The best and worst of Mickey Mouse

Above: Yep, Pluto’s back in the kidnap cannon

We hate to bring it up again after having just gushed over it in this week’s Top 7… Kickass Disney Games, but if it weren’t a sentiment worth repeating, Capcom wouldn’t have spun it off into two sequels, right? For starters, you weren’t resigned to being a defenseless rodent in red underoos, no no no. Mickey got fancy-pants suits fit to wage war!

Adorning the various costumes morphed the notoriously timid rodent into an aggressive mouse of action, easily on equal footing with his contemporaries. Firing spells, vanquishing flame and grappling like a bionic commander were just a costume change away.

Any game starring Mickey Mouse is fighting an uphill battle against being perceived as a kids’ game, but luckily this was brought to us by Capcom and its knack for colorfully balanced gameplay. Switching up abilities eventually provided a fair bit of depth, as it allowed players to solve puzzles and defeat enemies Mickey couldn’t ordinarily pull off without his clever wardrobe. However, this Quest did fall back on some typical NES bullshit for the ending.

Above: Also known in the game world as the “Mario 2 Cop Out” ending

Above: Portrait of a badass

Yes, we called the original Kingdom Hearts our #1 favorite Disney game. But we’re talking Mickey-centric games now, and that’s where the sequel’s time to shine. Rather than putting Mickey into a submissive role, a Disney universe in peril reimagined by Square-Enix easily got away with warping the icon into the role of a noble king… an altruistic diplomat… and an acrobatic Jedi ninja who wielded a weapon of icy virtuous death!

Above: “Everyone chill… I got this”

Allegedly at the behest of Disney, Mickey spent all of the first KH fighting battles off screen like a crusading King Richard. That was remedied in the sequel, where you may now behold his Keyblazin’ asskickery in all its rumored glory. Plus, the mouse would even join Sora’s party, and you could control him for a short time.

Above: “I am gonna rip your head off and piss in your neck hole… Huh-HA!”

Hate Mickey, you say? We hear you. Part of caring about what’s now perceived as the soulless emblem to a tyrannical corporation is a love for the medium that popularized Mickey in the first place. Mickey Mouse is, always has been, and always will be a glorious benchmark of animation. That said, it’s doubtful there’s anybody out there not wearing footy pajamas carrying a torch for him if they’re not familiar with the cartoons for which he’s famous.

Above: Think Kingdom Hearts was the first pay tribute to Steamboat Willie?

So, we implore animation fans to turn their attention to Mickey Mania. Most of our little pre-teen brains didn’t comprehend what made “The Timeless Adventures of Mickey Mouse” truly special beyond being a great platformer of the time. First off, you gotta marvel at the level of detail Traveller’s Tales put into the animation.

Second, and this is a biggie for animation buffs, each and every level is based on a specific Mickey Mouse short dating all the way back to 1928’s Steamboat Willie!

Steamboat Willie – 1928

The Mad Doctor – 1933

The Band Concert – 1935

The Moose Hunters – 1937

The Lonesome Ghosts – 1937

Mickey and the Beanstalk – 1947

The Prince and the Pauper – 1990

Nearly every game starring a silver age cartoon character ranges from half assed to piss poor. Even though gamers of all kinds could still revel in the fluid movement and clever puzzles found throughout, Mickey Mania should’ve warranted a purchase from animation buffs for its knowledge of the source material alone.

Above: Maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised

They only downside to these charmingly authentic levels was that they must be played in chronological order, even though it looks like they weren’t designed as such. You’re looking at a bipolar rollercoaster of difficulty. Other than that, if you’ve ever once taken a course in comic illustration, or purchased one of the insanely great Disney Treasures DVDs, you owe it to yourself to track down a copy of Mickey Mania.

Above: The 2D animation revival is nearly upon us!

Unfortunately, Mickey Mania came out at the tail end of the 2D era. The PlayStation version received a couple of upgrades but the polygonal writing was already on the wall. Only now, thanks to XBLA, PSN and certain Wii titles, 2D animation is making a bit of a comeback. So… since there’s about a billion more Disney shorts to adapt into gameplay… well, you see where we’re going.