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There’s an ancient and oft cited survey floating around the web that claims that Mario is more popular than Mickey Mouse. Sure, sounds believable. Even if the source of the poll has gone unaccredited since 1990. So, in order to present the following article in terms our audience can understand: Mickey is basically the Mario of everything else.
Movies, TV, apparel, comics, toys - there's virtually no form of earthly matter Disney hasn’t adorned with its famous figurehead, and momentarily dominated over the course of Mickey’s 80+ year career... except for videogames, that is. The Mouse has been in interactive form since roughly 1983, yet until Kingdom Hearts, most of his efforts have been overshadowed by even his compatriots!
Above: “DuckTales… so awesome”
But today it’s all about you, Mickey. We’re shining the spotlight on your five greatest gaming accomplishments, and then we’re going to drag you over to the roasting dais and mock your worst. You’ve earned it!
Yeah, most Kart racers are bullshit knock-offs… except when they’re made by Rare! Having proved its worth with Diddy Kong Racing three years earlier, Rare masterfully infused that winning formula with the Disney brand and the result was just plain old fun. You’ve got a silky smooth, well-balanced racing title with all the charm of a Banjo-Kazooie game.
Your basic weapons mirror the ones found in every Mario Kart, yet Mickey’s Speedway still had a few tricks up its sleeve. For one, those gold Sonic rings you see that litter the courses - based on Indianapolis, San Francisco and you guessed it, Oregon! - they managed to avoid Sega’s legal thunder by actually increasing top speed stats as you collected them. So that’s almost interesting… but unlike other Kart games, this one’s got a plot!
Above: The Weasels from Roger Rabbit kidnap poor Pluto and the only answer is a Kart race across America!
Of course, the game isn’t without a spoonful of the irritating nonsense that’s earned Rare a lawn chair at the cusp of irrelevance. Unskippable cutscenes, ho! And this agonizing narrative is unstoppably presented via Skype and a Windows operating system:
Above: No, you may not move that cursor! Mickey’s Speedway USA is telling a story
Luckily, anyone who has marveled at the music in Banjo-Kazooie, Viva Pinata, or Donkey Kong Country knows full well that Rare is more than capable of composing a decent game composition in the spirit of classic cartoons. And here you’ll find plenty of jazzy up tempo numbers that harken back to the heyday of Disney’s iconic shorts.
Above: Yes, Mickey may only have four good games
However, in a rare Rare move, the game featured top-notch voice acting delivered by the late Wayne Allwine and the other able players synonymous with audibly bringing the characters to life throughout the years.
Above: Ludwig Von Drake: Unlockable!
Still, it’s a helluva lot of fun, even if it’s light on the difficulty. Plus, Mickey’s Speedway was compatible with the Rumble Pak, AND was one of the very few N64 games to support the Transfer Pak. Dewey and Louie were unlockable within the game, but if you wanted to play as Huey, well, you were gonna need to connect the GBC version. Talk about incentive!
Above: Pretty adorable for all its ugliness, no?
You could call Castle of Illusion a product of its time, but to us, it’s a damn fine sidescroller lost in the fracas of the Mario vs Sonic battle for supremacy. And it more than made up for stink nuggets like Mickey Mousecapade (read on!)
Above: Minnie is kidnapped once again
Part of the reason Mickey couldn’t ever take the stage in a balls-out action title is because, well… he’s not really much of an action hero is he? Mickey’s more about perseverance than anything else. The guy rarely even wears a shirt so he’s barely fit to fight a cold snap.
Mickey’s not really built for combo breakers and kill sprees. So, in Castle of Illusion he moves primarily on the defensive, armed with little more than a butt bounce and as many apples as he can pick up. Castle Crashers this ain’t.
Above: “That’s not the evil queen from Snow White, Mr. Eisner… That’s Lady Mizrabel!”
It looks as though rights issues prevented Castle from staring a Who’s Who ensemble of animated legends (although someone managed to sneak a character or two in with some slightly clever rewording). Yet the game’s tone and style stayed true to the very essence of what’s made Disney an institution. So there!