Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse (SNES) Review

Written: December 6th-8th, 2012
Alternate Title: Mickey's Magical Adventure [JP]
Year: 1992 | Developed and Published by: Capcom

The world as detailed by a beautiful map
Backstory Time:
The first and only 2D Mickey Mouse platformer I played for a very long time since I was a small child (before I rectified that this year with five other fun retro platformers starring Walt Disney's mouse) was the PAL-only PlayStation version of Mickey Mania: The Timeless Adventures of Mickey Mouse, Mickey's Wild Adventure.  But it wasn't the only Mickey Mouse game I played back then, since I've played a few others as well.  I also played the incredibly obscure Game Boy action/puzzler Mickey Mouse: Magic Wands! (which I should think of reviewing someday), the fun isometric racer Mickey's Speedway USA for the Game Boy Color, the fun and charming Tetris-license Magical Tetris Challenge (also for the Game Boy Color, and also made by Capcom), and shortly after I moved to Texas way back in 2002 I also got another Mickey Mouse game, the second game I got for the GameCube after Super Smash Bros. Melee, the infamous 3D point-and-click game Disney's Magical Mirror starring Mickey Mouse, which was especially made by Capcom.

I'm not much of a magazine person,
to be honest, but I have a real soft spot
for this one
So why am I saying all this?  Well, I'm going to explain how I came to know about Mickey's first 16-bit Nintendo adventure in the process, so please bear with me and I promise I won't take too long to get to the game of the day: I first knew about it around the same time I bought the GameCube game, when I looked in the manual I saw the game mentioned somewhere in the back, and that the game could be plugged in to the GameCube, I forget what happens if you do.  The SNES game, turns out, was ported to the Game Boy Advance around the same time the GameCube game was made, and I heard that you could play as his girlfriend Minnie Mouse as well (but it turns out that it was an exclusive addition to the handheld port, since in the original you only take control of Mickey).  A few months later I bought Nintendo Power's 159th issue at a library, and what caught my eye was 3D Mickey on the cover.
It wouldn't be until nine and a half years
before I would play this game, except on
the SNES console
It was there in some of the pages that I first saw some screenshots of it in some of the pages from said magazine.  The images looked good, and the fact that both titles were made by Capcom and had the word "Magical" in the title made me think that the games were connected in some way... they're not.  Honestly though, I didn't know that it was originally an SNES game before I rediscovered it four years ago.  This might shock you, but even though the screenshots piqued my interest, I never thought of trying it, and I was really into Magical Mirror back then.  In fact, I enjoyed it a lot back then, and years later when I looked up its reception, I was surprised to find how negatively received it was.  Of course, when I was younger I was surprised, but as I got older I grew wiser and I began to understand the reason for all the hate: it's a point-and-click game, and a lot of people did not enjoy that at all, in fact some found it rather boring; the fact that it was made by Capcom, who created the SNES game, did not help matters much.  It's a nice visual and sound demo, and I do still like it, though maybe not as much as when I was little (I think it's okay nowadays, not great); in fact, I consider that much maligned title a guilty pleasure of mine.  I think when I was younger I considered it one of my favorites; hey, can you blame me?  =(  I was eleven back then, I didn't know any better.  I might do a retrospective on it one time; I won't review it (seeing as pretty much everyone who's played it loathed it), but I may consider doing a personal retrospective feature on it someday.

