Monday, February 20, 2012

The Ten Best Disney Video Games

Hey, let’s talk about licensed games. Ever since video games have existed, there have been video game tie-ins for popular movies, TV shows and books to try to capitalize on the success of both gaming and the franchise. Often times, these games range from mediocre to complete garbage. Developers don’t seem to put the normal amount of effort they’d put into their regular, non-licensed games. It could be because the company that owns the franchise doesn’t want to actually pay a decent amount of money for a development team or they rush it to meet a deadline or something but regardless, licensed games are notorious for being bad. 

Seriously, this game is terrible. Look at it!
However, they’re not always terrible. In some rare cases, licensed games actually fall into capable hands and have a lot of more effort put into them. This was quite a bit more common in the 8-bit and 16-bit days. Developers just seemed to care more back then. One company in particular who seemed to care about whether their games were good was of course Disney. Games based on Disney properties have been around since the days of Atari and for a while, many of them were some of the best for their respective consoles. Sure, in recent years they’ve sort of gone down the tubes making games like Monsters, Inc.: Scream Arena and Hannah Montana: The Movie: The Video Game but at one point, Disney had a pretty good track record with video games and even worked with some of the finest developers in the business. So, I’m counting down the ten I happen to like the best.

Also, before we start, for the sake of fairness, I’m not including any Kingdom Hearts games on the list. Kingdom Hearts is one of my favorite video game franchises of all time and likely every major entry of the franchise would find a place on this list but I’m not going to be doing that just so we can give some love to other games that deserve it.

10. Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue

An odd choice? Sure, but I enjoy it.
As you’ll come to notice on this list, the Toy Story series has had a pretty good run when it comes to video games. For the most part, every game released, even the more reason Toy Story 3, has been pretty good. Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue for the Playstation (don’t play the N64 or Dreamcast versions) is your typical 3D platformer but it’s actually pretty fun. The stages are large and diverse and follow the locales from the movie pretty closely although they did have to get creative with several of the locations just to make the game large enough. You take control of Buzz Lightyear as he searches for his best buddy Woody throughout the 15 levels. Each stage has a number of different missions you have to complete to earn tokens which are needed to progress in the game. Missions range from beating a boss to finding Mr. Potato Heads pieces, they’re all diverse and make it so you have to explore every inch of the huge stages. By today’s standards, the game doesn’t control as well as it could and while the graphics were great then, they aren’t as great today. Still, it’s a fun game if you can look past its flaws and probably the best 3D Disney platformer of all time.

9. Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse

Mickey's gone through more jobs than Barbie.
Disney’s mascot and most beloved character has had his fair share of great video games featuring his likeness. From the recent Epic Mickey (which was pretty flawed but still not bad) to the classic Castle of Illusion series, Mickey has been in a lot of great games. However, one of his best is Magical Quest for the Super Nintendo. One of the many Disney games developed by Capcom at the time, Magical Quest lets you play as Mickey on his quest to rescue Pluto from the evil Pete. Along the way, Mickey gains a number of cool abilities by putting on costumes such as a FireFighter outfit which allows him to squirt enemies with water and a weird Peter Pan style outfit which allows Mickey to go all Bionic Commando and swing from hooks throughout each stage. It’s a classic platformer by a once great developer and one any gamer should check out.

8. Toy Story Racer

Ricky doesn't approve.
I’ve mentioned this game before on my list of the best non-Mario Kart kart racing games and yeah, it really is one of the best. The game is unlike any other Kart racer before it, at least it terms of how the game is set up. Instead of just jumping straight in to a series of tournaments, you have to complete missions as each of the four available characters at the start of the game and then from there, you can unlock more stages and characters to compete in even more missions. It’s a pretty unique set-up and goes a long way in increasing the replay value of the game. Plus, the gameplay is darn good too. The game handles well, the stages are unique, the characters are all there, the items work well, it’s well put together game and one I’d recommend to any fans of fun, arcade style kart racing games.

7. Darkwing Duck

Let's get dangerous.
Let me level with you, readers, I love the Disney Afternoon. Very few aspects of my childhood were as big as the Disney Afternoon. I loved sitting down and watching all the different shows. I still love it to this day. Though admittedly, I never got into Darkwing Duck until I was an adult which is a shame because it’s a great show and spun-off into a great game for the NES by Capcom. Darkwing Duck is half Mega Man, half Bionic Commando. Darkwing goes around blasting enemies with his blaster but he can also hang from ledges and hooks and drop down from platformers and do all kinds of cool platforming gimmicks. He can also block attacks with his cape. It’s a pretty cool mechanic but I forget it’s there all the time. The stages are well designed and the bosses are all bad guys from the show but the game is relentlessly hard. It’s hard for me to even complete a level sometimes because of how difficult the game gets. Regardless, it’s a fantastic game that any fan of Darkwing or even Mega Man should take a look at. 

6. Mickey Mania: The Timeless Adventures of Mickey Mouse

More games should be in black and white.
The best game to feature Mickey Mouse as the main star is also the hardest. Mickey Mania for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis is a fantastic sidescroller with an amazing art direction and great level design by my God is it hard. Every level, even the very first level, is a test of all your gaming skills. You face countless bad guys, disappearing platforms, split second jumps and decisions, it’s a very hardcore game but it’s also a lot of fun. It’s one of the few games on this list I just love looking at. Each stage is based on an older Mickey Mouse short and the sprite work ties in to the style of the short. For example, the first stage is Steamboat Willie and everything is black and white and looks fantastic. Later stages include The Prince and the Pauper and the Lonesome Ghost with appropriate art styles, enemies and locations. If you can get passed how damn hard the whole thing is, it certainly is a treat to play and look at.
5. Toy Story

