Thursday, January 3, 2013

Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion (3DS) Review

Received: December 25th, 2012 / Written: January 2nd-3rd, 2013
Year: 2012 | Developed by: DreamRift | Published by: Disney Interactive

Well, it was inevitable that I would one day play this game, considering how I just simply can't get enough of Mickey Mouse games.  I didn't play it when it launched, but I did get a chance to play it this Christmas!  I should probably recap the events that led to this.

Sometime early in 2012, it was leaked that a new game was in development for the 3DS called Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, a spin-off to the cult Wii game Disney epic Mickey which was reported to be inspired by and made to pay homage to the classic MegaDrive/Genesis console's first Disney game Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse.  The fact that it was seemingly linked to that 1990 hit certainly had me intrigued, as at that time I hadn't played it yet, and I was interested to know if it was as good as a lot of gamers said it was (spoilers: it is).  What caught my eye in the news were the screenshots: they looked entirely 2D and brought to memory the 16-bit era.  It had me excited and since then I could not wait for it to be released.

Flashforward several months into October when I heard more news about, knowing that it was going to be released a month later.  I believe it was at this point that I just had to play Castle of Illusion, for several reasons.  The first to finally quench my long curiosity surrounding the game, the second to prepare myself for the then upcoming 3DS game, and the last one, well, my curiosity began to get the better of me.  So what I did was I simultaneously ordered both the NTSC Genesis cart and a RetroGen adaptor (from eBay) which would allow me to play MegaDrive and Genesis games on my SNES and RetroDuo consoles (I didn't purchase a Genesis console for personal reasons).  It was worth it, for I thought it was an enjoyably charming and effective game despite the fact that it was lathered in simplicity.  Not a bad choice for my first Sega cart if I do say so myself.  =)

The second Genesis cart I ordered was the sequel World of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, which I thought was great even though I consider it both a step forward and a step backward from the first game.  It was Christmas when I got a chance to play Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, and the funny thing was that even though it was released I didn't hear much of its reception, particularly in this one website called NintendoLife that I sometimes frequent.  It had been over a month after release and the fact that NL had not reviewed it had me a little worried.  But then a review finally popped up there, and it was reviewed negatively with a score of 4.  That was shocking to me, and I noticed a lot of comments saying they sorta agree and some felt it was better than that though not exactly enough to reach great levels, and apparently other gaming sites weren't lenient on Power of Illusion either.

I suppose the best way for me to talk about this game is to look at it from both sides, see what people liked and did not like about this game, and try to understand clearly why a lot of gamers found themselves disappointed by the end result.

Unfortunately, there won't be any screenshots of mine for this review, 'cause for one thing the top 3DS screen just doesn't look right on my camera (same could be said for my PSP handheld, but I digress) and trying to record footage while playing on a handheld can be quite hard, especially since I try not to move the handheld.  This is going to be a text-only review, even though I wish it was otherwise.  =(  I suppose the better way to start my serious review is to share how I felt about the original Disney Epic Mickey.  *shrugs*  Eh, I don't hate it but I'm not madly in love with it either, I thought the game was alright; it's dark, I'll give it that, and the worlds it represents are quite fascinating to behold too, I'm just not a fan.  I haven't played the proper sequel on the Wii and Wii U Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two as of yet, though I heard that game didn't do so well with critics either and that Power of Illusion takes place directly after it... which I find suspicious considering both titles were released on the same day.  =/

In the cartoon world everything is fine, Mickey Mouse is relaxing at home one day until his bunny friend Oswald (Walt Disney's creation before the debut of Mickey) from the first game reaches Mickey's home through his television screen (seriously, how can you not think Poltergeist with that scene?  That part really stood out to me during the intro).  Oswald regrettably tells Mickey that his girlfriend Minnie has been taken to the Castle of Illusion by Mizrabel.  Gee, that hasn't occurred once before!  Only difference is that it takes place in Wasteland, where the entirety of the first game took place.

So Mickey reaches the castle, and that's where she meets the baddie from Castle of Illusion herself.  She first appears as the witch from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, but then she shapeshifts to other characters until she becomes Maleficent.  All I have to ask at this point is: "why?"  <=\  If you played the classic Sega game, you would know that she does not look like that at all, and yet DreamRift slaps Mizrabel's name on Maleficent's character anyway, so what's the point?  And for that matter, when did Mizrabel learn how to shapeshift to different characters when she couldn't do that in the original?  I know Maleficent did in Sleeping Beauty as a dragon, but that's because she was Maleficent.  This is not Maleficent!  And I apologize for nerdraging here, but I can't help it!  I just can't!!  =(  There's also another question it leaves you with if you played the first game, which I won't reveal here.

