Once Upon a Mouse…

TMW Presents: Retro Gaming Spotlight

Castle of Illusion

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Everything starts out just peachy for our old friend Mickey Mouse. He’s in a meadow, frolicking playfully with his girlfriend Minerva, having a game of “spin around really fast so Minnie might fall over and I get to see her knickers” when suddenly Mizrabel the witch appears from out of the blue and whisks Minnie away to her castle.

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Her castle… of illusion!

Why she took Minnie is never really explained. We imagine that it was a spontaneous decision that Mizrabel figured she had to see through to the end. It’s a bit like that time Adam smuggled a pony home from Crealy farm. In the heat of the moment it seemed like a good idea, but once he actually had it in his bedroom (and dyed its mane purple) he couldn’t think of anything to do. Well, that’s what the police report said, and we’re sticking to it.

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Anyway, Mickey walks some fifty miles to the castle and is greeted by Obi Wan Kenobi. The old wizard gives Mickey brief instruction to collect seven magical gems that will summon Captain Planet so he can beat Miserabel up. Or something like that, who knows. This game isn’t very clear about who’s doing what or why.

Mickey doesn’t really need any help to rescue Minnie anyway, as the little guy can lift boulders clear over his head and throw them ten yards. Kabosh! No-one knows why he’s so strong, but legend has it that – years ago – Mickey was bitten by a radioactive mouse, thus giving him the PROPORTIONAL STRENGTH OF A MOUSE.

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It’s quite amazing. In the Mega Drive version, Mickey carries around a bag of apples (or maybe billiard balls) to pelt his enemies with. Master System Mickey just rips up parts of the scenery and puts the smack down on the baddies.

You wouldn’t really want to hurt any of the enemies, though. They’re adorable! You meet caterpillars and smiley sweeties, honey bees and sugar cubes. Why make the enemies so saccharine and benevolent, we wonder? You don’t see that in Streets of Rage. It just wouldn’t be the same if Galsia and Y. Signal came at you with chocolates and a bunch of flowers.

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A lover of all animals (*splutter*), fictional or no, Adam steadfastly refused to hurt any of the little critters in the game, and often made guests swear by the same oath. You should see him play through the whole of Time Crisis without fatally wounding anyone. It’s astonishing. Adam makes Ghandi look like General Zod.

Reaching the end of any of the game’s five levels, you’re tasked with defeating a boss. These characters are pretty hardcore and require careful planning and strategy to defeat. If you’re clever, you can trap the giant Chocolate Bar Man (exactly what it sounds like) in a pattern and ruthlessly beat him with a rock.

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Once the boss is gone, you’re awarded one of the seven rainbow-coloured gems that you need to defeat Mizrabel. When you grab it, the game plays a delightful little tune that tickles the ears and makes the battle worthwhile.

The levels themselves are all fantastic. If you have the Mega Drive version, throw it in the bin right now – you won’t be going back to it. On paper the environments sound the same: You have the woods, toy land, chocolate factory, library and the clock world. But they look and play completely differently to their sixteen-bit cousins.

The graphics are bold and charming, the level design clever and challenging without being frustrating, and the music is wonderfully bouncy. You can tackle the levels in any order you wish; a feature left out of the Mega Drive version for some reason.

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The final challenge comes when you reach the castle’s inner sanctum (I never touched her sanctum!! Read the report!! – Adam). It’s a spooky and fiendish place, and will require all your platforming skill to negotiate safely. Before the final battle with Mizrabel, you must defeat a wicked-looking dragon that spits balls of blue fire.

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Mizrabel herself is easily trounced with Mickey’s mighty mouse strength (by which we mean he smashes her face in with an oil lamp), and she repents her sins wholeheartedly and allows Minnie to go free. Like almost every Master System game ever, the ending is a sweet one that leaves you with a smile on your face. And of course, the game thanks you for playing after the credits roll.

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“See her knickers”

 

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Psycho Kid Cool Turbo Fox Attack

Have you ever played a video game and thought to yourself, this seems familiar? You probably know the feeling if you’ve played any of the big modern franchises like Pokémon or Call of Duty, but that’s not what I mean. I’m talking about any two distinct, separate games that play exactly the same.

