Walt Disney’s famous icon made his screen debut on November 18, 1928 and went on to make hundreds of shorts and films, the most recent of which, The Three Musketeers, was just released on Disney DVD. Not content to remain in only movies and on TV, he also made the natural transition to video games. If there ever was a character besides Sonic the Hedgehog who truly made his home on the Sega Genesis, it was Mickey Mouse. Everyone loves him and the rodent has the Midas Touch, except everything he touches turns to cold, hard cash as opposed to solid gold (easier to carry, I suspect). Starring in a total of six games, his exploits range from the average to the outstanding. I’ve always wondered why companies didn’t mimic Mickey’s games the way they did Sonic’s, since they were pretty solid and sold quite well.
Farmed out to several developers, the Mickey Mouse titles don’t constitute a franchise per se, as none of the games are related in any sense. Moreover, the only thing any of them have in common is the fact that they all star Mickey. This is perhaps the main reason for the varying levels of quality we find among them.
Regardless, these are all games worthy of mention. Thus, in honor of Mickey Mouse’s 76th birthday, Sega-16 looks back on all of his adventures in 16-bit. A note to readers: In Japan, Castle of Illusion is called I love Mickey: Fushigi no Oshiro Daibōken, The Great Circus Mystery is referred to as Magical Adventure 2 (it’s the second game in the Disney’s Magical Quest series), and World of Illusion is known as I Love Mickey & Donald – Fushigi na Magic Box.
Got that? Good.
Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse
(Sega, 1990): The first Genesis game to feature the wily rodent, Castle of Illusion is arguably the best. Incredible graphics and deceptively simple gameplay are combined with a first rate soundtrack (courtesy of Tokuhiko “Bo” Uwabo) and some great level design. Mickey must save Minnie from the clutches of the evil Mizrabel, who has kidnapped her out of jealously of her beauty. He must travel through several enchanted lands to collect seven magical gems in order to free his lady love. The gems are in the hands of several nasty bosses who aren’t willing to give them up so easily so Mickey will have to be extra cautious and vigilant.
During his adventure, the mouse will battle everything from bats to giant apples, even the giant from Mickey and the Beanstalk! To eliminate his foes, Mickey can throw marbles at them or use the platform standard butt stomp. While there isn’t anything complicated about how the game plays, it’s both addicting and fun. Castle of Illusion has aged quite gracefully and still looks spectacular when played in s-video. It is definitely a game to own if you have a Genesis (which of course, you do, right? Right?)
Mickey’s Ultimate Challenge
(Hi-Tech Expressions, 1991): Virtually forgotten among the Mickey Mouse games released for the Genesis, Mickey’s Ultimate Challenge is quite different from his other releases in that it’s geared more towards younger gamers. Rumblings in the skies above the kingdom of Beanswick have the populace in an uproar and it’s up to you to solve the mystery of their origin. Strangely enough, the way to do this is by wandering around the castle doing good deeds for Disney characters in exchange for a magic bean (as if the beanstalk and Mickey’s outfit weren’t a dead giveaway that there would be beans). You walk and jump…and that’s it. No weapons, no neat attacks, not even marbles to throw.
Basically consisting of a set of challenges that must be performed correctly or the game starts over, Ultimate Challenge has probably been overlooked by Genesis fans for a reason: it’s quite underwhelming. The graphics are a step down from Castle of Illusion and the gameplay is uninspired and bland. The game’s sorry length (about 20 minutes on the hardest difficulty) sinks it faster than a child star’s acting career after puberty. Definitely the worst Mickey game on the system.
(Sega, 1991): Based on the classic 1940 Disney film of the same name and developed by Infogrames, Fantasia has Mickey reprise his famous role as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. An evil wind has whisked away musical notes from his master’s castle and Mickey must get them back! Using his magic, the apprentice (I hope Trump is not his boss) must maneuver through five different worlds to retrieve the notes, jumping on poisonous mushrooms, battling enchanted brooms, even dinosaurs.
Sadly, even magic can’t help Fantasia‘s wonky gameplay. The jumps are way too floaty and even simply turning around is a chore. The graphics and sound are fantastic and really recreate the feel of the movie but frustrating control zaps you back to reality all too often. I was so excited when the game was first released that I rushed off and ordered it (Chips ‘N Bits are probably still laughing) only to be crushed at just how poorly the game played.
Even so, those who possess wizard-like patience might still want to take a stab at Fantasia, as the game does have its good points. There is a lot of variety to the levels and the game doesn’t follow the standard platformer formula. I only wish that Mickey would have brought over some of his skills from his previous games.
