Master System: Castle of Illusion

My second addition to my Master System collection is Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse. This title was pretty high on my to-get list because it’s one of the games that, visually, have stuck in my head the most. People who I talked to before buying a copy (Shelley, Frez) remember exactly the same thing as I did: the level with ice cream, candy, cake and chocolate.

I spotted a copy on eBay and, after a brief delay due to the holiday season, the game arrived. Powering it up for the first time made me realise how ingrained the audio was in my long term memory. I think because of the restricted sound pallet and the generally more abrasive and simpler nature of 8-bit sound, soundtracks and SFX from this period in gaming are very memorable. I’ve been whistling the tunes for days now, from the creepy into warble right the way through to the classic candy factory theme.

It’s great. It also made me realise that the classic RF connection is absolutely still a suitable option for retro gaming in 2018. I had been looking at Master System mods for composite and HDMI but really, apart from the smaller display area, RF signal provides everything I need. The colours are crisp and vibrant and the sound is exactly what you would expect. I’m not necessarily a traditionalist, but playing it this way feels right.

Speaking of play, this game isn’t easy. Despite insisting to myself that I have to collect games that come with a manual, I didnt actually read it before playing, so I completely forgot about Mickey’s ‘bum bounce’ and slide attacks. Shelley, who played this game quite a bit in her younger years, was on hand to school me.

From trees that look like a Wizard of Oz and Fantasia lovechild, deadly rolling doughnuts, to menacing clowns and monkeys with cymbals (sonar men, as Shelley would say), Castle of Illusion brings all the things you liked about your childhood and makes them menacing.

It’s a great platformer and if you haven’t played it recently I recommend you change that. I got my copy in good/very good condition, with manual, for $27.