Personal Favorite: CASTLE OF ILLUSION
We will be doing Game Gear a bit different. Since I have a small Game Gear library and there are also a limited number of decent games for the system I have chosen three of the better and more popular titles to review.
Castle of Illusion originally came out for the Sega Genesis. An 8-bit version was made for the Game Gear in 1991 and plays somewhat differently. Both games were developed by Sega and feature Mickey Mouse traversing various areas in an effort to rescue Minnie from an evil witch. They’re 2D platformers and have a multi-hit life system. Later Castle of Illusion’s 16-bit version came to Sega Saturn, PSN, XBLA and PC. The 8-bit Game Gear version had decent reviews and sales but has had no remakes.
I like the artwork a lot, the creepy castle, face in the tree and the witch against the full moon backdrop do a great job setting the eerie tone. Visually Castle of Illusion is one of the Game Gear’s better looking games. Its landscapes and enemies are colorful and make full use of the Game Gear’s palette. Mickey has decent animations, I particularly liked his toe-tapping during idle stance and the way his tail wags when he’s crouched. It does ok in the sound department, with themes that match the stages well. Creepy tracks accompany the castle levels and fun, uptempo tracks play during the forest and ice cream stages.
The gameplay of Castle of Illusion is your standard fare of 8-bit platforming. It feels a lot like early NES platformers. Mickey can jump and he can pick up and throw objects. Avoiding enemies and making dangerous jumps are your primary task. What I enjoyed most about the game is it actually has pretty damn solid boss battles for an early handheld, especially the final two. The life system uses hearts, with a max of 5, so the system is a bit forgiving.
That being said I still had trouble with the final Dragon boss and took a couple days beating him. I was still having a good time though, as my deaths couldn’t be blamed on any issues with the game. The blame was solely on my rustiness with difficult old-school platformers. I probably couldn’t beat the first two levels of any NES Mega Man title right now.
Castle of Illusion can’t really be credited with influencing any future games, as it itself is basically a copy of several standard platformers before it. Even though Castle of Illusion doesn’t re-invent the wheel, its a solid option for Sega systems comparative to Super Mario games. All in all it is a great game compared to its peers at the time and is a must-own in my opinion if you’re a Game Gear collector. I also highly recommend its 16-bit version if you’re a Genesis collector as its a classic title and is much deeper of a game than this one.