"Take that!!"
So why did it take all these years to play it, you might ask?  It had been a long time since I looked at the magazine or even played the GameCube game (I was in high school) when I saw some screenshots of the first Mickey Mouse game on the SNES on a screenshot-centric website.  I was very curious about it, and I had almost forgotten that it was ported to the Game Boy Advance.  I never tried the GBA port, and honestly, that's a good thing (long story short: I'm strongly biased against GBA ports of SNES games, due the fact that their sound samples are not as powerful as the 16-bit ones; I don't mean to be, but after comparing sound samples with both versions of the first Breath of Fire, it let me down real badly.  I don't know about you, but sound and music are very important to me when it comes to video games, and I would've felt cheated had I tried the handheld version around the time I found out the hard truth; since that day, I vowed never to buy a GBA adaptation of an SNES game ever again).  After one of my cousins loaned me his SNES console and after I started buying games on eBay from 2009 onward, I thought it opened a window of opportunity to experience games I missed out on back in the day.  One of the games I wanted to try was The Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse, and anytime I thought "This will be my next purchase!  This will be my next purchase!", another game would always catch my attention.  Being a video gamer and collector is hard!  =(  Sometime in March of this year, a turning point had occured: at last I played another 2D Mickey Mouse platformer, the sequel The Great Circus Mystery starring Mickey & Minnie on the SNES.  Then, when I turned 21 back in April 5th, one of the gifts I received was the SNES game of the day, and I was very excited.  =D  After all these years, I was about to play this well-revered platformer.  So, was this roughly ten-year curiosity worth the wait?  Well, let's find out, and see how Mickey's first Nintendo 16-bit game fares after two decades.  Wait a minute!  This game was released in America back in December of '92.  Awesome!!!  =D  I get to review it on its twentieth anniversary!  =)  So, anyway, let us proceed!

Video Game Time:
One of the most incredible experiences in
this adventure
It was just like any other day, when it was nice, peaceful, and enjoyable, when one day Mickey, Goofy, and Pluto all have a good game of catch.  Goofy makes a long throw, and Pluto decides to go after the ball.  Mickey is concerned and wants his pet pooch to stop, but Pluto doesn't return right away.  Goofy assures Mickey that he'll find Pluto for him, but Mickey becomes really worried when Pluto doesn't return, so he decides to go after his dog in hopes to get him back.  He runs all the way to Pluto, following him right off the edge of a cliff
only to land on a branch which bounces him off
and successfully manages to make Mickey bounce to safety on a beanstalk-filled territory up in the clouds!
(Isn't fillie Twilight Sparkle adorable?)
So Mickey takes a look around and comes across a house where a mysterious old wizard lives.  It's there that the brave Mouse asks him if he's seen Pluto, to which he sadly replies:
"Evil ruler"?  Who is this "evil ruler", and why would he take an innocent dog?  Turns out that this world is governed by a malign emperor, and that he is taking control of creatures to do his bidding.  Why, I've played and watched enough Mickey Mouse games and shows to know that whoever this guy is cannot be trusted, and that he is always up to no good.  The emperor in question is none other than big ol' Pete!
The wizard urges Mickey to turn back, informing him that his magic powers have never been bested, but he refuses to do so.  The wizard will help Mickey a few times, but on the long run he's on his own.  Will Mickey be able to rescue Pluto and vanquish Emperor Pete once and for all?

Fire, fire, everywhere!
The Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse has solid gameplay and smooth play control, plus it feels really polished.  =)  Mickey can move, run down slopes, duck, swim underwater, jump, jump on top of enemies, throw boxes (towards enemies or other boxes), and even throw stunned enemies as well, who'll go right through a row of enemies or boxes and bounce off when it comes into contact with a wall.  What's very neat is that throughout the course of game from the second stage onward, Mickey will find three different outfits to change to that will allow him to execute a diversified set of skills towards enemies.  Those outfits, in the order that they are found, are the sultan magician outfit, the firefighter outfit, and the mountain climbing outfit.  If you wish to switch between normal Mickey and any of the three outfits, just press either the L and R shoulder button and press the A button when the chosen icon is colored, then Mickey will magically change his outfit behind a curtain in just two seconds.  At the end of each stage, you must fight off a boss and win in order to proceed.

Charging up my magic
Let me explain how these various skills work in detail.  When donning the magic turban, Mickey will shoot beams of magic, fly on carpets, and produce a bubble on his head so he can breathe underwater indefinitely (if you stay underwater too long when not wearing your magic outfit, then you'll lose damage).  If you lightly press or tap the attack button several times, then you'll send out a weak magic beam.  If you hold it for a little longer then your magic power will be more powerful, but if you hold it down the longest, then you'll conjure a truly potent magic beam that will phase through all blocks and enemies in a straight line.  Sweet=D

Swingin' on the mountain
The fireman outfit will allow you to douse out fires, break regular boxes, and attack enemies with your water hose, even help you push metallic boxes via the water (very useful).  The mountain climbing outfit will give you a grappling hook, which can be used to climb up slopes, ceilings, or platforms, swing on said slopes, ceilings, or platforms and metallic hooks, and you can even take away some shields certain enemies hold with this; if the enemy is stunned, then you could grab the enemy with your hook and throw him ahead of you as you would if you were normal Mickey.  One thing to bear in mind is magic and water powers do not last forever as they've got a gauge that gradually get lower the more you use them; they'll be a tad replenished if you pick up some lamps and fire hydrants, respectively.  Throughout the game you'll be alternating between each of the three skills that will help you overcome appropriate obstacles, and I strongly feel that the intuitiveness of the controls really help.

