As noted in our preview of DuckTales: Remastered, Disney has a lot of nostalgia-based releases right now. Perhaps it's unsurprising that it would return to longtime partner Sega to remake a few classic Sega Genesis games. Mickey Mouse wasn't short on them, with the beloved Castle of Illusion, World of Illusion, and Mickey Mania exploring his history and classic cartoons almost 20 years before Warren Spector did the same in Epic Mickey.
Castle of Illusion was originally a 2-D platformer featuring expansive levels and iconically pretty graphics. It favored a simple plot: The evil witch Mizrabel kidnapped Minnie, intent on using a spell to steal her youth, and Mickey must save her by finding seven gems that form a bridge to her lair. In the illusory worlds, Mickey faced enemies by jumping on them or throwing precious-limited apples until he found the gem and escaped to the next area.
These same fundamentals persist in the new Castle of Illusion, and it's no wonder, given the game's original director Emiko Yamamoto is directing the new entry, with the music being remixed by a former musician at Rare, and it's all in the hands of Sega Studios Australia. With that said, Disney representatives were quick to represent the title as more of a "reimagining" than a straight remake (or DuckTales' "remastering"), and for good reason. About 20% of the content was newly created for the reimagining, with the majority of the game being 3-D updates to original levels.
The developers have decided to preserve Mickey's original "floaty" jumps, which allow him to maneuver while in mid-air – a move that's essential in some of the platforming sequences. They've also preserved the animation that occurs when Mickey is teetering on the edge of a platform.
The environments in Castle of Illusion are no longer necessarily tied to a 2-D plane. In the demo I played, the outer hub that connected the levels was in locked-camera 3-D, reminding me of Super Mario 3D Land. The levels played in 2-D but had 2.5D-style camera rotations at various points. Further, they mentioned that some of the level environments would also be in 3-D.
The castle environment of the first level also set up several other changes to this game. The apples only return in the first level, now replaced with level-specific items, such as candles that turn into fireballs in the castle level. (The mechanics work the same, but it's a visual and thematic difference.) A narrator speaks the story of each environment as Mickey traverses it, and Mickey also has some useful comments. One thing that hadn't changed was the overall difficulty of the platforming; neither the Disney representatives nor I could get past a sliding blocks section after seven tries. Mickey's controls are smooth, stopping precisely and offering fair jump control, with smooth animations and proportions that felt right for the classic hero figure.
When all is said and done, Castle of Illusion looks like a worthy addition to Disney's line of nostalgia-focused titles, hearkening back to how Mickey feels in top form. The plan is that it will be out on PSN, XBLA and PC this summer.
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