Gaming has a rich history that spans multiple decades. To this end, The Last Word on Gaming Backlog is a series that looks back on titles across all generations. From the golden 8-bit era to the landscape-changing 64-bit scene and beyond, The LWOG Backlog’s aim is history. Prepare for a whimsical adventure, as we take a look at the Castle of Illusion for Genesis title known as Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse.
Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse – An Overview
Anything But Illusionary
Since the early 1980s, video games based on Disney properties weren’t in short supply. In fact, some of the earliest examples can be found throughout the series of Game & Watch devices. Furthermore, they featured iconic characters from the minds of Walt Disney and company, including the face of Disney himself, Mickey Mouse. As the video game industry recovered from its historic crash in 1983, such Disney characters would find their way into various games. The subject of this piece is the side-scrolling classic, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse.
Developed and published by Sega, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse was released on the Sega Genesis. It made its way to Japan and North America in 1990 before landing in Europe the following year. Despite technically being a licensed game, Castle of Illusion for Genesis remains one of the classic 16-bit titles. What makes it so memorable? Let’s take a closer look.
On a sunny day in Vera City, Mickey and Minnie Mouse are happily dancing. However, as they enjoy each other’s company, dark clouds begin to mask the once bright sky, a storm following after. Before he can act, Mickey helplessly watches as Mizrabel, the nefarious witch, kidnaps Minnie to steal her beauty. Driven to save Minnie, Mickey reaches the mysterious Castle of Illusion, where he is greeted by an old man. From there, the old man explains that he once was king until Mizrabel stole the castle from him.
The old man tells Mickey that, with the help of the seven Gems of the Rainbow, he can defeat Mizrabel and save Minnie. It’s up to Mickey to reclaim the gems throughout different worlds, overcome the witch, and rescue Minnie. Anyone familiar with Disney narratives will feel right at home with Castle of Illusion on Genesis. It’s appropriately fairy tale-esque, placing the player in a fantastical world that takes them through various locations. For its time, and even today, Castle of Illusion’s story was satisfactory.
Castle for Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is a 2D platformer, tasking the player to move from point A to point B. All the while, Mickey Mouse will be confronted by enemies of different types. To combat them, the player can use throwing items, which are found in limited quantities throughout the game’s five levels, or by jumping and holding the down button to execute a bounce attack. The latter will be the maneuver players use most, especially as projectiles should be saved for long-distance combat. Castle of Illusion for Genesis moves at a leisurely pace; one may find it jarring to play a few levels of Sonic the Hedgehog before popping in this title.
The game takes Mickey through different locations, starting with The Enchanted Forest before bringing them to Toyland and beyond. Each level has its own themed boss at the end, such as The Faceless Tree in The Enchanted Forest. None of the bosses are terribly difficult to defeat. In fact, with just five levels, the game itself doesn’t pose much of a challenge, even on the hardest difficulty setting.
Castle of Illusion for Genesis can be played at different skill levels. By accessing the Options screen, the player can switch between three difficulties: Normal, Hard, and Practice. The latter is a condensed experience, bringing the player through only three levels with no boss fights. This mode is best suited for those unfamiliar with the game or younger players. Normal and Hard will provide the game’s intended experience.
Presentation (Graphics and Sound)
As one would expect from a Disney game, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is appropriately colorful. It makes the most of the Sega Genesis hardware and capabilities, bringing this fantasy world to life in a 2D platformer setting. From the levels to the sprite work, including Mickey himself, there is an attention to detail that must be commended. It almost looks as if one is playing a Disney cartoon.
Castle of Illusion for Genesis stands out from an audio standpoint, too. In this regard, the main highlight is the soundtrack, which is lighthearted, complementing the game’s leisurely pace at which it moves. The game’s musical composition can be credited to Tokuhiko Uwabo and Shigenori Kamiya. Both individuals have solid experience with video game music, with Uwabo being prominent in Sega Master System works and Kamiya working on other entries in the “Illusion” series, in addition to QuackShot Starring Donald Duck, another Disney Genesis classic.
This is the one area where Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse fumbles. With only five levels, this Mickey Mouse-headed adventure isn’t particularly long. While there are multiple difficulty settings, as detailed earlier, keep in mind that a single playthrough may not last longer than four hours. The game itself is enjoyable, even at its slower pace, and it will leave an impression even after the end credits have long passed. With that said, don’t expect a terribly substantial adventure.
Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse was so successful that it spawned its own “Illusion” series across various platforms. From the Genesis to the Sega Game Gear to modern platforms, it’s apparent that the original title had a major impact. Furthermore, the original Genesis title would be remade in 2013, sporting 3D graphics and even a reimagined score courtesy of Grant Kirkhope, known for his work on N64 classics including GoldenEye 007 and Banjo-Kazooie.
For years afterward, it seemed that the original Castle of Illusion for Genesis was all but forgotten. That was, however, until 2019, when the Sega Genesis Mini was unveiled. Among the titles included on the mini console was Castle of Illusion, though it was excluded in the Japanese version. As has been the case with certain old-school licensed games, such as Jurassic Park on the same console, Castle of Illusion for Genesis is one that truly matters.