai, Masaaki Harada 1:53
206 Stage 4 Osamu Kasai, Masaaki HaradaOsamu Kasai, Masaaki Harada 1:26
207 Stage 5 Osamu Kasai, Masaaki HaradaOsamu Kasai, Masaaki Harada 1:17
208 Stage 6 Osamu Kasai, Masaaki HaradaOsamu Kasai, Masaaki Harada 0:52
214 Lose Minigame Osamu Kasai, Masaaki HaradaOsamu Kasai, Masaaki Harada 0:03


  • Game Credits (Japan):
    • おんがく (Music): Osamu Kasai credited as かさい おさむ
    • おんがく (Music): Masaaki Harada credited as はらだ まさあき
    • スペシャル サンクス トゥ (Special Thanks To) Sound Routine 4 Gou credited as サウンドルーチン4ごう
    • Not Credited Composer Yuuko Ishikawa

(Source: 1, 2, 3, Musical comparison; USA version lacks credits.)

In Circus Caper, you are treated to an ending sequence but no staff credits. However, when you beat Moeru! Oniisan, you are not only treated to a longer ending, but credits as well which are in Japanese. The Japanese version not only credits the two main composers at ACC Osamu Kasai and Masaaki Harada, but it also credits Sound Routine No. 4, the name of the sound software used at Advance Communication Company. It is unknown why the developers left the credits out of the USA release, but seeing as ACC usually didn't put credits in their games, we should be lucky that they put them in the Japanese version.

We had Michiharu listen to the music for Circus Caper, but he says he doesn't remember if he worked on it. We have compared the music with his other works on the NES which also have a similar musical style, different than Osamu and Masaaki's.

The title music in the Japanese version is the theme song from the anime, Dreamy Dreamer, which was composed by Yuuko Ishikawa.

Some Japanese listeners have speculated that "Sound Routine No. 4" is actually a credit to Michiharu Hasuya, rather than the name of the sound engine, similar to how the Japanese release of Tecmo World Wrestling (NES), which credits Keiji Yamagishi as "Super Sound Machine No. 2". In fact, that game uses an older variant of this game's driver.

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  Japan.svg   Japan
Moeru! Oniisan - FC.jpg
Title: 燃える!お兄さん (Burn! Older Brother)
Platform: Famicom
Released: 1989-08-08
Publisher: Toho Co., Ltd.
  USA.svg   USA
Circus Caper- NES.jpg
Title: Circus Caper
Platform: NES
Released: 1990-07-??
Publisher: Toho Co., Ltd.