I apologize ahead of time for the lack of music from the remake in this blog (I think it's good to read it to), but there's literally one song posted on Youtube. It sucks. I know.
Ah, the enchanted forest theme. I could hum it when I was still in pull-ups.
If you were to ask me what gaming systems I grew up on, I would list off four: the Sega Genesis, the Sega Dreamcast, and the Playstation 1/2. These systems hold a very special place in my heart, but more-so than the rest, the Sega Genesis. It beckoned my young mind with its promises of fun times with Sonic 2/3/Spinball and the loveliness that were the Disney games. Surely, by now you can guess what I'm getting at. One of those games was Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse.
Castle of Illusion has a sort of history with my family. A whole bunch of people in my family, even ones who you wouldn't normally expect to play games, have apparently enjoyed it immensely some time long ago. But more importantly, this was my Grandma's game. I never knew my Grandma on my mother's side. She apparently died when my mother was a few months pregnant with me, and very suddenly, too. One morning she just didn't wake up.
What I do know is that she loved Castle of Illusion. Apparently, she used to sit down and play it for hours, something that still gives me a warm feeling whenever I hear my mom talk about it. I believe that after she died, the game and Sega Genesis that came with it was passed on to my family. Unfortunately, what would be a year and two months ago, by now, I sold that Sega Genesis and Castle of Illusion along with it (I figured I could pirate it play it on an emulator if I felt like it, something I do not condone, nowadays). Looking back, I deeply regret selling them, as they were my only ties to the Grandma I never knew.
I wonder how many times she saw this serene backdrop.
Needless to say, I've played Castle of Illusion numerous times, myself. I can say, without a doubt in my mind that it is my favorite game that I have ever played. Not necessarily the best. No game is without its flaws, but no game has filled me with such delight time and time again as Castle of Illusion. The magical, memorable settings, the charming enemies and bosses, the unbeatable soundtrack, the challenge, and even the simple sprites of Mickey himself just pull you in and don't let go.
Makes you almost want to live in a land of pastries and sugary confections.
Needless to say, this has been a day I have been looking forward to for a long time. I'd guess since April, since that's when the remake was first teased. I went to my Calculus class today at Penn State and rushed home. I had some reading to do for my English class (which it turned out was cancelled, anyways), so I read it as fast as I could without actually skimming it and slammed my finger on the Playstation 3's power button.
I trembled with delight as I checked to make sure my credit card information was up to date, and I added $14.99 to my wallet without a second thought. This was it. I started up the game as soon as it was done downloading, and I dove in.
Long story short, I felt like a young kid again, experiencing Castle of Illusion for the first time. My eyes were glued to the TV, and I'm pretty sure my mouth was literally agape. I played through the first few levels and fought the first boss. Everything was familiar, but at the same time, new.
This was the same Forest from the first world of Castle of Illusion, but the level designs were new to me (with the exception of the leaf section of the very first level). The music was the same tune I remembered, but it was being played beautifully by an orchestra. The first boss was the old same oak tree I had fought uncountable times beforehand, but it had new attacks that caught me off guard.
The game was beautiful, just like this song.
I finished up the first world and got everything but a few stray diamonds (there are 800 to collect in all), but unfortunately I had to go back to school. That's when I walked up to my English classroom and found out that class was cancelled. I nearly hopped for joy, I was so happy. I strode back home with a spring in my step (I was actually doing that sort of bouncing thing as I walked).
I nearly whistled the Enchanted Forest tune from Castle of Illusion on the way back, but I restrained myself for the sake of my fellow peers who were working outside and didn't look like they wanted to be disturbed. I rushed back inside once I hit the sidewalk and plopped back down to continue. Several hours later, I finished the game and 100%'d it.
I felt happier than I've been in a long time. It reinvigorated me. It touched my heart in a way that only a Disney game can manage to pull off. That's not to say that it was by any means a perfect game, no. I can point out some flaws it has. Some music tracks that it should have brought back from the original, a few glitches here and there, and controls that take a bit getting used to, but I can look past all that.
It's not a perfect game, but it's the perfect game for me.
This is the track they should have remixed, by the way.
So, now that this is all over and I've had time to reflect, I have two things I want to say. The first thing is that I'd like to extend a very deep thank you to Sega Australia for bringing us a version of Castle Illusion that manages to stay faithful to the original while improving on its designs and feeling like a game of its own, rather than just a simple remake. It truly was a pleasure.
The second thing I'd like to say is that I just wish I could have experienced it with my Grandma. I never knew her personally, but I'm told that she would have loved to do things with my brother and I, and I know that if she loved the original Castle of Illusion, she would have dropped everything to experience this with me.
We would have shared smiles as we conquered the Enchanted Forest. We would have exchanged laughs as we heard the enemy that's a letter 'A' yell "A!". Maybe we could have shared a bowl of ice cream as we worked our way through the sugar-coated world inside the milk bottle. And we could hug as we defeated Mizrabel and saved Minnie.
So, I'd like to dedicate this blog to her and to indirectly tell her that I'll join her someday, up in heaven, and I promise to play Castle of Illusion with her.