Nostalgia Tripping is a column in which Dan Tallarico explores his collection of retro games to see how well they hold up. You can expect heartbreak, childhood flashbacks and a ton of Capcom games. Want to yell at him about old games? Find him on Twitter.
What I Remember
I grew up worshipping Mickey in all his mousey digital iterations throughout the years. I watched the older kids in my neighborhood play through Mickey Mousecapade and was baffled at the concept of having to rescue a doppelganger. I guess that Mickey was doing a lot of soul searching in the 8-bit era.
What I do remember most are Mickey’s 16-bit adventures. Unlike Buster Bunny, Mickey was never showboating or in a rush. Instead of sprinting like a scattered-brained hare, Mickey was always playing it cool. In Disney’s Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse, Mickey solidified his role as the king of cartoons. His demeanor was practiced and his skills were vast. Cool as an animated cucumber, Mickey would jaunt through the forest past deadly trees and destroy villains. He did so by tossing blocks and spinning enemies like a giant toying with a child’s top.
Mickey’s adventure enamored me and his wardrobe made my insides giddy every time he went behind the red curtain. Costume changes meant new skills. In one level he gained the skills of a firefighter where he could put out flames. In another level he equipped a sorcerer’s robe to cast magic. Mickey taught me that it was okay to take your time, enjoy the journey, and with patience comes victory. They were lessons that would stay with me through my later video game years.
Playing it Now
Mickey makes the foolish mistake of trusting the arm of Goofy during a game of catch. Goofy launches the ball into the dark and spooky woods and Pluto goes chasing after. Is this subterfuge by Goofy to become the alpha dog? Or a mere mistake by a lanky pants-wearing pup? Either way you cut it, Mickey doesn’t trust Goofy and decides to venture off to find Pluto on his own. Mickey tries to play it cool, but as he sprints through the woods shouting “Pluto! Pluto!” he ducks under a branch, trips, and topples off a cliff. It could have been worse -Mickey could have stepped in a mouse trap.
Collecting his senses like a janitor scooping up dirt with a dustpan, Mickey begins his journey to find Pluto. Before he gets far an apparition appears. It’s a father time type figure: long beard, old, large, and wise. He tells Mickey that he has scattered costumes throughout the world for Mickey to leverage in hopes of regaining his pet and best friend. Mickey plays it cool (almost too cool if you ask me) and says thanks for the help. This figure is very “Dr.Light” in nature. Appearing in a time of need and has somehow prepared for an unforeseen tragedy. The Capcom apple doesn’t fall far from this cartridge.
How does a mostly naked Mickey destroy enemies? Since this is the early 90′s jumping is a viable option, but Mickey isn’t satisfied with hopping on things. He’s no Oswald the Rabbit. Equipped with his soft white gloves, Mickey can grab blocks and spin them into enemies. The mechanic is simple and incredibly satisfying. Like earning a clean headshot in a shooter, or scoring from a corner kick in FIFA. Each block (or enemy) Mickey spins is as thrilling as the next. Mickey doesn’t need other items to succeed, but he’s not going to turn down a magical costume.
The game is built on a foundation of costumes. They’re divvied out about once per stage and can be switched between at will. Each costume behaves in a drastically different way which creates some neat gameplay. The sorcerer garb grants Mickey the ability to shoot magic spheres and awaken a sleeping magic carpet. Additionally, he can swim under water without worrying about running out of oxygen.The fireman costume lets Mickey shoot water from a nearly infinite tank, helpful for putting out fires and creating platforms from ice in the fire and ice stages respectively. Finally, Mickey gets a climbing suit that is a homage to Bionic Commando. The default action shoots the hook diagonal, and while Mickey can jump and isn’t fighting Hitler, the similarities to Bionic Commando are stunning. There’s climbing, swinging, and disarming of enemies with this quick hook. I think this qualifies Disney’s Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse Mickey as one of the secret best Bionic Commando game.
The game does a great job of capturing classic Mickey scenarios and humor, but there was one rare moment that the game aligned that made me think I was staring into Walt Disney’s soul. Mickey approached the boss of the second stage, a large spider. In the background was the web where flies and secondary Disney characters have died before. As the spider crawled onto the screen all sound effects ceased to exist in this vacuum of evil. There was this elegant bassoon seeping through my speakers and coiling itself around my body. It teased me and urged me to attack foolishly and haphazard. It was like watching a surreal scene from Fantasia. Mickey dancing around this spider, finding its weak point. Nature versus sorcery. Mickey’s fantastical bullets bounce off the spider’s chin leaving Mickey helpless. He must rely on the age old tactic of bouncing on things. Egging me on like a snake charmer tricks the snake into rising from its basket. I followed suit and lunged at the spider.
He spun with the elegance of Mode 7; his webbing caught me and for a moment and Mickey was imprisoned. I mashed buttons. At the final moment Mickey burst out and planted his clog-like shoes into his face. The spider was mad but did not relent. He channeled his anger and charged at Mickey. Again, Mickey opted to put away his magic and leverage his roots. His shoes landed on the spider’s head and soon he was defeated. His soul evaporated from his body, laughing, and flew into the heavens.
Disney’s Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse Mickey gives Capcom an excuse to push the limits of genres without tainting their own ilk. The platforming in this game is varied and challenging. Later levels are complex and slightly confusing and the set pieces are fun to play through despite multiple deaths. Why take chances with Mega Man or Street Fighter when Capcom could have a field day with Mickey? It’s an interesting game that blends together the situational weapons of Mega Man with the Disney background. Hunting down a lost dog has never been so much fun.