It happened to me with Psycho Fox, on the Sega Master System. Bloody great game, unless you live in a PAL territory, which… uh… I do. So it was a bloody great game, if you didn’t mind playing in slow motion. I actually took a solder iron to the console in the end and gave it an emergency PAL-ectomy. The games now play at their correct speed. Proper job.

Ignore the patronising flash in the top corner.

Good game. Better box.

Anyway, the story starts in Japan some time in 1988, with a game by Vic Tokai called Kakefu-kun no Jump Tengoku: Speed Jigoku. It was fairly decent, and soon repackaged for the west as Kid Kool to remove any association with the game’s main character Kakefu-kun, himself based on popular Japanese child actor Kenji Sagara. With the most minor of modifications the game would later receive, they simply took his hat away.

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A decent shade of blue on the NES!? Heresy!

So, a year later when the time came for Vic Tokai to release a game on Sega’s floundering-but-still-awesome Master System, they did what any of us would do in that situation and skinned Kid Kool alive.

Keeping the gameplay intact, they painted it over with cute animal characters and called it Psycho Fox. What’s ‘psycho’ about him, I don’t know, but it’s a catchy name. I don’t think the game was ever released in Japan, but if it was it almost certainly would’ve been renamed something like Jump Hit Troublesome Fox Bang Bang! Wonderland.

Looks cute in his little shirt, dun't 'ee?

Looks cute in his little shirt, dun’t ‘ee?

Over the pond in Brazil, they loved the Master System but hated foxes, so when distributor Tec Toy released the game over there, they hastily replaced the main characters and christened the game Sapo Xulé vs Os Invasores do Brejo, or Stink-Foot the Frog Vs the Swamp Invaders. I am not making this up.

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They also put him in Kung Fu Kid. No joke.

In 1991, Vic Tokai moved onto 16-bit hardware and left the Master System behind. They wanted to make a brand-new game for the cutting-edge Mega Drive, so they took the mutilated and defiled remnants of Kid Kool / Psycho Frog / Whatever and turned it into a virtually identical game called Magical Hat: Surprise Turbo! Great Adventure.

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The blue thing has seen some shit.

This wouldn’t fly in the west, so that game was reskinned as Decap Attack – a name that only makes marginally more sense. Deciding that our palettes were subtly different to our Japanese brethren, Vic Tokai set the game in Transylvania and replaced the cast with a green-moustached Dr. Frankenstein and Chuck – his lumpy orange mummy friend. Instead of punching things like a normal man/fox/frog, Chuck impossibly thrust his head out from the middle of his torso and attacked enemies or the landscape with his face.

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Eeww! Hearts! Bring back the fox!

Some of you Brits reading may fondly recall the Decap Attack comic strip in Fleetway’s Sonic the Comic. It was absolutely mental – a thing of comic genius penned by writer/illustrator Nigel Kitching. He turned it into a hilariously macabre sitcom, and pushed the envelope at every opportunity. The ol’ S.T.C deserves its own article, so look out for that in the future.

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Yes. Yes I do.

Anyway, thanks to Vic Tokai, it was possible to buy six games for three different systems and end up with the same thing. The funny thing is, it would have gone unnoticed if not for the fact that progenitor Kafeku-kun had such a distinct play style. The gameplay, power-ups, controls, even the way the enemies move is entirely unique and unmistakeable. Had the first game been more generic, no-one would have noticed.

“Fox bang”

Chaos Theory

Throughout my formative years in the 1990s, both my parents worked, so during school holidays or periods of civil disturbance, I was shipped off to my aunt and uncle’s house in a sleepy little village about eight miles out of the city. There was nothing to do or see there, really. Places of interest included The Phone Booth, The Field, and the fabled Zedd Bridge, a small humpback bridge barely wide enough to contain the TNT trucks that used it as a launch pad to gain wicked airtime after being dispatched from the nearby depot.

"I consider it a bad day if I DON'T hit a kid"

“I consider it a bad day if I DON’T hit a kid”

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