Sega is no stranger when it comes to bringing old favorites into this current generation of games. Everything from Sonic's classic library to the Streets of Rage trilogy and the Toe Jam and Earl games have seen a re-release in digital form. Despite this, we weren't expecting the company to announce a high-definition remake of its 1990 Sega Genesis platforming opus Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, especially on the heels of the just-released Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two from Disney.
We'll certainly take it as Castle easily ranks as one of Mickey's better gaming adventures, right up there with Mickey Mania and the co-op-supported follow-up World of Illusion. In the game, the famous mouse finds himself sucked into a magical (yet dangerous) world when his beloved Minnie Mous, is kidnapped by the evil witch Mizrabel. Mickey must work his way through each world, collecting gems and eventually coming face-to-face with his adversary in the hopes of rescuing Minnie.
For Castle of Illusion's HD transfer, Sega has turned to a pair of sources to retain its visual charm. Its development team at Sega Studios Australia is handling the conversion and the original director of the Genesis game (who now works at Disney Interactive) also has a hand in the project to make sure its vision stays true to the original 16-bit release (which we're hoping is included in this release somewhere as an unlockable bonus).
The game is built like a 2D platformer but retains a 3D perspective through each world. That means you move through a sprawling 3D universe, but go in 2D movement like the original game. It leans quite heavily on platforming, as you'll jump into new areas and activate doors in order to move forward into a level. Along the way, you'll have to contend with enemies that range from spiders to toy soldiers to bigger bosses that require articulate strategy to defeat. Then there's Mizrabel herself, who looks like a tiny witch at first but soon grows into a bigger menace than Mickey ever could have expected.
Mickey has two types of offense he can use when it comes to defeating enemies. On the one hand, he can "butt bounce" off of enemies by leaping into the air and pressing down on the D-pad or analog stick. He'll fling his legs in the air and let his rear end do the work, magically making the enemies disappear and getting a higher bounce as a result. You can use this technique to reach new areas and locate secrets that may be out of plain view.
The second is with marbles, which are scattered throughout each stage. These marbles act as projectiles, which Mickey can throw to take out enemies from a distance or utilize when he's low on health. There are no shortage of these so you'll want to take the time to collect a few, especially when it comes to boss battles.
One new element to the game is the stage select screen. In the original Castle of Illusion, you simply worked your way through a small room with multiple doors going from left to right as you cleared each area. With the HD remake, you're put into a beautiful 3D room where you can look around at each offered area before cleaning house. It's more of a decor thing than a major change to gameplay, but it provides a unique perspective.
In fact, the game's HD presentation as a whole is looking quite fantastic while staying reminiscent of the level designs that were so inspiring over 20 years ago and yet retaining a luscious 3D paint job. Though we haven't heard it yet, the music should be nostalgic with revamped tunes taken straight from the classic Genesis release.
If Castle of Illusion delivers as Sega expects it to, then it could easily open the door for other Sega classics to make a return. How great would it be to see Quackshot Starring Donald Duck, World of Illusion, or even the Vectorman games with modern-day visuals? We could easily ask the same of Capcom after DuckTales Remastered releases this summer... what we wouldn't give to see Chip n' Dale's Rescue Rangers come back!
Let's not get ahead of ourselves; for now we should simply enjoy the splendor of Castle of Illusion HD, as Sega is making sure this classic is treated with great care. Unleash the magic for yourself when the game releases for Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network this Summer.