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Gamer Tuesday

February 19, 2013

Pap the Disney Gamer's Highlights: Mickey Mouse and the Presidents of the United States of America

Walt Disney was a man proud of the United States of America, especially the men that lead the people through the best and worst. So much so that when creating new technology for the Disney theme parks, he and his teams of Imagineers dreamed up various shows that celebrate the leadership, the triumphs, and the lessons these men have taught us over the decades. At Disneyland, guests can experience Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln as the 16th president addresses the masses just like he did many decades ago. In Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom sits the Hall of Presidents, where guests can see all the presidents that have marched through the tides of time, ending with a speech of the latest president in office.

The Presidents have also shaped pop culture and entertainment as usual in movies, music, and yes, even video games, released during a President's time in office reflect the ever evolving technology, sensibilities in entertainment and just how the world was at the time. And at Disney, no character screams pop culture history more than Mickey Mouse. Since his first appearance in black and white in the 1920s, Mickey Mouse has literally seen the world and the people change. He has lived through many major wars, changes in economic climates, and changes in social tendencies. And yet through it all, Mickey Mouse has remained a prolific figure in pop culture, shaping the Disney company with his many endeavors and entertaining the world masses.

In honor of President's Week here on From Screen to Theme, as well as highlighting just how diverse Mickey Mouse's history has been, I will be pairing up a President with a Mickey Mouse game of his era, to further showcase just how video games have evolved since the invention of the medium and the eclectic line of Presidents the country has seen since.

 Ronald Regan      Mickey Mousecapade

Ronald Reagan ' 1981-1989

Mickey Mouse Game: Mickey Mousecapade (1988, NES)

For many, the 80s was seen as the decade of prosperity and growth, while for many it was the decade mainly seen as one mostly remember for its pop culture than for its ingenuity and economic growth. At the head of it all was Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States. Starting out as a Hollywood actor and later governor, Reagan is best remembered for his attempts at bettering the economy through his tactics known as 'Reaganomics.' The 80s also saw both the introduction, demise, and growth of the video game industry, proudly headed by the arcade scene and almost destroyed by the poor executive choices and selection of mediocre games. In the mid-to-late 80s, though, Nintendo released the Nintendo Entertainment System, an advanced 8-bit system that heralded a brand new home console industry. Games were better, more ambitious, and higher quality. Soon, every company wanted in on the action, Disney not being an exception. But while Disney had some experience with video games thanks to the TRON arcade games and some computer software, they had little experience when it came to video game consoles, relying on third parties to create the software with their cooperation.

Mickey's Magical Quest

In 1988, Capcom released the Hudson Soft developed Mickey Mousecapade for the NES in 1988, just a year before the end of Reagan's time in office. As I previously mentioned on my article about the game here, Mickey Mousecapade is a mediocre effort best known for its glitches, erratic level design, and frustrating character AI. For all its faults, though, it was a game that celebrated Disney in an unique way. It was successful enough that it inspired publisher Capcom to further pursue development of Disney themed games, many which became some of the best ever made.

George H. W. Bush     The Magical quest starring Mickey Mouse

George H. W. Bush ' 1989-1993

Mickey Mouse Game: The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse (1992, SNES)

The White House would host its 41st President in the form of George H. W. Bush, a man that witnessed many world changing events, such as the fall of both the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union, something that his own son, George W. Bush, would witness years later. His efforts would lie on the war on drugs, education, and the rights of the disabled. His time in office also witnessed the start of the Gulf War.

Mickey's Magical Quest

In the early 90s, the gaming industry was slowly entering its next generation of gaming, the 16-bit era. Nintendo's competitor was the first out of the game with the Sega Genesis, a system that doubled the power of the Nintendo Entertainment System and featured almost loyal ports of their famous arcade games. Nintendo, however, was not one to back out of the growth of the industry and quickly released the Super Nintendo. It too doubled the technical capabilities of its predecessor, and has been seen by many as one of the best systems they have ever released. By this point, Capcom's partnership with Disney yielded high quality games that stood out as the best examples of how great licensed games can be.

The definitive Mickey Mouse game of their partnership of the 16-bit era is The Magical Quest: Starring Mickey Mouse, released in 1992. Right away, Magical Quest aims to improve everything that made Mickey Mousecapade infamous, from the beautiful graphics that emulate the aesthetic design of a Disney animated film, to the gameplay that was both rock solid and creative. In the game, Mickey Mouse enters a new magical world in hopes of rescuing Pluto from the wrath of Emperor Pete. Magical Quest is best remembered for its unique gameplay mechanic: Mickey's ability to don costumes. He can be a magician, a fireman, and a mountain climber, and they all have unique abilities that help Mickey conquer the worlds that lie ahead. So successful was The Magical Quest that two more games were released, the third co-starring Donald Duck out to rescue his nephews. All three games were re-released for the Game Boy Advance.

Bill Clinton   Mickey Mania

Bill Clinton ' 1993 ' 2001

Mickey Mouse Game: Mickey Mania (1994, all systems)

With two presidencies being claimed by the Republican party, in 1992 Bill Clinton stepped in as a Democratic representative of the United States, as well as its 42nd. His time as President was remembered for his unique speech mannerisms and charisma. In the gaming world, the industry was still in the 16-bit era of gaming, but there were many signs that the next big thing was underway. By 1995, both Sega and Sony released their CD-based systems, the Sega Saturn and PlayStation respectively. Both would generate great interest in the eyes of gaming developers and consumers as CD based gaming allowed them to experience crystal clear sound and music as well as complex 3D graphics and full motion video. Needless to say, the future looked bright for the industry, and many of the things we experience today was all thanks to the innovations made during this era.

