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Gamer Tuesday

January 15, 2013

Pap the Disney Gamer's Highlights: Epic Mickey Double Feature 2 Year Anniversary Special!

Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two available now for the Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3

Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion available now for the Nintendo 3DS

Welcome everyone to the 2 year anniversary of Days of the Week! I would like to thank everyone who has supported not just Gamer Tuesday, but all of the Days of the Week authors for the last two years. In honor of this amazing moment in our From Screen to Theme history, I will be taking at look at two, count 'em, two games! These two games, though, share one common theme, and have one link in a major Disney video game: Epic Mickey 2 and Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion! Enjoy! - Pedro 'Pap' Hernandez

Epic Mickey 2
Epic Mickey

In 2010, a major event in Disney history happened: years after Disney had recovered Oswald the Lucky Rabbit from Universal (in 2006 to be precise), he stars in a major Disney project for the first time in decades. That project was Epic Mickey, a video game starring Mickey Mouse that celebrates Disney's history, specifically the forgotten and deleted past. Right from the earliest stages of development, Epic Mickey was making waves not just in the video game industry but in the Disney fandom as well. Early concept sketches of Epic Mickey that were leaked onto the internet showed a Disney world that was familiar, yet twisted in a way that was fascinating yet terrifying. The iconic castles that welcome guests to the parks were now visions of filth and decay. Warm Disney characters were portrayed as robotic zombies, or were fused within horrific ink creatures. In addition to the potential the sketches presented, the game would also present a storyline in which players would shape with their actions. As Mickey Mouse, players could either save this Disney Wasteland, or further destroy it.

Epic Mickey - Oswald

The final game, while not as nightmare-inducing as the preliminary artwork suggested, still presented us with an unique Disney universe not since the likes of Square's Kingdom Hearts in 2002. The game was developed by Junction Point and directed by Warren Spector, a man known in the video game industry for his revolutionary story concepts, such as the dialogue branch trees in the Deus Ex series. However, very little people knew that even with all the dystopian sci-fi universes he helped create, at heart he is a big Disney fan that has the most respect for the company and the characters it has created. During the release of Epic Mickey, Spector stated that the main reason he wanted to create the game was because he wanted to bring Mickey Mouse back into the video game scene, and most importantly, develop his character outside his clean, corporate mascot persona. That's why in the game, he is presented as a classic, mischievous character rather than the mouse we know him as today. Going even further, he is portrayed as the one that caused the destruction of Wasteland, a world Master Sorcerer Yen Sid created to house all the forgotten ideas Disney has created over the years.

And what better character to remind us of forgotten Disney ideas than Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Both Mickey and Oswald, despite sharing the same creator in Walt Disney, saw each other as rivals, had to learn to work together in order to restore Wasteland and have its happy but forgotten characters be content once again. As one would expect, the idea of a world created out of the forgotten ideas Disney has left behind opens up a whole new world of opportunities (pun intended). Even the biggest Disney fan would marvel in awe at some of the treasures they dug up just tell this story.

Epic Mickey - Mickey and Oswald

To read more about the game and how it plays, visit the original article written about the game here. But to sum it all up, it was a success. The gameplay did receive a lot of mixed reviews from the gaming media, citing camera issues, basic gameplay choices, and somewhat lost potential in comparison to what was promised in interviews and previews, but even with all of that, Epic Mickey sold very well during the holiday season on the Wii, and fans gained a strong appreciation towards Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. The success of the game was big enough that it inspired not one but two brand new games under the Epic Mickey label: Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two and Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion.

Epic Mickey 2

Both games owe their existence to the original Epic Mickey title, which created the foundation for them to further expand. From the outset, the developers knew that they couldn't just create a direct sequel without bringing in some concepts that make the sequels much more enticing. In the case of Epic Mickey 2, one innovation has completely changed the way we view Oswald forever: speech. Epic Mickey 2 marks the first time Oswald has had a voice in a Disney production, provided by the amazing Frank Welker. The original Epic Mickey had no voice acting save for grunts and other vocal sound effects in order to create the feeling that you were witnessing a Disney short from the golden age of animation unfold. Now, the story is told through full speech with Mickey Mouse being voiced by his official actor Brett Iwan. The story cutscenes are still presented in a hand drawn manner, which beautifully complements the 3D environments.

Epic Mickey 2 also introduced a new, quirky story concept: music. The Disney legacy is one filled with a lot of music and song, so it makes more than sense to have Epic Mickey 2 be filled with song. But perhaps the biggest addition to the Epic Mickey universe is the ability to play as both Mickey and Oswald, hence the subtitle 'The Power of Two!' We learn that Mickey and Oswald work much better as friends and partners than as rivals, and both feature unique abilities that help solve many of the obstacles that lie ahead.

