MUSIC MONDAY

Music Monday: Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse

It’s been over a year since SEGA Studios Australia released their (to me) hugely disappointing remake for contemporary platforms, but, as is not unusual, I woke up feeling nostalgic for the music of AM7’s Mega Drive/Genesis classic, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse this morning.

Let’s hear how some of the brilliant Grant Kirkhope‘s orchestral-style remasters stack up against the amazing originals of Tokuhiko “Bo” Uwabo and Shigenori Kamiya.

Before we move on, just a reminder that we, along with expert guest Dan Clark, covered the loose ‘trilogy’ of Disney platformers – along with Quackshot Starring Donald Duck and World of Illusion Starring Mickey & Donald – for MD/Genesis back in issue 54 of the podcast. It’s one of my personal favourite Cane and Rinse episodes.

The first theme you hear upon entering the mysterious forest as you take control of Mickey.

Kirkhope’s version is more than twice as long which allows him to go to town with various sections where different instruments take the lead as the music rises and falls in intensity (I don’t know the correct terminology I’m afraid).

It’s easy enough on the ears but I can’t deny that I still prefer the original, with its delightfully whimsical refrain (0:35), missing from the new version, which sounds so much like a missing piece from Banjo-Kazooie that I can hardly hear the Mickey Mouse any more and am gunning (or bottom-bouncing) for Gruntilda rather than Mizrabel.

Now we’re off to Toyland, and another pair of wildly nostalgic pieces for me. Such an evocative backing to a topsy-turvy world of enchanted jack-in-the-boxes (jacks-in-the-box?), scary unicycling clowns and sticky, blackcurrant jelly traps.

I especially like act two where the tone takes a slightly unsettling turn, a recurring motif throughout the game.

Kirkhope’s take combines acts one and two and, while it’s certainly sumptuous and motivating, again misses the everso slightly off-kilter vibe of the Yamaha FM chip originals.

‘River of Milk’ was the glorious backing to one of the sickliest, most gorgeous cream cakes and sweets levels in gamingdom.

Now entitled ‘Dessert Factory’, I feel this is one of Kirkhope’s most successful interpretations, capturing the richness and sweetness of the original while expanding upon it in a most pleasing fashion.

Overall then, a mixed bag. As with the Castle of Illusion remake itself I was hugely excited when I saw the development team talking of their love for the 16-bit original in advance of its release. Their intention was to capture the look and feel of AM7’s work and bring it up to date, but unfortunately, for me, they failed to do so.

I don’t think the 2013 edition is terrible, but it falls well short of the quality of its contemporaries and the game it’s based on, particularly in terms of controlling the main character, something they had rightly and specifically identified as being crucial to the enjoyment of the original.

When I heard that Grant Kirkhope was on board to do the soundtrack it felt like the perfect choice (assuming SEGA Australia couldn’t get the AM7 band back together), but in the end for me quite a bit of the magic is absent, and as much as I admire Kirkhope – especially his work on Banjo-Kazooie – I came away underwhelmed.

4 Comments

  1. Brilliant, huge fan of this soundtrack. Brings back some great memories!

  2. Glad to hear it, thanks Mike!

  3. The refrain in the forest is still there, just shortened and sped up slightly. While is starts at :35 on the original and lasts till :52, it’s been shrunk to the time of around :38 to maybe :52 in the remake. At least that’s what I hear.

    I’ve played both and love them very much.

  4. Ah, maybe you’re right Vic. Thanks for the comment!

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