Magical Quest is a great game, but a little on the short side. However, fun multiplayer (only one cartridge required) helps to offset this a bit. Read on for the details.
Magical Quest was originally made for the Super Nintendo, but I wasn’t very interested in Mickey Mouse games at the time so I didn’t play it. What a mistake that was.
The gameplay in Magical Quest is a hybrid of the best platformers I’ve ever played. You have the basic movement abilities of a good Mario game combined with the weapon changing/acquiring from Mega Man games, with a touch of Bionic Commando (of all things). I’ve always contended that 2D games have the best boss battles, and Magical Quest does quite a bit to support this idea. Each of the six worlds (divided into three or four sub levels) has one boss and a mini-boss. As you progress through the game, you’re given costumes by various characters. Each of the three new costumes (and Mickey’s traditional garb) feature different abilities. The standard Mickey clothing allows you to grab and throw a variety of items. The wizard garb lets you breath underwater and cast charged bolts of magic, and the fire fighter gear (popularized on an old cover of Nintendo Power that I do remember) lets you spray a stream of water to extinguish flaming enemies and push blocks around. Finally, the climbing gear gives you a grappling hook that can be used ala Bionic Commando (it can be shot straight up as well as at upward angles and horizontally). The controls for normal movement and the special abilities are rock solid.
Graphically, Magical Quest is a very beautiful game. Each level features lush backgrounds and a variety of enemies and art. The framerate is solid with no slow down or frame skipping. The only minor drawback is that a few of the levels are sort of dark in places. You can choose to play the game with Mickey or Minnie Mouse (who was not in the SNES game), but this is only a cosmetic difference since it doesn’t directly affect gameplay at all. The sound is good, but not all that dynamic. Consequently, it pours out of the GBA’s speaker with no problem, but using headphones won’t add any significant dimension (other than privacy) to the experience.
Surprisingly for this kind of game, Capcom has gone the extra mile and added a multiplayer component (this is probably why Minnie was added to the game). The multiplayer games can actually be played alone as well, but you’ll be competing against your high score rather than an AI opponent. Each of the four games are played in one of the different costumes that are available. Using the standard Mickey costume or the mountain climbing gear pits you in a horizontal or vertical race against your best score or your friend (only one cartridge required). Both are quite fun even for a single player since they require you to cover a lot of ground quickly using the game’s excellent control mechanics. The other two types have you collect coins or points as fast as possible in a small arena and are a bit more monotonous when played alone, but they could be quite fun with a second player. Kudos to Capcom for making this work with a single cartridge since this adds a lot of worth to an otherwise short game.
As an aside, I should mention that Magical Quest links up with Magical Mirror Starring Mickey Mouse (GameCube). It’s an aside because it doesn’t really affect the review of this game at all. After making progress in this game, you can send the data to the GameCube title to unlock certain things in that game, but nothing can be unlocked in this game by your progress in Magical Mirror.