Originally published on Trevor Trove on May 21, 2016
I just saw one of the most aggravating bits of theatre I have ever attended: a musical based on the life of Walt Disney that felt weirdly equal parts endorsed by the Disney family but shunned by the Disney company. I don’t remember being more vocally disappointed in a theatrical production. But it seems like a decent enough jumping off point to talk about Disney games.
A couple weeks ago, Disney shut down Disney Infinity. My only experience with the game was a brief hands-on at the December PlayStation Experience. I played through a race on Mos Eisley in the Star Wars piece of Disney Infinity 3.0. It definitely wasn’t anything I was particularly interested in but jumped out as the kind of game I would introduce my hypothetical children to, assuming I had that opportunity someday.
But alas, it would seem Disney is getting out of the game of self-publishing, choosing instead to license their brands to established gaming companies that can probably do some interesting things with their intellectual property.
Here are some of my personal favorite games that have benefited from the Disney brand.
This Wii title had an interesting premise: Mickey goes up against is mostly unknown-to-the-public predecessor Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. As it was a plot point in the shoddy bit of theatre I attended tonight, Walt Disney’s first big success was Oswald but Disney didn’t secure the rights, the distributor did so Disney made very little off the character. His follow-up, the ubiquitous Mickey Mouse became a household name, while Oswald was lost to history.
The game itself was an interesting platforming but I fell off halfway through the game when I just became too tired of having to shake the Wiimote around in order to paint sections of the world around me. A game that wound up being one of many victims of the trend away from motion controls.
Aladdin and The Lion King
This duo of movie tie-in games on the Super Nintendo literally got me through a cross-country trip when I was younger. When I was still in elementary school, my parents took my sister and me on a tour from Arizona to Michigan to visit family in our Explorer van. The van happened to be equipped with a couple of super small televisions, a Nintendo, and a Super Nintendo. And my parents, in an incredibly shrewd move, would reward my sister and I with items from the “treasure chest” if we behaved for a certain number of hours along the journey.
These games wound up being rewards at one point and, in turn, mesmerized us for hours throughout the remainder of the journey. It’s definitely weird that Disney abandoned these old-school style of platformers but I suppose it makes sense with the shift from 2D animation to 3D. The technology of gaming hasn’t kept up with the technology used in the films. Perhaps now that the technology is becoming closer to the quality of film (a la Ratchet & Clank), we may get Disney licensing out the rights to Frozen 2 for a proper platformer instead of a simple Match 3 game.
The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse
Another game I spend hours upon hours playing as a child was The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse. As another 2D platformer – but this time not following any particular movie – I remember having a lot of fun with the game, even if I don’t remember the basic plot to this day.
The clear winner of the Disney branded games in my book are the Kingdom Hearts titles, regardless of how obtuse and convoluted they’ve become.
As someone who absolutely adored the Disney movies growing up, the decision to mash characters up with my favorite gaming series Final Fantasy felt like a weird and twisted bit of fan-fiction come to life. These action-RPGs took place of the turn-based RPGs I had been so fond of growing up but they eased me into that transition by including an incredible amount of Final Fantasy characters mingling with Disney characters in a decidely Square Enix “plot.”
Again, I could barely begin to tell you what happens in those games all these years later, but I absolutely remember visiting the different Disney worlds in Sora’s quest to save his friends alongside Donald and Goofy.