Epic Mickey 2

Mickey still wields his magic paintbrush, with the power of paint and paint thinner. Much like in the original game, Mickey can create or destroy certain elements of the world around him with a wave of his brush. This is very important as the outcome of some story points depends on the decisions you make. In addition to Mickey's paintbrush, players will have Oswald's mechanical talents. Using a remote control, Oswald can activate mechanical elements throughout the world. But since this is called 'The Power of Two,' Oswald and Mickey can team up in order to go far. For example, Mickey can latch onto Oswald as he uses his ears to hover for a brief period of time. The best thing about this new mechanic is that players can join in and cooperate in the adventure in two-player mode.

Of course, it wouldn't be an Epic Mickey game without references to past Disney shows and attractions, and Epic Mickey 2 is not the exception. Of the worlds the players will travel, one of them will be based on Frontierland, and there are even caverns with the faces of the Seven Dwarfs carved in a rainbow waterfall!

With Epic Mickey 2 introducing all these new ideas, you would think that this was it for the franchise. Turns out that there is ANOTHER Epic Mickey game out! Since today is all about the power of two, the second game today is Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion for the Nintendo 3DS! If Epic Mickey 1 and 2 are about the forgotten Disney history, Power of Illusion is all about the past, the present, and the ever timeless Disney stories.

Epic Mickey

In Power of Illusion, a witch named Mizrabel has escaped onto the Wasteland, where she has built a castle out of the power of illusion. Oswald informs Mickey that in addition to the castle, the witch has kidnapped various Disney characters and trapped them in worlds within the halls of the castle. Using his magic paintbrush, Mickey must return to the Wasteland and save the Disney characters before the remain forever trapped in an illusion.

Even if Power of Illusion is about the Disney that exists today, it looks into the past for its concepts and inspiration. Power of Illusion is a tribute to the classic Mickey Mouse games of the 80s and 90s (many of them already covered here, in the two year history of Gamer Tuesday), most notably the Illusion games developed by Sega for the Master System and Genesis. The main nemesis of Power of Illusion happens to hail from those games, hence why she ends up on the Wasteland. Not only is the concept and story a callback to the classic days of video game yore, the gameplay also tries to pay tribute to the games we used enjoy as kids.

Epic Mickey 2

Even if the game has been released on a next generation of handheld systems, it has been created to look like a hand drawn animated game, much like the 16-bit classics of the 90s. The 3DS is a system that is capable of 3D visuals without glasses thanks to a special upper screen, so the combination of classic hand drawn sprites along with the glasses free 3D illusion (pun intended) creates a visual experience that's worthy of the Disney name. Of course, pretty visuals mean nothing without any sort of gameplay concept behind it. Despite being a spin-off of the console Epic Mickey games, Power of Illusion does still borrow many of the main elements that have since become signature of the series.

Epic Mickey 2

Mickey Mouse comes back with his magic paintbrush and the ability to create and erase. The difference is that now Mickey is working in a 2D plane, but elements can still be created or erased in order to solve the puzzles and rescue the characters. Speaking of which, many of the most popular characters can be met in Power of Illusion. From classic characters such as Jiminy Cricket and Peter Pan to more contemporary personalities such as Aladdin and Rapunzel, there is a good chance your favorite character will make an appearance in the game as a character Mickey Mouse can rescue and keep safe within the castle. Various Disney worlds, such as Wonderland, Agrabah, and Neverland can be visited in the game.

Epic Mickey 2

The last time I talked about Epic Mickey, I made a note to talk about how the gaming industry took to the game, which was unfortunately very mixed. Despite all its new additions and ambitious ideas, Epic Mickey 2 has also seen lukewarm reception. Most complaints lie within the camera system and other gameplay issues that hidden what is otherwise a captivating game filled with Disney history. Its 3DS cousin, though, has fared much better, despite many complaining about how cumbersome it is to use the touch screen for the paint and thinner mechanics. It all depends if your love for Disney history and characters can overcome the technical issues, and as I always say, a rent before a purchase is always recommended.

Epic Mickey 2

Regardless of how these games were perceived by the gaming audience, they still stand as one of the most fascinating moments in the history of the Disney company. They stand as a celebration of Disney as it is today, the Disney it was once, and the Disney it was never meant to be. The success of Epic Mickey and its titles has assured that Disney's first character, Oswald, doesn't fade onto obscurity. We have gone from barely knowing who Oswald was to seeing merchandise and references to him at the Disney parks around the world. They have also brought back Mickey Mouse into the gaming spectrum in his most raw and cartoony manner. The titles, while far from perfect, are a love letter from a devoted Disney fan to many other Disney fans around the world, and that is something worth treasuring.


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