Also On: XBLA
Developer: Sega Studios Australia
Many moons ago, there was a little known game for the Sega Genesis called Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse. Many players scoffed at it as it looked like it was to be aimed at small children (mostly because the main character was Mickey Mouse), but this was not the case. This game featured awesome animation, fantastic sound, and gameplay that would challenge even the most skilled player (even today). Now, thanks to Sega finally starting to realize that classics need to make a comeback, Castle of Illusion returns with this fantastic, yet slightly changed, remake. Let's take a look.
The story has not changed from the original Genesis game. Mickey and Minnie Mouse are having a wonderful picnic when the evil witch Mizrabel appears and kidnaps Minnie. Mizrabel's plan is to curse Minnie Mouse and steal her beauty so that she would be young again. Mickey springs into action, chasing Mizrabel right to the Castle of Illusion. Here, Mickey meets a wise old mouse who tells him the only way to save Minnie is to collect the 7 Rainbow Gems that are hidden away inside the castles rooms. Once Mickey finds all the gems he can take on Mizrabel and free Minnie. Once Mickey enters the castle, he enters the first room, only to find the rooms lead to different worlds. The worlds he explores are filled with danger and traps that he must get through in order to reach one of Mizrabel's guardians, and you have to jump on enemies, and even use throwing weapons like apples and baseballs. Mickey starts with only 3 hits, but you can collect up to 5 hits with the stars scattered around each world. You will need all that you can find, since there is always something up ahead trying to hurt you.
Reaching the world's guardians and beating them is the only way Mickey can collect all 7 Gems and rescue Minnie before it's too late. While the original game is a straightforward action platformer, the remake puts you into a 3D castle with the rooms to the different worlds locked by magic. Collecting silver diamonds scattered around the castle will open the first door and collecting more diamond as you make your way through the levels will help open more doors later on. Unlike the original, you can revisit any world once you beat it, but we will come back to that a bit later. Each world consists of 3 acts, leading to a showdown with a gem guardian. Players of the original will feel disoriented as the game changes from a 2D perspective to 3D in some areas, (particularly in the guardian battles) while some areas you remember from the original are now used as bonus areas inside each act. There isn't a penalty for failing to get through them, as you will simply be returned to the main path. A good example of this is the forest stage, where in the original, you had to cross an area high up in the trees, avoiding spiders and riding floating leaves. Losing here meant you lost a life, but in the remake this area is simply one of the aforementioned bonus areas, where you can find new hidden collectibles.
Now, let's touch on the ability to revisit previously beaten worlds. Since this remake has been made somewhat easier than the original, Sega has added a Time Attack mode so you can go back and find all of the hidden items scattered throughout the levels. While some are easy to collect, others are difficult to even find, while others will take several attempts to grab. You can unlock items such as artwork, statues for the castle, and even new costumes for Mickey to wear.
The visuals here are absolutely lovely. From the outstanding animation in the characters, to the amazingly detailed worlds Mickey visits, everything looks like a classic hand drawn Disney film. Each area you explore is a delight to play through, and even a little distracting as you will find yourself missing a jump or an enemy while staring at the amazing visuals. The whole experience gets even better with the fantastic music and sound effects that accompany every second of gameplay. Music tracks are remixed songs from the original game and sound absolutely amazing, while every sound effect fits in perfectly with each world. Something completely new, that was not possible with the Sega Genesis hardware, is the inclusion of a Disney style narrator that guides the player through each part of the story, with Mickey himself even getting a one liners here and there. All of the voices fit in great and never get annoying like some other remakes out there. The entire presentation is a joy to the senses.
Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is a perfect example of a remake done right. Everything that you loved from the original game is present, with added extras that will make you come back for more. As mentioned before, The difficulty found in the original game is changed to fit a wider range of players, so veterans may want to play on a higher difficulty to get a challenge. No matter what level you play on, the continues are unlimited and checkpoints are more plentiful, so all the controller smashing deaths you experienced with the Genesis game are less painful here.
From the new 3D areas, to the completely re-imagined boss battles, there is something for everyone to like in Castle of Illusion. The main game might be a bit short, but you will want to keep going long after Mizrabel is dealt with. I just hope Sega continues to bring back these fantastic classics from their library, as this one is a pure delight to play (and even watch) from start to finish.