"Why, gee, thank you Goofy!  That's very
generous of you!"  =)
Considering that Mickey's first SNES game came out during the console's fledgling years, it looks very pretty with the trademark Capcom feel, look, and style.  Each area has a great amount of detail, each of the different areas stand out, and there is so much vibrancy in the colors all around.  Capcom has truly captured the Disney essence, I feel.  The map screen looks wonderful and it nicely presents a mystical, detailed world.  To name some examples, the Treetops stage looks real inviting, what with all the green beanstalks surrounding the place, filled up with clouds, eventually taking place in the ground level near some colorful-looking woods.  The subsequent stage, Dark Forest, looks real surreal and atmospheric, plus the way there are wavy trees in the background, even some with Pete's grimaces, and I also love how there is one moment where Mickey is swimming inside a tree's sap, which is a wonderful experience, both visually and navigation-wise.  Fire Grotto is a great-looking area, too, consumed by flames with some platforms that obviously look like they've melted, and the fire effects for most of the stage are great, including this one bit where fire is constantly rising and descending on the ceiling; and what's neat is how if you look closely, the fire is being reflected from the safe water, and watching it in motion is so cool (I enjoy details such as these).  The rest of the areas look neat, too, and there are a lot of smooth color-layering effects in this game (most particularly underwater), and what's cool in one of the latter stages is how there is an aurora borealis in the sky (I honestly love seeing the Northern lights in video games, how could anyone not enjoy them?); also, there's quite an abundance of eye candy to be found here.

In the valley of snow, under a starry sky,
there are yetis and an aurora borealis!!!  =)
Mickey Mouse and the enemies are designed rather greatly, and I like how they look both detailed and charming.  The enemies also look and feel like something made from Disney.  Mickey has good animation, and I like how whenever he changes outfits a curtain will magically appear and it doesn't really take too long for him to get ready.  Now that's magic!  What I find nice is how some of the costumes bring to mind the original animated shorts they were inspired from; the fireman outfit reminds me of Mickey's Fire Brigade and the hiker outfit reminds me of Alpine Climbers.  Not certain if there was an episode that inspired the magic sultan outfit, though, but each different outfit design looks great.  A lot of the enemy designs are cool and cute, and there's variety in each stage, there are bees, leaflet enemies, sentient fire walkers and fire bats.  Among the enemy roster there are even little clones of Pete (eh?), and the bosses also look great.  They are big, detailed, and look great; a few of them even use the console's trademark Mode 7 scaling and rotating effects.  Emperor Pete looks great, too!

This guardian can be a real pain in the tail
on the hardest difficulty mode
One of the aspects where The Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse excels is the music, for this game offers a sometimes action-packed, very charming, memorable, and enjoyable soundtrack.  Composed by famed Mari Yamaguchi, who also did the music for the classic Super Ghouls'n Ghosts and was one of the four composers for the first Breath of Fire on the SNES, the music is really good and it manages to create a fitting atmosphere for each respective area.  The instrumentation is great, and the melodies are fun and catchy.  To give a few song descriptions, the Dark Forest theme sounds epic and it makes you feel like you're in for something big; I also love the string work on that background song.  The Fire Grotto theme sounds dark and ominous, the Pete's Peak theme is executed in such a matter that it makes you feel relieved to be outside again, and the Snowy Valley theme is just so beautiful to hear despite its simplicity with the melody (one of the most relaxing pieces from the game; ever notice how snow-themed areas almost always have great music?).  =)  The map theme is quaint, and the various boss themes sound good and really pit you into the action, including the final showdown against Emperor Pete.

