perjantai 13. toukokuuta 2011

REVIEW - Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (1990)

GENRE(S): Platform
RELEASED: November 1990

Some people claim the Sega Genesis did not "really" exist before the release of Sonic the Hedgehog - that's three years between the console's initial release and the release of its best-selling game. Oh, there was a time before Sonic the Hedgehog. A time when Sega stood up to Capcom, who were exclusively doing Disney games for Nintendo at the time. In 1990, Sega produced an innocent little platformer starring Mickey Mouse, that is seen by some as a precursor or at least an obvious influence to Capcom's highly successful Magical Quest series, which made its debut on the SNES a couple of years later. Castle of Illusion is indeed a solid game, and it just might be one of Sega's finest titles altogether. It's just over way too soon!

Once upon a mouse...

In Sega's version of the truth, mushrooms are
actually bad for you.
An old, hideous witch named Mizrabel grows jealous of Minnie's youth and beauty. She kidnaps Minnie and takes her to her tower beyond the Castle of Illusion. Mickey enters the dreaded enchanted castle and searches for the seven Rainbow Gems to enter Mizrabel's tower and save his loved one.

People often mistake Castle of Illusion to be a part of the Magical Quest series, and I don't blame them, after all it's got a similar title to the games in the series, and it's a somewhat similar game, but actually it's the first game in its own franchise. Too bad the sequel was released only on the Game Gear and the Master System, after all this game, as good as it is, left a sour aftertaste as I would've wanted more in every possible sense. There aren't a lot of different levels, and there are too few of them. The game is over real quick, since it's not that challenging either.

The bosses look awesome.
The game's look is just classic. Actually, when I first saw that opening cutscene, I somehow just knew this game was not going to be a very long trip. This game has the neatest cartoon graphics and level design you're afford to expect from such an early Genesis title. It looks simply awesome. The sprites are clean cut and well animated, absolutely marvellous. Totally straight kisses and hugs to the guys in visual design, especially to the women if there were any. The music's quite basic platformer jive, but not bad, not at all.

The game has been called a Mario clone and for some good reasons. It's kind of like Super Mario World, stripped of all the yahoo. From the beginning to the end, the game has a certain similar aura to it - we're on a trip to collect seven of [insert enchanted item here] and rescue a damsel in distress - and the end credits just hit the frank bullseye, as well as the heureka factor. Well, who can blame Sega? Maybe they picked up a few things from somewhere else, but at least they learned from the best! The fact that this game stars Mickey Mouse doesn't bother me at all, and the very simple, sole reason to that is the fact that Castle of Illusion is a good game. That compensates for everything.

Stay tuned, it's going to get a lot more familiar!
The game's best qualities lie in its physics, and conceptually simple, but technically diverse and interesting level design. The controls take some time to get used to, because Mickey moves at a realistic, in other words, only moderate pace - it's like any human's standard walk. Also, it isn't enough to just jump at an enemy, you need to hold C down in the air to make Mickey land on the opponent ass first. Once you get the hang of it, I think you'll find the control very comfortable. By collecting all sorts of items, starting with apples, you gain ammunition, which is completely optional. Every enemy, including every boss in this game, can be defeated by pounding their heads in, but at least one in my experience is much easier to deal with by using the ammunition.

The Castle of Illusion consists of five totally different rooms, or levels, which all have three stages in them. Normally, this would be enough for a platformer, but this means that there are only five fabulous designs which truly differ from each other; all stages within them are basically reorganized versions of each other. If you remotely think like me, you're going to be left missing something. Anyway, the different designs are, as follows: a forest, a humongous toy workshop, a dark canyon, a library with a very weird land of candy held within, and finally, the castle. I've got to say, that I'll bet my ass that clock tower stage in the castle was added as a tribute to Castlevania. It can't be a coincidence, even though the clock tower wasn't that much of a legend before Super Castlevania IV, which was released later. The whole castle somewhat reeks of 'Vania, but that clock tower's got 'Vania written all over it. Don't get me wrong, this is worth a lot of kudos.

On my way to bomb LJN headquarters.
Only just over an hour after I started the game, I was done with it, and definitely not disappointed in the game, not in any way. Actually, it has been a long time since I wanted to go for another round of any game right away. It's simply over way too soon, and I didn't even break a sweat; I didn't have to spend more than one continue out of the possible two. This is a game that your kids would absolutely love - even today it looks good, it feels good, and despite its low level of difficulty, it has its own kind of replay value just because it's so neat and comfortable to play.

It leaves one begging for more, and there are times when it feels even too simple, and simplified, but there's no doubt that Castle of Illusion is one of the best early Disney games, and it wasn't even brought to us by Capcom, Virgin or Disney themselves, but by Sega, who I somewhat regret having on my personal shitlist for all those years. Great work, but you forgot the tension. 

SOUND : 8.0


a.k.a. Castle of Illusion

GameRankings: 85.00%

The game was re-released as part of the Sega Ages: Mickey Mouse & Donald Duck compilation for the Sega Saturn in 1998, but only in Japan.

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