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Retro Game of the Day! Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (SMS)

Retro Game of the Day is a daily look back at some of the games we loved - and some that we didn't - during the formative years. Today's entry is Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse for the Sega Master Systems.
Retro Game of the Day! Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (SMS)
 

Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse for the Sega Master System, developed by Sega of Japan and released in 1990.

 

The Sega Master System was quite a peculiar console. It was the probably the only major 8-bit system to face off against the NES for the longest amount of time (and with the most coverage), but despite being technically superior, the SMS never enjoyed a wonderfully fundamental base of software like its counterpart had. Interestingly, the system got a new lease on life when its' 16-bit successor (Sega Genesis) appeared, and a lot of major "next gen" titles that appeared on Genesis received "hand-me-down" ports on the little brother system. Castle of Illusion was an early example of this.

 

For the Sega Genesis, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse was a breakthrough title. In spite of its very "kiddie" branding, the game was a triumphant (if simplified) Mario-style platformer that really showed off the power of the 16-bit system. The sights and sounds were spectacular, and the gameplay was varied and interesting enough to provide a top-notch action experience worth repeated playthroughs. The game released much earlier than the first Sonic the Hedgehog game, and filled a noticable void; proving that the Genesis really was the "do-everything" machine of its day. Critics and gamers were very pleased.

 

Shortly following release, a Master System version was announced. Being a similar game from te same developer meant there was absolutely a good deal of interest, though it was expected that a certain amount of audiovisual compromise would need to be made; there was quite a gulf in horsepower between the two generations.

 

And so, I picked up the game eagerly and tore through it. I wasn't expecting anything along the lines of a hi-level Mario game, but something halfway decent with a lot of love and care put in, and hopefully one of the better excursions on the starving Master System library. The game ended up being competent - the gameplay style was quite different than it's big brother, and the whole game layout was very reworked (it felt like it was " roughly inspired by the 'real' Castle of Illusion). To that end, I was happy to have a different game, rather than a lower-tech looking rehash. To judge it on it's own, Castle of Illusion SMS was exactly what I'd expected of Castle of Illusion Genesis - this truly was a kiddie game, designed with the younger player in mind, and therefore it was an enjoyable romp but absolutely a cakewalk.

It does feel a little unfair to compare it to it's older sibling, so I will compare it to other Disney 8-bit games, in which case it holds its own as well. Compared to 8-bit Mickey excursions on Nintendo, this game is a superior product. But considering the wonderful Capcom-developed entries into that arena (specifically the MegaMan-esque DuckTales), the Mickey SMS is not even in the same league.

In summation, a good solid game, a fun playthrough, and a fair representation/companion to the original 16-bit masterpiece. However, I'd suspect there's better fare on the SMS to spend your time with.

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