Mickey's Magical Quest

Disney Interactive, along with the collaborative efforts of Traveller's Tales and Sony Imagesoft, released during the Clinton era Mickey Mania: The Timeless Adventures of Mickey Mouse for all major systems, including the then emerging CD systems. Much like Mickey Mousecapade and The Magic Quest, Mickey Mania is a platformer starring Mickey Mouse, but with a very unique concept: players traversed through some of Mickey's most prominent film roles, from Steamboat Willie till The Prince and the Pauper. What many remember most about the game was its visual presentation. The game featured hand drawn animation that made Mickey and the worlds he visited pop and feel like a high quality Disney animated film come to digital life. I have talked about the game before on Gamer Tuesday so you can read more about it here.

George W. Bush    Mickey Mouse Thru the Mirror

George W. Bush ' 2001 ' 2008

Mickey Mouse Game: Disney's Magical Mirror Starring Mickey Mouse (2002, GameCube)

In 2001, the White House saw its second Bush President lead the people of the United States. His period as President, though, was marked as being one of the most world changing ever. The World Trade Center had been attacked in a September morning in 2001, leading people to both feel proud of its American heritage as they banded together and defeat their own fears, as well as fearful of the future and what it entails. Several economic downturns also surfaced, many world leaders fell and strong security measures were implemented around the world. Despite all the fear and the worry, the video game industry pushed on with its keen eye on innovation, but it too also suffered its own changes. Sega, a company very prominent in the industry since its early days, had dropped out of hardware industry due to the poor sales of the Sega Dreamcast, forcing them to become a software developer. Its once exclusive characters were now spread across various third party systems, including Nintendo, its own well remembered rival. Microsoft also threw its hat in the ring and released the Xbox, on the same month Nintendo's GameCube system dropped.

Mickey's Magical Mirror

And speaking of GameCube, the system would prove to be twice as powerful as its predecessor, the Nintendo 64. Nintendo would finally adopt the DVD medium after sticking with cartridges in the Nintendo 64 era. There also came a wide variety of software from many video game companies. Capcom was one of them who said present, and their efforts lead to one Disney game: Disney's Magical Mirror Starring Mickey Mouse.

The game was first shown in 2001 at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, and many believed it to be a 3D platformer in spirit to Capcom's own Magical Quest series. In actuality, the game is a point and click adventure title in which players guide Mickey through various puzzles. The story behind the game is that a ghost has tricked Mickey into crossing over a world that looks like his own house, but has been twisted with many challenges. If the concept sounds familiar it is because it has been lifted straight from 'Thru the Mirror,' the classic Mickey Mouse short which also paid homage to Alice in Wonderland. If you are wondering why this game has yet to be featured here on Gamer Tuesday it is because both the game is really rare right now, plus the game has since received mediocre to bad reviews since, many complaining about the controls and how hard it is to guide Mickey Mouse through the game. Still it proves to be creative and a fun way to present Mickey in 3D.

Barack Obama       Epic Mickey

Barack Obama ' 2008 ' Present Day

Mickey Mouse Game: Epic Mickey (2010, Nintendo Wii)

By the mid-to-late 00s, the world was experiencing the effects of the changes seen earlier on, which lead to many to doubt themselves, the world around them, and the economic stability of the country. When Barack Obama entered office in 2009, the word flying around was hope, that someone that was as historic changing as Obama would bring in a new decade in leadership. The same mentality was easily applied to the video game industry. By this point in time, companies entered the high definition era, with games looking better than ever, and gaming more mainstream thanks to efforts like social network gaming. Nintendo's Wii, especially, brought in an unique device that let players control their games in the most unique way yet.

The fidelity of the Wii Remote Controller inspired video game companies in a way that they were almost forced to create control methods first above gameplay ideas. In other words, they had to think outside the box when creating games for the Wii. Disney was one of the many companies that saw great potential in the system, and employed one of the most well recognized video game developers yet: Warren Spector.

He and his gaming house, Junction Point, worked with Disney to bring one of the most unique Mickey Mouse games yet: Epic Mickey. Rumors of the game's existence said that the game would bring a dark and twisted vision of the wonderful world of Disney, as well as mark the return of Disney's first character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. While the dark universe was toned down, it did keep the promise of a Disney world that was different from anything else presented in games up to that point. The game was all about changes, Mickey Mouse would wield his paintbrush to either create or destroy elements away from the Wasteland, a world that is home for the forgotten Disney characters and stories. Epic Mickey is a game series I have discussed extensively in the past so you can read about it here, and its two sequels here.

As you can see, the history of Mickey Mouse and his video games is just as extensive as that of the Presidents, as well as eclectic and varied. As the Hall of Presidents will tell us, they all may have come from different backgrounds, different families, ideals and beliefs, but they all helped tell the story that is the United States. The video game industry may yet to be as timeless as that of the literally, film, and music world, but we will get there one day as long as there is a need to evolve the medium.


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