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Disney has been quite busy in the world of video games this summer. From launching arguably their biggest game yet with Disney Infinity, their take on Skylanders, to releasing HD remakes with DuckTales Remastered and now Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, they have been on a roll. They actually let the right people work on the HD remakes with Capcom/WayForward on DuckTales and Sega with Castle of Illusion. After playing through the original Genesis game recently thanks to the pre-order bonus for Playstation 3 folks, I’m approaching this HD remake with more expectations than I had with DuckTales. Sega Studios Australia managed to keep the core concepts and design intact in this new Castle of Illusion, but also throw in new twists and perspectives to keep this HD remake more interesting than I thought it would be.
Just like the Genesis original, the storyline for this new take on Castle of Illusion follows Mickey and Minnie out together enjoying the day until Mizrabel ruins the party kidnapping Minnie in attempt to steal her beauty. It is up to Mickey to save Minnie by going through the Castle of Illusion to collect seven colored gems to build a rainbow bridge to Mizrabel’s quarters. The surprises kick in right away when you first start the game as you thought this would be straight up classic 2D platforming from beginning to end like the original, but there is actually some 3D sections especially the castle hub where you access all the levels. These are additions worthy for this modern remake and I’ll explain more in a bit.
The core gameplay in Castle of Illusion is identical to the original. Mickey can jump on enemies and throw items at them as well. The difference in this HD remake compared to the original is that you don’t need to press the jump button again to defeat enemies, but you do have to hold the button to increase Mickey’s height and this is key to finding hidden rooms and secrets throughout the game. While most of the game is classic 2D platforming at its finest, there are some 3D sections thrown in as mentioned earlier, which is usually some chases from apples and certain boss encounters. Sega Studios Australia did a great job of keeping players on their toes when these new twists to the classic levels come up even at unexpected times. However, I usually changed controls in these sections from the d-pad for the 2D sections to the left analog stick. This is not that much of a knock on the game, but more of a personal preference with platformers the past couple console generations. From the original to today’s HD remake, Castle of Illusion’s gameplay still holds up fine as it is simple for any player to learn.
The original Castle of Illusion was an easy game to beat back in 1990 for the Genesis and this modern take is no exception. It is telling since it is a game starring Mickey Mouse and it had to be easier for kids to beat, but there are some challenging parts near the end that are a little harder. Despite that said, I had little to no trouble beating this HD remake in three hours. Sure, three hours is pretty short, but for the modern take on a short Genesis classic, that is okay. The game is also pretty generous on extra lives and boss patterns (despite having new attacks), so it is indeed a cakewalk compared to last month’s DuckTales Remastered. I do wish there were more difficulty options to make it more challenging for platforming veterans such as less health/extra life pickups and Mickey taking more damage. There are however, time attack options on all the levels and collectibles to find to increase the game’s replay value, but not much though.
Of course, the most important thing on remaking a classic like this is the graphics and Sega Studios Australia nailed it on this department as well. They were able to capture the Disney feel extraordinarily well in all the levels from the enchanted forest, toyland, and even the ice cream world. All of these levels feel like they could be in their own Disney animated movies with the amount of stuff going on in them. My major gripe with the graphical presentation is that the game does run at 30 frames per second on all platforms its released on compared to 60. I haven’t noticed any framerate slowdown with my time with the game, but this could have been way better at 60 fps.
The developers also nailed the Disney feel on the audio as well. There is a narrator that narrates Mickey’s events throughout the game, but he is not as annoying as say the numerous cutscenes in DuckTales Remastered. However, certain cutscenes can’t be skipped especially after dying in a certain section, so be prepared to hear some lines over again if that happens. At least, the narrator doesn't speak that much on repeated playthrough of levels if you’re going back for collectibles. Mickey occasionally has his voice chime in as well, but not much either to the point it becomes an annoyance. The soundtrack is also top notch and surprisingly composed by the one who did Banjo-Kazooie and Goldeneye 007’s soundtracks with great modernized takes on the original's classic tunes. Players can select the original music to play instead of the new music if they still prefer the Genesis soundtrack.
Even though I beat it in a single sitting, I had an enjoyable time with this Castle of Illusion HD remake. Sega Studios Australia managed to maintain the original’s core themes and concepts while throwing in new surprises and perspectives to keep fans satisfied. They were also able to nail the Disney feel in every department from the visuals and the audio as if you’re experiencing a new animated movie by Disney. However, the game is pretty easy to beat and lacks difficulty options to give players more challenge. Also, it runs at a disappointing 30 frames per second despite still being functional, but it would be been better if it was at 60 fps. It is a shame that Sega shut down their Australian studio after the completion of this game since they also had plans to work on more HD remakes of their classic games such as Golden Axe and Streets of Rage. Fans of the original and itching for that nostalgia trip again should spend the $15 on this new take despite its short length. After DuckTales and now this, hopefully Disney sees that these games still have an audience and maybe more remakes of their classic games could be made in the future.