When it comes to fire, water is your
best friend!  =)
I think the music from this game is great, and its sound effects are good as well.  The sound effects are about as high quality as the music, and considering it's Mickey's first 16-bit adventure on the SNES console, I believe they're well-chosen.  When Mickey takes damage he squeaks, the magic sounds are nice, and I like the sound that plays when Mickey magically changes outfits behind a magical curtain.  The water spraying and ice breaking sounds are cool, and a few sound choices are rather peculiar.  One very notable sound takes place during the second portion of Pete's Peak, the sound that's used for the rushing vertical wind turbine; the sound it makes is likened to a hooting owl (my sister made the comment when she heard it in a different room), it's weird.  Every other sound effect is decent, but the one I don't like as much are the sound effects used for whenever the characters talk; it sounds obnoxious to me.  But other than that, the sound aspect is great.

"Snakes!  Why'd it have to be snakes?!"
And now it's time to discuss the challenge this game presents.  Mickey's first 16-bit Nintendo adventure has a good amount of challenge, and it falls somewhere in the medium challenge category.  Mickey starts off with a set of health, depending on what difficulty setting you play, and if you go about the area thoroughly you may come across a box or a secret room that may have a full heart container which will augment your health capacity; you can even buy one at a "General Store" should you have two hundred coins with you.  Some boxes will contain coins, some will contain health, while others might have an extra life.  On easy you start with five hearts, on normal mode you begin with three, and lastly, on hard mode, you must begin with two hearts.  But that's only a minor differential feature, since on the easiest setting there'll be less enemies while on the hardest there may be more enemies than before.  There's also the case with platforms; there will be more platforms on easy mode than there will be on hard mode, and sometimes you'll have to be careful to time your jump and hookshot at just the right moment.  Not only that, but the boss fights last longer and amp up on hard mode, too.  In the course of the game you'll fight off against bosses and midbosses who can only be defeated if their pattern is closely followed.  While the game itself is not hard, there are a few moments in Hard mode when it becomes frustrating, with the most prominent example being the boss fight at the end of Fire Grotto.  In this boss fight there are platforms which form up a circle, and if you spray it enough times then it will start losing color and the platforms will start to go from counterclockwise to clockwise, but if it's left alone for too long it gradually reverts back to its original color and the platforms will resume rotating the other way.  It starts rotating slowly at first, but the deeper you are in the fight, the faster it begins to rotate, and on hard mode it begins rotating too fast, and what makes the battle so strenuous is making sure that you keep spraying, consistently land on the moving platforms, and not fall down in the fire.  It is so annoying on hard mode!  >=(  Again, the game is medium, but there are moments when the game is creative in trying to challenge you; in one moment you're expected to time your jumps from falling leaf to falling leaf in order to cross to the other side, and in another you must duck or go underwater should the deathly fire get too close to the ground.  Sweet!  =)