World of Illusion
(Sega, 1992): Finally, after two mediocre games, Mickey returns to form with World of Illusion. Bringing Donald Duck along for the ride this time, our mouse hero is trapped in a magic box and can only escape by learning spells and defeating an evil wizard. We all know that Mickey has a penchant for magic and the sorcerer is looking for a challenge. Gamers can now play with a friend simultaneously, with player two using Donald. The game is a blast when both characters are used and I still giggle whenever Mickey stretches Donald’s neck to get him unstuck from under a log.
World of Illusion goes back to what the first game did so well: combining great gameplay with spectacular graphics. The music is a bit subdued but everything else is sweet, platforming goodness. Travel in an air bubble under water, fly a magic carpet, see-saw your way up a tree; there’s so much to do you will be playing with a large smile across your face, I promise you. The game is a little longer than Castle of Illusion but is still a lot shorter than other platformers of the era, such as Sonic The Hedgehog or Rocket Knight Adventures. I would absolutely recommend you get it though, as along with Castle, it represents the pinnacle of Mickey’s exploits on the system. We have a full review available, so feel free to read up some more on this great game!
Great Circus Mystery Starring Mickey & Minnie
(Capcom, 1994): I have mixed emotions regarding the Great Circus Mystery. On the one hand, I like the simple platforming elegance and the option to use Minnie Mouse. On the other hand, the game has that nasty Capcom feel when it comes to Disney characters (Aladdin, anyone?). The game plays well and is decent to look at but it just doesn’t feel like a Disney game to me. There’s just something about the way Capcom handled Disney characters in the 16-bit era that seems a bit off. Why this is, I can’t say, as their NES efforts (Ducktales, Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers) were incredible for the time.
Be that as it may, Circus Mystery is a neat little game to play that should satisfy gamers looking for some more Mickey Mouse action on their Genesis. Mickey and Minnie are on their way to a day at the circus and upon their arrival, find everything in ruins thanks to Baron Pete. The duo decide to beat the baron and restore the circus to its former glory.
The gameplay follows the same pattern as the others and all you really need to do is jump on things to kill them. The magical suit dynamic isn’t as cool as it was in Magical Quest but manages to get the job done. One thing Circus Mystery does better than its siblings is stretch your game time. It’s much longer than most other Mickey titles, giving you more bang for your buck. You can also choose between Mickey and Minnie, although there’s no difference between the two mice.
Mickey Mania: The Timeless Adventures of Mickey Mouse
(Sony Imagesoft, 1994): As his swan song on the Genesis, Mickey’s final adventure was a salute to all his adventures in film. Also released for the Sega CD (sporting an extra level to boot), Mickey Mania takes you through several of his most classic moments, including Steamboat Willie and The Prince and the Pauper. There’s a great amount of quality here and the attention to detail is second to none. For example, the earliest levels, from Mickey’s first cartoons, are in black and white and even have the visual flaws common to older reels (small, visual breakup). The effect adds immeasurably to the feel of these stages and does them the justice they deserve. This type of attention can be seen in virtually all the levels. Heck, they even included a level honoring my favorite Mickey cartoon: Lonesome Ghosts!
Another enhancement made is the addition of a voice for Mickey. Though he only speaks between levels and at certain areas of the game, it’s nice to actually hear him for a change. Why they took so long to make the mouse speak is beyond me and it goes further towards creating the effect of actually playing a Mickey Mouse cartoon.
As with all the other titles, running and jumping are all you basically do. It’s amazing that all six releases share the same gameplay but are all so different. Mickey Mania is no slouch in this department and plays better than all the other games save for perhaps both the Illusion titles. The inclusion of 3D levels (there’s one from Moose Hunters, for example) is wonderful and is very well done. Mickey Mania may play like the others but you honestly don’t even notice. That, my friend, is good game design.
This is easily Sony Imagesoft’s best effort on the Genesis and even though the Sega CD version is superior, the cartridge game is still a great purchase.
The Mouse is in the House
With so many different titles to choose from, which one should you get? Easy. All of them! None should cost you any significant amount of money and they are all worth having, even Ultimate Challenge because it’s such a drastic departure from all the other games. The omission of Magical Quest to the Genesis line up miffs me a little but its re-release on the Game Boy Advance goes a bit towards making up for that oversight on Capcom’s part.
With everything said and done, it’s nice to see that even 76 years later, Mickey Mouse is still a topic for discussion. He still makes the occasional gaming appearance, though nothing like in the past. Hopefully, he won’t fall completely off the radar and will come back to doing what he does best: entertaining and making children of all ages smile.
Happy birthday Mickey Mouse!