Two things inspired my return to the oft-forgotten Super Nintendo trilogy of Capcom’s licensed platforming series, Disney’s Magical Quest. First was my revisiting of the SNES platformer Super Star Wars series, itself inspired by a run of Disney decisions regarding the sci-fi franchise. Second was the release of DISNEY ILLUSION ISLAND (2023), the latest in the Illusion series starring Mickey Mouse. The Sega-affiliated Illusion series is vastly superior to Capcom’s run at the Disney platformer concept, but there are things to enjoy across these three games released in the three years from 1992 to 1995…especially if you need something tremendously easy after the challenge of Super Star Wars like I did.
#3 — THE MAGICAL QUEST STARRING MICKEY MOUSE (1992)
This very straightforward ranking takes into account small differences that emerged across the Magical Quest series, because lord knows the games are mostly faithful to each other. Within this scheme, the series’ first, THE MAGICAL QUEST STARRING MICKEY MOUSE, is the “worst.” But if Magical Quest only ever, at best, served up essentially unremarkable but streamlined entertainment, it also delivered colorful platforming at its “worst.” Right from the onset, the series’ conceit is on display: Mickey can change into a number of outfits that change his abilities. These outfits, and stores that allow upgrades to them, add enough wrinkles to keep THE MAGICAL QUEST from feeling too paint-by-numbers. And while its sprite work isn’t as gorgeous as even Capcom was capable of, it’s faithful to the collective cartoon aesthetic of its title character and appropriately smooth in motion. It’s pretty clear that THE MAGICAL QUEST is meant as an entry-level platformer for younger gamers, but in an era where other Disney licensed games punished its players of any age, it’s straightforward fun.
#2 — THE GREAT CIRCUS MYSTERY STARRING MICKEY & MINNIE (1994)
THE GREAT CIRCUS MYSTERY STARRING MICKEY & MINNIE, as you might notice, doesn’t have “Magical Quest” in its title. But it is indeed part of Capcom’s trilogy, as further solidified by its Game Boy Advance remake under the name DISNEY’S MAGICAL QUEST 2 STARRING MICKEY & MINNIE (2003). Indeed, all three of the SNES games were remade for GBA, although what’s evaluated here are the original releases. And in that original form, THE GREAT CIRCUS MYSTERY did up the ante with the inclusion of Minnie Mouse and a two-player system. Well, THE MAGICAL QUEST technically had Minnie and a two-player system, but players took turns; here, it’s real-time cooperative. That immediately expands what is very much the same core of gameplay, albeit with a different range of outfits that offer unique abilities. And that core is still quite easy, taking even someone without too much old-school skill through the circus theme in great 16-bit style. THE GREAT CIRCUS MYSTERY isn’t a tremendous rethink of THE MAGICAL QUEST, even with its cooperative gameplay, but its continuation of what became the series’ core tenets is slightly improved fun.
#1 — DISNEY’S MAGICAL QUEST 3 STARRING MICKEY & DONALD (1995)
OK, I lied a little bit. I do have to evaluate a GBA remake of the original Magical Quest games because DISNEY’S MAGICAL QUEST 3 STARRING MICKEY & DONALD was only released for the Super Famicom in Japan in 1995, but came to North America on the handheld in 2005 (and to Japan in 2003). Besides Donald Duck being an immensely funnier and more enjoyable character than Mickey in all the other media, he also adds a wrinkle to the outfit system. The appearance and functionality of the costumes are given different functionalities depending on whether Mickey or Donald is wearing them, changing up the experience of progressing through the literal “Storybook Land” full of great pixel art. Once again, DISNEY’S MAGICAL QUEST 3 is quite the easy experience, but it’s a pleasurable jaunt through 16-bit platforming, given just enough extra layers to make it the deepest and best experience in the series.