Anyway, Mickey discovers that Mizrabel has taken not only Minnie, but many familiar characters from the past as well.  Mizrabel states that she's doing so because she's been forgotten and all those that have been captured are remembered.  -_-  Wow... that's about as weak a motivation to do evil as Maleficent's in the movie for not being invited at the party.  Y'know, maybe they are the same character, and perhaps I'm making a big deal over nothing!  ...  *rage*  Of course it's a big deal (to me, at least)!!!  DreamRift turned one of the most well-known Disney villains of all time into a video game villainess that's been around for over twenty-two years from a game that's often been remembered fondly by gamers since its release!!!  How do you do that?!?!  D=<  HOW?!?!  *cools down*

I'm sorry, that won't happen again.  =(  That just really, really, really gets to me, you have no idea.  Along the way the conscience Jiminy Cricket tags along Mickey and helps him throughout.  Once Mickey finds the other characters, they head to a fortress, which is deemed the safe area of this game.  The only way for Mizrabel to be reached is if you get enough heart power in the fortress.  Once you do, it's off to Mizrabel and saving everyone and bringing them back to their respective universes.  Cool plot, but weak villain's motivation to do what she does, I mean, come on!

Visually, it is gorgeously beautiful!  =D  Power of Illusion is all in 2D, with detailed and colorful areas that take me back to the '90s.  You can tell that DreamRift wanted to emulate the look and feel of that generation, and quite frankly I feel they succeeded.  From what I noticed, the visuals look half 16-bit and half 32-bit.  The character and enemy designs look like something that came out of the 16-bit era, and a lot of the areas look 16-bit, too, which is great.  There's also a lot of parallax scrolling as well; the 32-bit style comes from how the parallax scrolling is implemented, the foregrounds that look a little fuzzy, and the way the enemies rotate downward once they've been defeated.  Anytime there's a conversation, a couple characters will be shown closer with the text occuring in the middle.  Everyone and everything animates smoothly, and I like the way Mickey, Oswald, Minnie, and Goofy are given the Disney Epic Mickey look, which is nice.  =)  The areas look good, too, I like stages that take place in Never Land, Agrabah, and Atlantica; they are faithly designed just like the movies they were based on.  The Agrabah portion reminds me of the MegaDrive/Genesis version of Disney's Aladdin, which I thought was cool, and the underwater portion of Atlantica simply looks amazing, the way you're mostly submersed in water, and the castle you see in the backdrop.  Man, they're awesome!  =)  The intro and ending cutscenes are drawn nicely, but what I find most impressive is the 3D!

Power of Illusion is a 2D video game, and what's interesting is how there are no 3D polygons anywhere, as it is exclusively 2D.  But the way the 3D was incorporated is amazing!  =D  I kept the 3D setting "On" in my 3DS while playing this game, and what's neat is how it affects the game visually.  There is so much depth in each area, particularly the foregrounds and the parallax scrolling of the areas, as it can pop out right at you.  Even some lighting effects look surreal.  It's also a bright-looking game, which I don't mind so much.  It almost makes me wish more 3DS games looked like this, but oh well, this game looks magnificent!  =)

Mickey and his magical paintbrush have returned to the action!  Gameplay elements are lifted from Castle of Illusion and the first Disney Epic Mickey, and I think the gameplay is good.  Mickey can move around, crouch, swing on ropes and chains, and jump on top of enemies just like the MegaDrive/Genesis classic; like the Wii original, Mickey can even attack enemies with his magic brush.  If you press B at just the right moment when you bounce on an enemy, you'll execute a super bounce which will launch you high!  Mickey's jumps I noticed were rather floaty, and the longer you hold down the button the higher you jump.  Mickey can also attack enemies with his paintbrushes (you have distanced shots) through the A button (talk about backwards) and you can even do a twister attack with the Y button.  It's possible to do combo brush attacks as well.  Sometimes you will be required to draw (or erase) a helpful or hindering item on the bottom screen with your stylus; the thing is here you have to draw on the lines accurately without straying out of the line, otherwise you'll lose some paint power.  You'll need to make sure you've got enough power in your gauge to do so, and you must not do it slowly.  The results you'll usually get are "Okay" and "Good", and you should definitely shoot for the latter.  It'll take some practice to get the drawings/erasings right.  There are even a few sketches which you can use to help your progress (if you feel the need).

The music and sound is wonderful.  I like how orchestral and symphonic it is, and the choice of instrumentation is super!  =)  I even recognized a few remixes of songs from Castle of Illusion and Disney Epic Mickey, which I thought were nice.  The other sounds are great too, especially the underwater theme and a few of the boss themes.  And the sound effects are neat too, especially the brush sound effects and the bouncing sound effect that was lifted from the 1990 hit!  Great!

As for challenge, this game is very easy!  =|  Okay, I can't say that with a straight face.  It's neither easy nor hard, somewhere along the medium range, but not by much.  It's manageable, it's playable, and for the most part it's straigfour hearts and weak brush power, but the more increasing stats you buy and/or earn from htforward.  In each area you'll be saving at least two characters, and each area is split into two parts.  You start off the game with fulfilling a certain fetch quest, the more health capacity you get and the more powerful your brush becomes in the process.  The boss fights are manageable, and some enemies might require several hits to be taken down (like one of the two Pete enemies).  I suppose the bigger challenge would be trying to complete everything.

