I wanted to be a garbage man. My mom had taken me outside to see the whole thing in action. The garbage man would hop off his gigantic truck– with more grace than my eight-year-old self could have expected from a giant like this– effortlessly take the garbage container from the curb, with all its pounds of garbage, and chuck its contents into the truck. Four, five, six garbage bags filled with debris fell into the garbage man’s mighty machine, soon to be joined by seven, eight, nine, ten bags from our neighbors. When he was done in just under a minute, with just as little effort the garbage man swooped back into the driver’s seat, rolled his head around, and drove his truck into the sunset.
“He makes a lot of money, you know,” remarked my mom. “He just has to be strong and stinky.”
“I want to be a garbage man,” I vowed.
Well, that never happened. You would sooner lead me to a lion’s den now than make me take out my own trash, and the smell of even slightly rancid food is enough to make me feel faint. But I had my chance, in a way, at being a garbage man– and a firefighter, and a safari explorer and a cowboy. I’ve had more job experience than most of middle America and the references to boot. And I can actually take up any job I want, thanks to my ridiculous amount of assets. In fact, there’s only a few people in this world who I can safely count among my rivals– and all of them come from Disney’s Magical Quest.
Disney revisits the lesson previously taught by Aladdin: Always enter the maws of giant faces.
Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Donald Duck probably aren’t the first characters to come to mind when you think “great platformer” (or, for that matter, “garbage man”), but in Capcom’s Disney’s Magical Quest series, all bets are off. Produced by Tokuro Fujiwara, who also created the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series and produced the Mega Man series (and who would later design Madworld), Disney’s Magical Quest has quite the pedigree– and it shows. While not as difficult as those two series on which Mr. Fujiwara built his career, the Disney’s Magical Quest series nevertheless shows all the hallmarks of good design. Sure, jumping on enemies and throwing them around is nothing new– it’s very much like Super Mario World, or for that matter, Super Mario Bros. 2 — and heart containers, strewn across the (sparse) levels of the Magical Quest worlds associate themselves far more with The Legend of Zelda. Combine that with the copious blocks filled with coins that Mickey can’t seem to walk two steps without hitting, and you have a series that seems to be nothing more than a complete and utter ripoff of other platformers. Not very original, especially coming from Capcom and Disney.
But Disney promised a magical quest– in fact, The Magical Quest, as it was originally called– and magic appears constantly. Each level, Mickey and friends meet some kind of Disney-esque acquaintance– no androgynous, crazy-emo Kingdom Hearts characters here –who gives them a certain type of costume, which in turn gives Mickey and friends some pretty cool powers. Mega Man rip-off? Fine, but bear in mind these costumes have uses other than simply smacking up a certain boss with a certain weapon (though that comes in play as well). In fact, though they may be short, the worlds of Magical Quest are choc-full of hidden doors and hard-to-get items, attainable only with that certain amount of dedication you normally reserve for opening that impossible-to-open pickle jar. You’ll have to fly literally sky-high on your wizard’s magic carpet, or send Mickey careening into a seemingly bottomless pool with your safari outfit. By the end of all three quests– the third of which was Japan-only until its release on Game Boy Advance –players will have a crazy-eclectic menagerie of professions under their belt, one rivaled only by Final Fantasy V characters. And, yes, they’ll even have become garbage men.
Let’s also not forget one of the reasons Disney’s Magical Quest is a series at all (besides contracts and what have you): cooperative play. The games star Mickey, Minnie and Donald after all. After the first game, a second player could drop in at any time as Minnie Mouse (or as Mickey, if player one decided to play as his crazy girlfriend), and hustle along with Mickey on his way to beat up big bad Peg-Leg Pete. In the spirit of New Super Mario Bros., this changes the whole dynamic of the game. While players can, of course, cooperate to take down bosses and find cool loot, Mickey can also completely ignore Minnie while climbing up a tower and thus throw her off the screen. (It’s all right, though– she can retaliate by getting to coins before Mickey does.) This gets especially amusing during the later stages when players have many costumes to choose from, just to see how stages are traversed with different costumes. Certainly, many stages try to force players (gently) to use one costume over another, but that’s no reason to experiment. With two players, it’s pretty much encouraged.
Still, there’s not much stopping gamers from all-out avoiding this game. Like its successor, Epic Mickey, Disney’s Magical Quest features a character dimly looked upon by many gamers, and in fact, associated more with children than anything else. (While playing this game for a quick rehash, one of my friends actually walked in on me and said, “Isn’t that game for babies?” I tried to explain the complexities of this game. He rolled his eyes and walked away, ostensibly to play Manhunt 2 or some other game for non-babies.) But surely the whole point of Disney is to return even the most jaded gamers to childhood– or if not childhood, a simpler, more imaginative time. Sure enough, a few minutes with Disney’s Magical Quest (and if you need an extra kick, Capcom made it, remember?) reveals just how magical Disney can be. Yes, it’s derivative, and yes, you control Mickey Mouse, but it’s also incredibly joyous to see this little guy jump around in a garbage man suit, having the time of his life, throwing blocks as effortlessly as any macho garbage man. It almost makes you want to be one yourself.