As much as we all loved Disney’s animated films during the early 90s there is a brief window that no one ever talks about. In the mid-80s Filmation, the fine creators of such classics as He-Man and Fat Albert decided they were going to create sequels to the beloved fairy tales every knows and loves. This never went beyond two films because they were terrible and absolutely tanked at the box office. It would be easy to assume that any game associated with these disasters would be terrible and in the case of the SNES Happily Ever After that is true. However its Nintendo counterpart that almost saw a release would have been a pretty great game which is a shame it was ultimately cancelled despite being finished. Through the magic of the internet the game can finally live Happily Ever After.
As Snow White you are on a quest to rescue the handsome prince who was kidnapped by Lord Malice, brother of the recently deceased evil Queen. Aiding you in your quest are the seven dwarfellas, the female cousins of the seven dwarves from the original tale. It’s a nice role reversal even if I find the concept of the dwarfellas incredibly stupid.
This game has as rocky a release history as the film it is based on. As the movie went through years of legal drama with Disney the game’s release date was continually pushed back. It was originally scheduled for 1990. It didn’t go quietly into the night as it was still shown at various trade shows year after year. While it is easy to assume it was probably cancelled as the NES entered its twilight years that wasn’t the case. Its publisher Sofel was still releasing games well into 1993. But after the movie finally released in May of 1993 and flopped I’m sure everyone wanted to wash their hands of the whole affair. Damn shame too as this would have been a cool swan song alongside Mega Man 6 and Kirby’s Adventure.
Snow White is armed with a magic cape as her primary means of offense. This whirling attack is powerful enough to take out most enemies in one hit but suffers from short range and very precise timing. Mastering the cape is crucial as there are no other power-ups available. It works once you get used to it but I would be lying if I didn’t wish there were more. That doesn’t mean you are left completely powerless however.
While there aren’t any additional weapons you do receive a number of magic gifts after every level. Each of the seven dwarfellas (that name sounds dumber every time I type it) will grant you a new power or two after every stage. These magic powers will allow you to cross impassable areas such as a body of water using a floating plant. Or summoning a fairy to carry you across an infinite chasm. There is only one offensive ability, a lightning bolt used to defeat the final boss. Sadly these abilities are only used once per stage and are a huge missed opportunity. I like the level design as it is but if magic were incorporated more it would have been even better.
Despite the license this is a pretty hardcore game. It has the measured pacing of a Castlevania with deliberate enemy placement and all manner of traps to drain your life bar. Snow White can only take five hits before death and unlike the games this is patterned after continues are limited. The boss battles are deceptively tricky. You can spot their pattern within seconds however the timing of your attacks has to be perfect or you will receive damage. In spite of the slightly higher difficulty I really enjoyed the game and wished there were more levels like the final maze leading to a well done finale.
If there is one flaw it is that the game is far too short. With only four levels it is over far too quickly. Aside from mastering the timing of your cape attack the game is not too difficult outside of its boss battles. Its brevity also means you don’t get many opportunities to use all of your new powers. Most are outright ignored or only used in a single instance. This isn’t a result of the game’s tumultuous release schedule either as it is complete. With two or three more levels this could have been a true classic.
What a shame a great game like this was never released. Happily Ever After is as hardcore as Ninja Gaiden and Castlevania while still remaining accessible. Mind you, Tecmo and Konami were not going to wake up in a cold sweat over this game. But considering the state most licensed games are released in and its history this is a minor miracle. If you are even a slight fan of old school platformers give Happily Ever After a whirl.