Author: John Legendoffzelda
An inescapable cultural icon throughout the twentieth century, by the time of the early 1990s, Mickey Mouse had appeared in almost everything. Walt Disney’s and Ub Iwerks’ creation lent his image to a treasury of popular media in a series of logical extensions that eventually reached the video game format. Mickey’s initial library of games, mostly platformers, is a grab bag of efforts; a few are cheap and mediocre, while others are thought of to this day as fine examples of good licensed games. His timeless appeal is what made his best popular works so enduring. And in 1992 he was set to continue his reputation for great crowd-pleasing fare with a strong first impression on the Super Nintendo. Capcom, in the middle of a serious winning streak with Disney properties, helped Mickey make a strong impression indeed, with their wonderful game The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse. A fantastic journey packed with gameplay ideas, the game brims with the happy craft of any Mario platformer.
On an idyllic day, while Mickey is outside playing catch with Donald and Goofy, Pluto chases the ball and runs off somewhere. Mickey runs after him, and falls off a cliff into the clouds high above a strange fantasy land. An old wizard he meets here tells him Pluto was taken prisoner by the land’s ruler, the evil Emperor Pete. He woefully tells Mickey that the emperor will enchant Pluto into having a permanent mind of evil, and that the risk of rescuing him is too great. Ignoring the wizard’s dissuasion, Mickey declares that he will find Pluto and the wizard agrees to help him along the way. Mickey goes along his journey with two skills: he can jump on his enemies, naturally, and he can also grab certain things such as small stunned enemies and magic blocks the wizard spreads across the land. Both of these items he can spin away from himself, as a miniature form of combat. Farther into his journey, Mickey acquires three special costumes, which enhance his combat abilities. The magician costume, with cape and turban, lets Mickey shoot a concentrated burst of magic from his finger; the firefighter costume lets Mickey spray water everywhere to put out fires and push obstacles around; and the mountain climber costume gives Mickey a grappling hook, which lets him grab enemies from a distance and climb and swing from platforms Bionic Commando style.
While each costume has their own stipulations, namely ammunition and getting the hang of how they function, they’re all still well-realized ideas that greatly enhance how the game is played. While the game is only six stages long, with three or four sections per stage, being able to quickly ascend ledges and attack in the horizontal direction means the player can move through it at a good clip. There’s even a bit of strategy involved; sometimes the player must determine which costume is the most potent at the moment or he must remember which one lets Mickey swim underwater without drowning for examples. A time limit is imposed on all of the sections, but with even an average amount of skill it can be safely ignored. The main hopping and bopping, meanwhile, is served well by the designs of the stages; they’re grand and expansive, with many different areas to explore. Mickey can spin-toss a giant berry, and the budding leaves will ascend him to a new path; a seemingly bottomeless pit can lead to the underside of the stage, where Mickey can grapple across and avoid everything else. Exploration yields such pleasant surprises, the most common of which are big blocks that give coins, extra hit points, and score-enhancing fruit when their chain is pulled. Along with jumping from platform to platform, the player can guide Mickey through more unique setpieces, whether he is swimming through a tree full of water or rolling down a steep and thorny vine on a series of giant tomatoes. Little moments like those do a lot to give the game a needed change of pace.
All of the stages are presented with bright and colorful graphics – they’re not too saturated, and the color palette is mixed just right. The synthesized orchestration also does well by the game, evoking moods like the urgency of being menaced by a wall of fire, or the serenity of sliding through a gleaming ice field. The more interesting thing to note about this game is that even though the title says it “stars” Mickey Mouse, certain design choices make it feel wholly like a Disney product. The sort of camaraderie between images that is found in later Disney video games is fully present here; the coins and magic blocks are embossed with Mickey’s iconic silhouette, the mountain climber outfit is clearly modeled after Peter Pan’s ragged tunic and the stage names are written in a font modeled after Walt Disney’s stylized signature. The iconography here could be interpreted as narcissistic, but the more positive thought here is that the designers used familiar imagery as a means for this game to earn the appreciation of kids. It’s a neat gesture, yet even without it The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse succeeds at being very ideal for kids because it’s very ideal for everybody. That’s how the best family works keep their quality over the years.
The only detriment that could be applied to this game is that the bosses can get just a little tedious. Working around their attack patterns gets sort of boring (especially with Emperor Pete), and they can seriously corner Mickey; when he gets hit, he does a funny damage animation that does slow down the gameplay’s pace. But they have other qualities to them that redeem their detrimental nature; their sprite animations are nice, since for the most part they’re the creations of Mode 7 technology. Their increasing difficulty levels also put the game’s unlimited continues in a positive light: after losing all of his lives, the player can start from the exact section of the game that he left off, which means he can return to the boss’s stage and try and defeat it. For those who feel the overall game is too short – well, perhaps the bosses are the way they are to appropriately pad the game out.
For others, The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse isn’t too short. It is nearly exactly as long as it needs to be, and precisely the right amount of other things. It’s a grand, entirely pleasant extension of the title character’s media reach. As a video game, Capcom does it again. As a product featuring Mickey Mouse, they do well to honor the Disney name’s capacity for lasting entertainment.
Five out of five stars.
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