Capcom usually gets the majority of the praise when the discussing Disney licensed titles. And rightfully so I might add. At a time where LJN and Ocean basically treated any license they bought like garbage Capcom showed that if you treated it with respect those titles could stand shoulder to shoulder with the best on the market. Sega I feel deserves a lot of the same respect. Their many Disney games were simply phenomenal with Castle of Illusion setting a high bar they would continue to exceed. This is a truly great game and was a sign of things to come.
Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse was released worldwide in 1990. It could easily be mistaken for a game based on an official Disney movie because of its creative environments. As Mickey you are on a quest so save Minnie from the witch Mizrabel by finding seven magical gems scattered throughout her castle. It’s a platformer what more do you want?
Castle of Illusion’s release was an important milestone for the Genesis. There were plenty of solid titles in its early years but very few that you would categorize as truly great. Meanwhile the NES was hitting its absolute stride with classic after classic. Castle of Illusion was one of many second generation titles that really showed off the power of 16-bit technology. It also helped that it’s a great game too. Although it is short you will enjoy every single moment and for its low price I would still highly recommend it.
Mickey is armed with the platforming staple butt bounce as his main form of attack. The butt bounce also serves as a spring to jump higher when hitting enemies. Depending on the level you collect apples/ marbles for ranged attacks but these aren’t in great supply and are weak. The only other items available increase your life bar, points, or grant extra lives.
The many rooms in Mizrabel’s castle whisk you away to a number of exotic locations. The Enchanted Forest is the perfect introductory level with its simple mushroom enemies and bats and is followed by Toyland. Here you are accosted by toy soldiers and creepy clowns among some of the best platforming challenges in the game. The Storm serves as a nice middle ground as it is clear things are beginning to ramp up. The library is filled with the most diversity as its many sub levels use the book theme to send you to different locations such as a land made of cake and even swimming in a tea cup! Mizrabel’s castle is probably the only area you are more than likely to die as it spikes in difficulty.
The one major flaw with the game is that it is too short and easy. I probably died once during the entire game and that was against the final boss. The enemies are simply not threatening in the slightest and the bosses have incredibly simple patterns to exploit. The easy difficulty makes it very accessible but the game could still have used some teeth. There is a nice little spike towards the end that should have been sprinkled throughout the game. But I imagine this was primarily aimed at the younger set. The lack of any challenge also means everyone will blow through the game’s five levels in about an hour. Fun while it lasts but it will definitely leave you wanting more.
Short of the Neo Geo Castle of Illusion was probably one of the most visually spectacular titles on the market. First and foremost the animation is incredible. Mickey animates with a level of grace rarely seen up to that point. The backgrounds are absolutely beautiful. Even though you’ll visit many of the genre staples such as a forest and caves Sega’s artists still manage to make these levels look original. Others like the library and the castle are insanely detailed with layers of scrolling to boot. And to top it all off the game also boasts a fantastic soundtrack. They really pulled out all the stops for this one and it shows.
Short but sweet yet still highly enjoyable Castle of Illusion is a great game and one of my favorite Disney titles of all time. The simple gameplay is made up for with great level design that still holds up today. They don’t make em like this anymore.