Genre: Platformer Developer: Sega Ent. Publisher: Sega Ent. Players: 1 Released: 1990
Sega never got a good foothold on the market with its 8-bit console. So many only remember it as an obscure console with a bunch of ugly-looking and bad-playing old games from the mid ’80s. Capcom was releasing a number of high quality Disney games on the NES, so Sega saw fit to grab some of Capcom’s thunder by using the Mickey Mouse license and release a game geared for the kiddies incorporating many of the elements that made so many of the Disney games on the NES a success. Those who stuck it out through the life of the Master System saw a new life for the under-appreciated console. Castle of Illusion was a late arrival and one of the last few games released in the states so it really shows what the SMS is capable of in terms of graphics and game play quality.
Castle of Illusion is composed of six stages in a castle where Minnie has been kidnapped by the witch Mizrabel and Mickey sets out to save her, in yet another generic rescue-the-princess story. The game is very similar to Duck Tales for NES in that Mickey can jump and slam enemies with his butt or pick up boxes and stones and toss them at other enemies. He also has to collect keys to open doors and collect the standard life and energy refills. A lot of effort was put into the game by Sega to make it as polished as possible. The bosses are fairly unique and require different strategies to defeat each one, and a few had me guessing at how to defeat them. There’s a practice mode with simplified versions of the first three stages for beginners to get started with. My favorite stage is the clock tower, and the normal stages are much larger and require some exploration to find the boss in each one.
The graphics really show what the console is capable of here. The game looks considerably better than anything released early on in the Master System’s life. Everything looks very colorful and is loaded with detail. A touch of graininess is visible in a few areas, but otherwise the graphics are perfect with the console truly showing its stuff here. The sound effects are the downside of an otherwise good game. The music in the game fits the Mickey Mouse atmosphere rather well, but every sound effect and every tune across the board is extremely high pitched and tinny. I felt like I was on a merry go round for an hour. The music in the clock tower stage was the high point to an otherwise tedious soundtrack.
I would have to say that I enjoyed the game a good amount but found it to be on the easy side, since it’s geared towards the Disney crowd. Only two of the seven bosses were even remotely challenging. One complaint I have is that a few areas require blind jumps which turned into cheap deaths. They required luck more often than not, if you haven’t played the game before. That, along with the high pitched sound, keeps this game from being exceptional. I finished Castle of Illusion a few times but probably wouldn’t want to go through it again. Still, I wouldn’t think twice about popping it in to show someone how nice-looking some of the Sega Master System games can be. I recommend this game for anyone who’s serious about the Sega Master System. Despite this game being fairly pricey, you’ll definitely be happy with your purchase.