Whoa, look at those graphics!
I promise this is the last Toy Story game on the list but honestly, it’s the absolute best. Developed by Traveler’s Tales (Mickey Mania & the current Lego series of games), it’s a classic sidescrolling platforming game with some of the best visuals at the time. They tried their best to imitate the CGI of the movie and used the same method of turning 3D renders into sprites as the Donkey Kong Country games. The end results were great, the game looks fantastic. Every character and enemy has so much life and fluidity, it looks like you’re playing the movie. It’s great. Except many of the levels are made up just for the sake of the game. Oh and it’s unbelievably hard. Yes, many of the games on the list have been difficult and I’m terrible at them but I’d honestly say Toy Story is the hardest. It doesn’t start out too bad but as you get to later stages such as Inside the Claw Machine and Rollerbob, the game gets impossible. Rollerbob makes me want to rip my hair out even when I’m playing with invincibility on. Go find a video of it on Youtube, it’s just not fair. Either way, this is a great game and one of the best licensed games ever made.

4. Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers

The real superpower of teamwork!
Now this is what I’m talkin’ about! Rescue Rangers is still to this day one of the best cartoons ever made and I love watching it even today. So it only makes sense the game would also be amazing. Much like the rest of the Disney Afternoon video games, it was developed by Capcom and is your typical sidescrolling game however with one major twist; it’s co-op. Yes, that’s right, you and a buddy team up as Chip and Dale and go around throwing boxes and apples at robot ducks and bees. It’s fantastic. The stages are developed around working with a pal. While you can play the game single player, it’s much easier and much more fun to play with a friend. Not that the game is a cake walk or anything. Sure, it’s not as hard as Toy Story or even Darkwing Duck but it can get really tough in later stages. I personally am also a big fan that almost every level is based on a different episode of the show and the bosses are also ripped right from the show. Capcom clearly did their homework and it pays off big time.

3. The Lion King

I was stuck on this stage for an hour and it still looked great.
Here’s another fantastic but incredibly hard game but this time, it wasn’t developed by Capcom. Around 1993, Capcom lost the Disney license and instead, Virgin Interactive took it over. While they weren’t quite as good as Capcom, they did have a couple of hits and in fact, some of the best games on this list including The Lion King. The Lion King follows Simba from the time he’s a cub to the time he’s an adult and plays through a wide variety of levels actually based on scenes from the movie. As a kid, Simba can roll to attack and roar to stun enemies but as an adult, Simba can slash and throw enemies like nobody’s business. The game actually gets a bit simpler when you’re an adult because of this but it still ends up being relentlessly hard, especially towards the end. There’s a stage where you have to go through a constant string of maze-like tunnels fighting hyena after hyena with no checkpoints along the way. It’s borderline sadistic. I would also like to mention how great this game looks. Because Virgin worked with Disney animators to make the sprites, the sprites are beautifully fluid and look like they were ripped right from the movie. But not quite as good as…

2. Aladdin (Both of them)

Genesis has apples too but why would you use them?
So maybe I’m kind of cheating here since these are two completely different games based on the same movie but I’m sorry, I couldn’t decide. Aladdin was developed by Virgin for the Sega Genesis and Capcom for the Super Nintendo and both are completely different in design, music and gameplay. The Genesis version features the same beautiful animated sprites as the Lion King did, but even more so. The game literally looks just like the movie. The Genesis version has more of a reliance on swordplay, since Aladdin wields a sword in this one. In the Capcom version, Aladdin throws apples and jumps on people’s heads. That game is more about platforming than anything but the levels are still well designed and it’s a lot of fun to play. Both games also ironically feature incredibly hard “rental stopper” stages based on the flying carpet scene inside the Cave of Wonders. The Genesis version moves so fast, you don’t know what’s ahead of you and the SNES version has lava that covers up half the screen so you once again have no idea what’s coming up. It’s brutal. While I guess I would say the Genesis version is better both in gameplay and graphics, I find both games to be a joy to play and think they both deserve a spot on this list. 

1. Ducktales

More games need Launchpad McQuack.
Yes, this is it, number 1 and I bet many of you figured it out before we even made here. Ducktales was one of the best-selling games on the NES and Capcom’s very best-selling for the system and for good reason; it’s fantastic. Following the same basic format of the movie, Scrooge McDuck travels the globe to get even richer and uncover hidden, valuable artifacts. On his quest, he ends up all over the planet from the Amazon to Transylvania even to the moon! Each stage is masterfully crafted with tons of branching paths and secrets making it hard to earn that true ending where Scrooge is playing in a huge pile of money. The gameplay is unlike any other on the NES and can be a bit jarring at first but once you get used to it, you’ll have a blast. Scrooge can’t just jump on enemies like Mario or Aladdin, he has to either hit stuff at them by playing golf with his cane or use his cane like a pogo-stick, which is also useful for getting across gaps and spikey platforms. It’s very strange considering I don’t remember that from the show but it works and adds some originality to the platforming. Since this was Capcom in their heyday, the graphics and music are top notch. This has one of the best soundtracks for the NES and features an amazing 8-bit rendition of the ever catchy Ducktales theme. Ducktales for the NES is a classic for a reason and is very easily one of the best licensed, if not the best, licensed games ever made. It definitely makes me say WOO-HOO!

So there you have it, the ten best Disney games in my opinion. Now, there’s quite a few I left off that deserve some recognition like Kim Possible 2 for the GBA, Lilo and Stitch for the GBA, The Castle of Illusion series, The Little Mermaid on the NES, Disney Universe on the PS3/360/Wii, Toy Story 3, I could go on and on. I’m sure you guys out there have some I left off as well. So let me know what you agree with, what you disagree with and what you’d have added instead in the comments.

No comments:

Post a Comment