keskiviikko 11. toukokuuta 2011

REVIEW - Mickey Mousecapade (1987)

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
RELEASED: March 1987
DEVELOPER(S): Hudson Soft
PUBLISHER(S): Hudson Soft, Capcom

Mickey Mouse was created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks in the spring of 1928, and first starred in the most known black and white animated short film of all time, Steamboat Willie. The film was actually Walt Disney's third Mickey Mouse short, but the first to reach a mainstream audience. 83 years later, Mickey Mouse is recognized as the symbol of the Walt Disney Company, and although his character has always been a subject of debate, there's no denying that he is the most influential cartoon character of all time. The first Mickey Mouse console game was released in Japan by Hudson Soft in 1987, and it was simply called Mickey Mouse. A year later, Capcom revised this Famicom game and relocalized many details of it, as well as the title, which was changed into Mickey Mousecapade on the box art. This also marked the beginning of Capcom's long business relationship with Disney, that has produced us great games such as DuckTales, Chip 'n Dale - Rescue Rangers, and The Magical Quest, to mention a few. Is Mickey Mousecapade worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as these three franchises? No, that's why I didn't.

Where's my box of mouse traps?

Mickey and Minnie Mouse go on a dashing adventure through Wonderland to save Alice from the clutches of the evil witch Maleficent and his pack of cronies.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, where's the sense in
this all?
First and foremost, and just because I have many games starring Mickey Mouse to go, I'd like to make it very clear that I've never had much love for the character, and it's simply because I think Donald Duck should for all intents and purposes be Disney's flagship character. He's way more interesting, and a character I think all of us can relate to much better than this always happy-go-lucky, supposedly so damn clever little round-eared bastard with a sing-song voice. There, I said it - and with that being said, I'll take a turn for the ironic. I do enjoy old cartoons with Mickey in them, it's all those detective stories which have emerged in the last few decades which are basically trash in my opinion. There have also been good, if not even great video games that have starred Mickey. Mickey Mousecapade is not one of them. It's a decent, pretty basic platformer until it takes a turn to being a frustrating drivel filled with physical improbabilities. Note: I didn't say impossibilities, and that's because the game is so short that you might beat it on the first try if you're very lucky.

About the story: it makes no sense. Apparently, when the game was brought to the States, Capcom wanted to relocalize it so that it would have as many different characters from as many Disney productions as possible, forgetting all about the story. In the Japanese version of the game, the Queen of Hearts kidnaps Alice, which makes a little more sense than the main perp being Maleficent and having all sorts of cronies at her side from Kaa to Pete. Now this is what I don't get: Pete's always been Mickey's arch nemesis, and he's depicted on the North American cover art. However, he's not the final boss, instead the main antagonist from Sleeping Beauty is cast in that part. That bothers me. The world's supposed to be Wonderland, but it has nothing to do with Wonderland at all - it's just a series of totally random, typical platformer levels. Of course, my bickering makes even less sense than the game's plot, since it really doesn't matter to the target audience, as long as there's a big palette of colours and a somewhat loveable host of familiar characters in it. I'm just a nitpicking old fart and nobody loves me.

Welcome to the forest of doom.
One more thing that bothers me is that the game is so damn cute to the end. I was expecting the final level to be a dark castle like Maleficent's lair should be. Well, it's a castle, but far from dark, it looks like someone threw up a bowl of fruit salad. Technically the graphics are quite good and well detailed without any sort of pixelated mess clouding your vision. This game set somewhat of a standard for what a Disney game should look like, and by golly, it was definitely reset in the future, but in a somewhat similar style. I can see a small hint of DuckTales in this game, especially the boss fights. The music's not bad and it's so similar to that of DuckTales, especially the boss theme, that I had to check if Mickey Mousecapade had the same dudes working on the soundtrack. I never got my answer, since there are no credits, not even filed on the net. Well, let's just assume the same people were at work, it's so similar and almost as good at its very best.

I don't rightly know how to go over most of the game's problems without making this sound some sort of a stripped walkthrough. The main problem is Minnie, without a doubt, but ironically she's also the most essential part of your success. She packs her own firepower, which does give you a huge advantage, especially in boss fights. The greatest thing about her is a developmental error - for real. You see, if you play alone, Minnie follows a certain pattern of movement based on Mickey's, but she usually moves a short distance away from Mickey, meaning she can get stuck. You cannot leave the screen without Minnie in tow, which calls for some serious frustration and sometimes even reluctant backtracking straight into harm's way just to get Minnie to follow you again. Vertical platform jumping across one single screen is downright impossible to execute without Minnie getting stuck once. Luckily the only extensive platforming in this game takes place in the final level. This all sounds bad, I know, but you can use Minnie's non-existent A.I. to your advantage, as well. I'll get to it.

The first stage is a "Fun House", while in reality it's far from fun. It's basically a house built of two cubic rooms with several floors in each room. You need to climb up the first room, move to the other one, visit the bottom, defeat the boss cooped up in there (the witch from Snow White), then backtrack your way to your starting point, which is actually the exit. Backtracking's the key word: man, this level is easy and boring. I thought the game was all about similar levels, but in the second level, Mickey Mousecapade _luckily_ turns into a generic, straightforward platformer with some mild puzzles, some of which are just simply tales from the crypt and nothing more.

