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Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse (Sega Master System) artwork

Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse (Sega Master System) review


"The 8-bit Castle of Illusion has to be one of the system's strongest efforts and most memorable moments. It should be on your 'must have' list, along with gems like Wonderboy II and III, Alex Kidd in Miracle World, and R-Type. With the exception of the latter, these testaments to Sega's 8-bit power were all cutesy side scrolling platforming games, and Sega took their level of expertise at making them to another level with the release of Mickey's fledgling foray into the world run by a big eared kid named Alex. "



Mickey's Master System Magic

Rewind to a time shortly after Sega released their Genesis, while their Master System was still enjoying a healthy following in Europe, Brazil and other areas of the globe. Their North American representative was, for all intents and purposes, brain dead. It was devoid of life, though its pulse might still have been going, ever so slightly. At this time, Sega began releasing downsized versions of their Genesis hits for the 8-bit elder statesman. Along with Strider and others, (later on, even more ambitious translations like Street Fighter II would grace the unwieldy black console) Castle of Illusion made the trip downhill to the Master System.

The results were amazing. While it's not as good as the Genesis version, it is as good as it could be given the system's limitations, and is not 'just for kids', as some might initially think. The goal here remains the same; Mickey must save Minnie from the witch Mizrabel's clutches. He must procure the 7 Gems of Illusion from fallen end-of-level guardians, ultimately entering the Castle of Illusion to slay the mighty Dragon, and to stamp out the threat of the miserable Mizrabel herself.

The 8-bit Castle of Illusion has to be one of the system's strongest efforts and most memorable moments. It should be on your 'must have' list, along with gems like Wonderboy II and III, Alex Kidd in Miracle World, and R-Type. With the exception of the latter, these testaments to Sega's 8-bit power were all cutesy side scrolling platforming games, and Sega took their level of expertise at making them to another level with the release of Mickey's fledgling foray into the world run by a big eared kid named Alex.

Mickey didn't pay any heed to the intensely territorial young master Kidd. Mickey just made his mark. Mickey can throw apples and bounce on enemies with his shiny black posterior to do them in. He can toboggan down slopes--without a toboggan (and you thought rug burn was bad)! Despite the discomfort that he must endure, Mickey is always smiling, as he glides gaily along to the tune of appropriately happy Disney arrangements. He's no doubt smiling because of how well he is animated; he knows that he is all ears and shoulders above all other Master System characters in this department. That smile will turn to an expression telling of panic and fear should you inexpertly bring the poor rodent to the brink of a precipice. He will flail his arms wildly, in an attempt to regain his balance, his little yellow boots digging in.

Explore with Mickey the dangers of The Enchanted Forest and its acorn-bearing tree guardian (we know it's enchanted because the leaves serve as moving platforms). Next, Toyland will greet him, teeming with bubbles and lettered blocks, unicycling, juggling clowns, and other non-threatening... threats. Tasty pastels await you in the Dessert Factory, and then it's on to The Library. Enjoy a refreshing read, and an equally refreshing dip in someone's unattended beverage (this is only cute until you picture a black rat swimming in your tea). I'm sure you've come across some tough reading in your time, but even that may not prepare you for a fight against an angry book. Traverse rotating gears and swinging pendulums in the Clock Tower, which is where things really start to heat up. When you've chanced upon the ominous spectre of The Castle, your platform skills had better be honed, your reflexes primed and perfect.

In light of all the admittedly juvenile creativity that is woven into Mickey's magical adventure, perhaps it is not surprising that Castle of Illusion is a little on the easy side. You'll only start sweating toward the end of the trek. But guiding Mickey on his whimsical journey--easy as it is--ranks among the most wholly enjoyable experiences you will have with your dusty black console, or any other.

Rating: 9/10

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Staff review by Marc Golding (January 12, 2004)

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