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Gamer Tuesday

December 13, 2011

Pap the Disney Gamer's Highlights: The Little Mermaid

Developed by: Capcom

System: Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy

Disney's The Little Mermaid marks a significant time not just in Disney animation but Disney history as a whole. Its release in 1989 marked a new golden era of modern Disney animation, giving us beloved classics such as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. The film remains to this day one of the most popular in the Disney canon, thanks to its enchanting female lead and catchy music. The popularity of the film was so strong that it yielded everything from theme park attractions to Broadway shows and, of course, video game adaptations. One of the most popular is the NES game created by Capcom.

One curious fact about this game is that unlike other titles of its kind, it was released years after the film had left theaters and had already found itself a home on VHS. Released in 1991, The Little Mermaid tells a slightly different story from the feature film version. The game starts right after Ariel had become a human and was working on charming Prince Eric and be forever a human. Unlike the Disney movie, however, Sebastian and Flounder warn Ariel that Ursula the Sea Witch has taken control of the seas and its fish. Ariel decides to confront Ursula and turns back into a mermaid. It is common in video game adaptations of famous franchises to see a story different from the one presented in the original source material. This is a perfect way to get players used to the characters and the universe they live in without having the original story ruined for them.

The gameplay in The Little Mermaid is a classic 2D platforming game akin to other NES games such as Super Mario Bros and other Capcom Disney titles like Chip N' Dale Rescue Rangers. Playing as Ariel, you can use her fin to throw bubbles at your enemies. Much like in Rescue Rangers, you can capture your enemies in a bubble, then you catch them and throw it against other enemies. This simple, yet effective, game mechanic allowed Ariel to be an active video game hero without compromising her royal and enchanting appeal.

There are various levels in The Little Mermaid, each one culminating in a boss battle. Some of these battles include a battle with Ursula's henchmen, Flotsam and Jetsam, a cranky walrus, and even Ursula herself. The levels took Ariel to very unique places, including a North Pole like world and a sunken ship. The levels weren't as inventive as in other games, but it allowed for interesting places to explore as well as further expand the mythos of Atlantica.

This leads me to the next aspect of the game: difficulty. The Little Mermaid has never been hailed as one of the most challenging gameplay experiences ever created. It is very straight forward and enemies can be easily beaten. However, considering the young audience The Little Mermaid franchise appeals to, it is important that everyone gets to experience this game. But even if its very easy to complete, the game is very polished and well designed. Hardly will you encounter game glitches or any other problem associated with games of this kind.

The graphical and audio presentation is what you would expect from both a Disney and a Capcom effort. The colors are very vibrant, capturing the magical feel of Ariel's world perfectly, despite being an 8-bit video game. The soundtrack features the iconic music by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, such as Under the Sea. The original music even features that catchy Caribbean presence that made the film's soundtrack so revered around the world.

Capcom's The Little Mermaid is one of the many great games this amazing partnership yielded during the golden era of gaming and Disney animation. It is very loyal to the ideals presented in the feature film and is one of the many great things its legacy inspired. Expert player or not, it is hard to escape both this game's charm as well as the beauty of its leading lady.

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