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So I'm sitting here trying to think of how to begin this blog, thinking to myself "how could I possibly convey the feelings I get when I play Castle of Illusion? Should I go the old tired route of saying 'oh, it's Disney magic!' Should I talk about how much "fun" it is? Should I be writing what is essentially a review of it?" I don't know about you, but I'd rather not have to write any of those things. None of them could possibly convey what Castle of Illusion means to me.
Here's a little background information on Castle of Illusion for those of you who may have heard the name but don't know the game. Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is a platformer developed by Sega for the Sega Genesis, Master System, Game Gear, and Sega Saturn. It was developed around the same time as another well-known Genesis classic, the first Sonic the Hedgehog; and it predated other platformers based on Disney properties such as Aladdin and the Lion King.
"If you're not going to talk about the game, then what are you going to talk about?" you might ask. I'm going to talk about my history with this game and the emotional ties I have to it. Some of you may have seen me talk about this before in a previous blog. I'm going to go into a bit more depth this time around.
Castle of Illusion may very well be the first video game I've ever played. I can't be entirely sure. But some of my earliest memories are of playing this game. Along with the second and third Sonic the Hedgehog games, I played Castle of Illusion on a daily basis. I think it was only when I got a Nintendo 64 one Christmas morning that my dedication to the Genesis began to taper off.
One day I was told that my grandmother on my mother's side was not my biological grandmother. My biological grandmother had died before I was born. Apparently it was only a few short weeks before I was born. My grandfather went to wake her up one morning and she wouldn't open her eyes. I can't imagine the pain my mother must have gone through at that time.
Over the years I was given bits and pieces of information on this grandmother I never knew. How she was a wonderful mother. How she would have loved my brother and I. How she would have taken us out for ice cream. And how she loved Castle of Illusion.
Apparently, the copy of Castle of Illusion that my family owned came from her. She used to sit down and play it for hours on end. She loved it. Just like me. We could have played it together. What I wouldn't give to have played through it with her just once. Suddenly, the way I saw Castle of Illusion began to change.
Castle of Illusion was no longer just a "fun" game full of "Disney magic". It was my one physical connection to this grandmother I had never known. A kind of connection I didn't share, and to this day don't share with any other family members. I have no family members who love the kinds of games I love. My dad loves RTS games. My brother prefers multiplayer games such as DOTA 2. My mom loves to play hidden object games. None are my cup of tea. Only my grandmother and I saw the true magic in Castle of Illusion. You have no idea of how important that is to me.
Since I discovered this connection and dwelled on it, the way I've enjoyed Castle of Illusion has evolved. No longer am I having fun just for myself. I'm having fun for two. I feel not only my own joy upon infiltrating the Castle of Illusion, defeating the Masters of Illusion, and saving Minnie, but my grandmother's as well.
Now when I play Castle of Illusion-taking in the scenery, listening to the music, and seeing the raw imagination laid out on the canvas that is the game engine-it almost brings tears to my eyes. Heck, just writing this blog nearly kickstarted the waterworks. That's not something any old game can do to me. Let alone a platformer. In fact, I've never "cried" while playing a game (and believe me, I've tried), so bringing tears to my eyes is one of the highest honors when it comes to noting games that have impacted me.
So why is Castle of Illusion my favorite game ever? I must answer that with another question: "How can it not be my favorite game of all time?" To say that any other game is my favorite game of all time would be like saying that some other game has managed to elicit more raw emotion from me than Castle of Illusion. And that's not true. Nothing has. And nothing ever will.
But to answer the above question more directly: It's not Castle of Illusion that makes Castle of Illusion my favorite game of all time. Castle of Illusion is my bridge between worlds. Through that bridge, I have been able to form a bond with a woman that I dearly wish I had known. Played games with. Laughed with. Loved. And for that, it is undoubtedly my favorite game of all time.