In the dark age of licensed games for the NES Capcom showed that you could create a more than respectable title if you actually gave a damn about the license. In some cases like DuckTales they created classics. As the NES walked off into the sunset it was only a matter of time before they graced the SNES with more Disney classics. And they began in style. Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse is a fantastic game, inventive in its gameplay and with high production values. It is also one of the better games starring Mickey Mouse.
Mickey and friends are playing catch when Pluto mysteriously disappears after falling off a cliff into a strange land. Mickey goes after him and is told by an old wizard that Pluto was taken by Emperor Pete. The wizard decides to help Mickey in his quest to save Pluto and end Pete’s reign.
First things first, wow, this game is pretty. With more powerful hardware Capcom’s artists went to town creating these beautiful backdrops. Each level is packed with detail and while the scrolling never goes beyond one layer deep it still looks amazing. While initially vibrant and cheery Magical Quest isn’t afraid to go dark. That helps the visual variety greatly and keeps things fresh. The animation is as smooth as you would expect given the developer and special effects like Mode 7 are kept to a minimum. The music does not rise to the same standard and while it isn’t as memorable is still pretty good.
As regular Mickey your abilities are limited. Aside from a butt bounce he can grab and toss objects and enemies. Surprisingly base Mickey remains viable for the length of the game since his later abilities come with certain limitations. The coins dropped can be spent in hidden shops to buy extra lives, restore health, increase your life bar and other amenities.
If that were it the game would still be pretty decent thanks to its tight controls. But Capcom has you covered. Like they did with DuckTales and Rescue Rangers Capcom built Magical Quest around a unique gameplay hook. In this case, costumes. The three outfits, magician, firefighter, and mountain climber grant new abilities necessary to traverse each level. As a magician Mickey can fire bolts of magic, breathe underwater, and enchant magic carpets for a ride. The firefighter suit has a fire hose that can put out fires of all sizes. In addition it can push blocks aside to form makeshift platforms. Goofy provides the mountain climbing gear which practically turns the game into Bionic Commando for a brief spell. The grappling hook is near identical to Super Joe’s bionic arm and implemented extremely well here. But that should be expected.
The level design is first class and paced extremely well. Each particular stage early on is tailored around whichever outfit you have just received. There are many inventive uses for your abilities spread throughout the game, some hiding secrets while others leading to alternate paths. Playing the role of a firefighter and extinguishing flames to create platforms is pretty cool. If you have faith in your grasp of the swinging mechanics it’s possible to bypass the majority of the mountain level. It is tough but a worthy risk. Yet even despite their uses it can still be advantageous to use plain old Mickey sometimes. The multiple paths through some levels even facilitate this.
For the most part Magical Quest is fairly balanced in terms of difficulty. Early on when your life bar is small you might die a few times as hearts are scarce. If you don’t find the shop or hidden life extenders the end game can be rough. The boss battles may seem simple in their mechanics but it still comes down to proper execution. I’m not ashamed to admit a few nearly cost me a precious credit. Despite these situations the game remains fair overall.
If only the game were longer! The six stages of Magical Quest are all fantastic and inventive, making excellent use of your various suits. But they will leave you wanting more. Each suit only has one given level in the spotlight and really plays around with its mechanics. Granted, you are free to use any costume at any time but its clear certain levels were designed around specific abilities. Pete’s castle is a perfect example of how much greater the game could have been. Here you have one long level that continually challenges you to switch abilities and is a fitting end game challenge. With one or two more levels Magical Quest would have been near perfect.
Ignore my grousing about the game’s length. Capcom did a spectacular job with their first 16-bit Disney offering and the game is still amazing today. It would only get better going forward too.