Is anyone else reminded of the first Mega Man
game, here?
The second level, The Ocean, is short, but it introduces the first physical improbabilities I mentioned. We're travelling across a very straightforward beach with tidal waves coming in at all times, as well as hyperactive fish jumping out of the water at all times. Getting through this unscathed is pretty much imposs... once again, improbable. Those waves are literally coming in all the time, which means you have to be able to see them coming in advance; there might even be two in succession, so if you manage to jump over one and beware of the "deadly drop of water" it lunges into the air, it's not 100% certain that you won't land straight on another wave. This level's like a gauntlet run; you either do or don't, and it's up to the game to decide whether you're going to make it to the end or not. Good luck! On the first try, I didn't make it to the end and got my first taste of having to start the game from the beginning. Oh well, at least there are five lives at your disposal, however only three 1-Ups in the whole game. Although having to clash through the irritatingly boring first stage all over again, I went into the second stage a bit more motivated, and definitely more lucky. I was on my last legs when I got to the boss so I didn't get a great look at him, but I suppose he's supposed to be the crocodile from Peter Pan. Weird. Especially since Hook was a boss in the Japanese version of the game, and we all know about the tension between those two; in his own way, the crocodile was a protagonist in Peter Pan.

The third stage takes us to The Woods, and this is where the game takes the decisive turn to leave an extremely sour, irritating aftertaste. I'm sure you remember the wrap-up sequences from The Legend of Zelda, Metal Gear and Final Fantasy, in which you needed to find the single correct route to make progress, all other routes took you to an endless spiral. Super Mario Bros. already had that one castle with the same concept. Well, that's exactly what the woods are about. That, and a pack of annoying, bouncing enemies that are nearly impossible to hit, on a constant stampede. I won't lie to you, it took me nearly an hour to figure this place out, and the final revelation was a pure accident. There are many doors here. Some take you to the beginning of the level, while some lead you to a differently coloured forest - it's based on the four seasons. It's simple enough, right? Well, the thing is that none of the doors take you to where you need to go. You can try all different combinations twice, three or four times, but it won't work. When I finally gave up, I started to shoot stars all over the place and figured out that you can actually shoot at trees to find secret passages. Tales from the crypt indeed! There's no clear indication that you can shoot at trees, and to put a cap on it, you need to shoot at the ROOTS of the trees, otherwise it won't work. Well, after about ten more minutes, I finally made it to the end and faced off against Kaa from The Jungle Book, in a boss fight that was perfectly identical to the previous two. So, I figured at this point that the boss fights won't change. And I was pretty much right about that, but what I didn't expect was that Kaa is the last challenging boss in the game.

The dark castle of pink and baby blue.
The fourth level in the game, The Pirate Ship, spelled out another "Game Over" for me. It takes three minutes to complete, it's an even quicker level than Ocean, but it is extremely hard on the first time, since you don't know what to expect and what kind of shenanigans you can pull in it to make your progress a whole lot easier. Well, I thought to myself that since this was the second to last level in the game, I was not going to quit - I was going to start over once more, and beat this filthy rodent of a platformer. Well, on the second time, it was not nearly as bad, I could pretty much foresee the patterns of the enemies and avoid the bulk of them to get to the boss in under two minutes. It's Pete, and he's throwing knives. The knives shamelessly change course in mid-air, and it's, again, improbable for you to dodge them. Pete also takes about a million hits to fall. I was not going to start this game over for the fourth time, so I looked up a walkthrough of the game and stumbled on a sure-fire strategy based strictly on Minnie's bad A.I. and movement. You see, Minnie cannot be hurt by attacks, but she does have her own attacks against the enemy, triggered every time Mickey attacks. There's an easy trick which allows you to keep Mickey completely out of harm's way, and send Minnie to fight Pete alone. No matter how many throwing knives Minnie absorbs, she's perfectly fine. Yes, you finally have some use for her, all thanks to her crappy A.I.. Incredible!

...But that's it for her usefulness. A similar trick can be used on certain enemies in the final level, "The Castle", but like I said, platform jumping with Minnie in tow is nightmarish. If you can somehow survive this level's awkward ways and enemies ripped straight off Super Mario Bros. 2 for the localization, with even a couple of ticks of health intact, you will beat the game. You see, I picked up a sure-fire strategy for Maleficent as well. All you need to do is somehow get behind her, and if you manage to stay there, you will beat her in absolutely no time and she is unable to hit you. I'll always remember her as one of the most difficult bosses in the first Kingdom Hearts game. This "kind of" toned down my dead-silent respect for her. Anyway, that's it, that's the end of the game... thank God!

It's not cheating, it's called taking advantage.
Maybe the aftershock of the game wasn't as bad as I made it out to be just a few paragraphs back, but we're definitely not talking one of the proudest creations of the Disney/Capcom union here. Since I had to start the game from scratch a few times, I'm not quite sure how lengthy the game is, but what I can tell you with absolute certainty that if you're extremely lucky, you will beat it in an hour, tops. As for the replay value... the game is no DuckTales or Chip 'n Dale, it's one of those games you're either going to ditch right away or stampede to the end and be glad it's over with. It can be hard at times, and other times it can be simply frustrating, but it's not an impossible game to beat. Not even improbable, just those few choice sequences I covered are.

Mickey Mousecapade isn't from the bottom end of 8-bit platformers, but it sure could be a little less cryptic, and in turn, a little more playable. Minnie's so God damn useless most of the time, it's like you're hauling a huge, non-co-operative rock around. I know there's also a special enemy disguised as a power-up in the interior levels that can sometimes kidnap Minnie and force you on an extremely tedious backtracking course to save your significant other, but I never bumped into him even while I had to play through the first level three times. It's a good thing, too - I read the details and if I had experienced that once, I would've probably gone insane. 

SOUND : 7.5


a.k.a. Mickey Mouse (JAP)

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