And this is where one of the first problems comes to arise: the fetch quests.  It's not so much that they're bad fetch quests (they're not) so much as the fact that there are so many of them!  It's not exactly mandatory to do all of them, but I decide to do them anyway.  I have this thing when it comes to most video games I play: I feel the compelling need to complete the games to the best of my ability, even when they're hard (ActRaiser 2 comes to mind, which I beat on all three modes) and even if they are not (as) good or fun.  You have to save all the main characters and complete enough fetch quests in order to combat Mizrabel.

Another issue that plagues this game is unfair consequence.  The areas have good layout design, but at times they can feel a little long.  As I said before, each area is split into two parts, and if you lose a life on either part, you must start again from the part you lost on.  It doesn't seem bad at first until you realize that it resets the amount of e-tickets you gained to how much you had when you started the part, and chances are that you'll need to get the item a character asked for or save a character (once more), which can make it feel repetitive and unfair.  Several fetch quests will take place in areas you've been to before (way more than once), and pretty much all the time the secondary characters and items are easy to locate.  Some fetch quests will involve you to simply draw the item a character requests, which isn't so bad, and you have unlimited paint time to spare.  =)

The thing about the bottom screen is that you must paint along the lines and use your thinner to erase the item.  You also have to do it swiftly, but try not to get outside the line or it will dangerously lower your gauge by some margins.  When it comes to the thinner you can scribble as much as you want, and if you erase where the bump marks are you'll uncover some e-tickets, but like the paint you shouldn't use the stylus outside of the shape.  The more you use the brush, the more the gauge gradually empties itself.  You have to be careful not to use the brush too much.  You must keep an eye on the gauge at all times; it refills slowly but it refills faster if you collect the brushes and do a good job with your paint strokes.

The final problem I believe several gamers had with this game was that it just did not live up to the very game it was based on and developed to pay homage to.  Considering how much Castle of Illusion was loved and enamoured by many, when news broke out that a game was being made that was seemingly linked to it, everyone was hyped!  When it seemed like it didn't live up to that game's expectations, it wound up disappointing many.  Castle of Illusion was simple, which was one of the reasons it was so enjoyable in the first place; Power of Illusion, on the other hand, was given a little length, and if not for these blemishes that I mentioned, I think it would've done better with the crowd.  I don't think it would've been as good, but I think it would've definitely done a little better.

How did I feel about the game in the end, you might wonder?  To be honest, I didn't wind up hating it like most gamers did.  It's rife with issues, that's for certain; it can get repetitive at times, having to start the stage portion over again after losing a life feels unfair, you have to draw on the outlines just right, the very high amount of fetch quests you have to do is a little too much, and as an Illusion title it fails to live up to the name of the original; in fact, it's also quite short (three wings, three boss fights, eleven areas total).  Though I would not go so far as to say it's a bad game.  It could have done without these flaws, but I'm amazed that it came out the way it did.  The visuals, environments, and atmosphere in this game... man, they must be seen to be believed, especially in 3D.  I loved the nods to the '90s visual style, and there is a lot of charm to be found.  The music is astounding, and the gameplay is good.  Stylus controls are responsive on the bottom screen, and I like the cast of characters you find.  =)  Some of the characters you find comprise of Ariel, Aladdin, Peter Pan, Rapunzel, Donald Duck, Simba, Beast, Snow White, Tiana, Aurora, and more, especially the fan favorite Scrooge McDuck.  The fact that Mickey Mouse and Scrooge McDuck were together in the same game got many excited, and it marked the first time they appeared in a game together in the West; in Japan they first appeared together on the obscure Super Famicom game Mickey no Tokyo Disneyland Daibōken.  Either way, seeing them together (again) was great!  =)  The stages aren't entirely devoid of fun, as they can be enjoyable to explore when you do it for free (without worrying about the hassle from doing fetch quests), so at least I can give it that.  The plot is all right, even though Mizrabel's motive was not a good one, and the ending was half-fulfilling and half-disappointing, with the most fulfilling parts occurring during the credits sequence.  I don't think it's as horrible like a lot of people say it is, but at the same time I don't think it's a masterpiece.  It's cool!  If you expect it to eclipse the MegaDrive/Genesis hit (if you've played that), then you may be disappointed.  Try to lower your expectations before playing this game.  I'm glad I played it, I thought it was strangely addicting, but I don't think it's something I'll come back to over and over once I'm done.  If you like or don't like this game, then that's fine, to each their own; obviously it's not for everyone, and I can see why people wouldn't like it; different strokes for different folks.  Many gamers did not enjoy it, but what the hell, I liked it!  XD
Thank you for reading, please leave a comment!  =)
P.S.: I've decided to keep using the Georgia font, as I've grown very fond of it!  =)
P.S. 2: I once again apologize for the overt lack of screenshots.  =(
P.S. 3: I have to play the original Disney Epic Mickey again sometime!
P.S. 4: To each their own!

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