Magic Mickey is now undergoing
leaf-jumping!!  =O
The Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse, everyone!  =D  So what is my personal opinion on Mickey's magical adventure?  Honestly, I thought it was good.  For being Mickey's foray into Nintendo's 16-bit console, it proved to be very enjoyable, and I believe it even proved to be a competent competitor for Sega's Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse for the MegaDrive/Genesis (even though I don't think it's as good).  The colors are vibrantly well-chosen, the animations are good, the magic is in the air, the gameplay is spectacularly intuitive and polished, and the music is wonderful.  Each area is beautiful to behold, with their own special characteristic which makes them stand out, like the trees and the tree sap from Dark Forest and the wind-filled Pete's Peak.  I love the gameplay and the ability to switch between outfits to meet certain situations, and it helps keeps the gameplay fresh.  I like the area designs, and some of them even branch where it leads to a secret box or a secret room for that matter; some secrets are even hard to come by.  The atmosphere is cool, the boss fights are nice, and the story is decent enough.  If there's one thing that's really disappointed me about Mickey's first Capcom adventure was the ending.  There was a lot of good build-up towards the final events, even though it's a platformer and most platformers aren't played for the story but for the fun and challenge; but the resulting payoff ultimately was poor, in my opinion.  I guess that comes from the fact that I was invested in the game and its world, also I had high hopes for how the resolution would be presented, and in the first few seconds of the ending it seemed like it was going to end on a good note, but then I had a bad feeling about how it would end, and I was right.  At one point I figured, "Oh, maybe this is one of those games where the real ending would be shown on hard mode?"; not the case here.  The first time I saw it, I hoped that it was going to be one those double endings where it showed a faux ending only to be followed by a true, deserving one; wouldn't that have been a better reward?  *sigh*  But you can't always have what you want.  =(
"Time to clean up your act!"
Even if the ending wasn't so bad for me, there are still a few qualms I have with The Magical Quest.  The challenge amount is good, as I've said before, even though it's not exactly a difficult game, but the few frustrating moments during Hard mode just felt unbalanced and unfair; the thing I look least forward to whenever I play hard mode is the third boss.  Another thing that bothered me was how some stages or stage portions were shorter than others; Snowy Valley is such a gorgeous-looking place and it's presented with such a good, friendly charm, but it can be beaten in a few minutes (I only wish it was longer).  Castle of Illusion may be easy for the most part, but at least its stages were about equal in terms of length.  I know this was the SNES console's first game with Mickey in the lead role, but there is no excuse for ending the experience the way it did.  Oh, and there's a timer too (this is a Mickey Mouse platformer, why is a timer even necessary?), but it's possible to beat each stage portions long before time runs out, thereby rendering it entirely pointless.  But I've gone on long enough about the negative stuff, now to discuss more positive details.  It takes about forty to fifty minutes to beat the game, and for all its shortcomings, it makes up for it with fun gameplay and decent challenge.  There is one moment near the end that made me think of Super Ghouls'n Ghosts, and it must be beaten in one sitting.  Losing a life will cause you to start the stage portion from the beginning, and fortunately there are unlimited continues.

What I've noticed (and this isn't really a bad thing) was that Pete was pretty much everywhere you went, and at least for me it comes from looking carefully into the enemies and bosses.  The snake from Treetops looks like Pete, the big spider in the Dark Forest shares Pete's head, and even though the vulture's outlook on Pete's Peak doesn't seem apparent at first, it shares Pete's eyes and grimace.  And there's the enemies too: the ladybugs share Pete's face, the tree sap enemies have facial features that are similar to his, the small yeti and even the flame enemies have a Pete-like behaviors, not to mention the small Pete clones, among others.  What, did the wizard neglect to tell Mickey that Emperor Pete, aside from being evil and kidnapping Pluto, was also making everyone look like him?  Thinking about it now, it's actually pretty hilarious!  XD  A couple years later the second game The Great Circus Mystery starring Mickey & Minnie would also see a release on the SNES, and I honestly felt it was superior.  How was it superior?  Well, I wish I could mention it here, but I've already gone on long enough, and I don't wish to keep everyone all day, so next time.  So, after over nine and a half years of curiosity, was the wait worth it?  Yes, definitely!  =D  Capcom's first Mickey-centric game may not be perfect, but it is a wonderfully good game in its own right.  I recommend you give it a shot, and who knows, you may have a lot of fun with it like I did.
Thank you for reading, please leave a comment!  =)
P.S.: Wow, I haven't reviewed a Capcom game since... Super Ghouls'n Ghosts two years ago!  I need to find more Capcom material to review.  =(
P.S. 2: Look, I'm sure that the Game Boy Advance version, Disney's Magical Quest starring Mickey & Minnie, must be good and as playable as the SNES original; I just personally cannot swallow the fact that the SNES games were being ported to the GBA at the expense of great sound quality, changed the screen ratio from square to rectangular, and made the game's visuals brighter than they were before.
P.S. 3: I can't imagine a lot of gamers liking the cover of Nintendo Power's 159th issue due the fact that 3D Mickey was in there and not many people liked his GameCube point-and-click title.  Although, perhaps I'm overgeneralizing, and I don't wish to do that.
P.S. 4: While I'm on the subject of the magazine, take a gander at page 42, and tell me both Mickey and Minnie's sprites were not lifted from different games.
P.S. 5: As long as I'm talking about Disney, has anyone seen the video game movie Wreck-It Ralph?  I thought it was really good!  =)
P.S. 6: The reason I do not like the ending so much: it was all a dream, it never happened!  Made me feel copped out.  =(
P.S. 7: By the way,
is Donald even participating in the ball game, or is he gyrating his hips back and forth for no real reason?  =/
Happy 20th Birthday, The Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse!!!  =)

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