In a previous "Games That Time Forgot", I covered a game called The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse, a game from my childhood. You can read about it here, but the TL;DR version is that while I wouldn't call it my all time favorite game on the Super Nintendo, it was still a solid platformer that I could see some people get some enjoyment out of, especially if you had a kid or younger sibling. And I figured since there really isn't anything going on right now that I could talk about *ignores the rest of the world and my copy of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 that I'm ignoring*, I thought it would be a great idea to look at another Mickey Mouse platformer made by Capcom: The Magical Quest 2 Starring Mickey and Minnie. What, you never heard of that game? Oh you know what, I'm sorry that's what it was called later, you may know it as The Great Circus Mystery Starring Mickey and Minnie.
Yes, The Great Circus Mystery, which is what I'll call it going forward is a game that wouldn't seem like a sequel to the first Magical Quest game, but it very much is, for better or worse. This is one of those games that I saw in rental stores in my youth, but I never really got around to playing it until now. And like the last one, I was always unsure if I had imagined it or if was actually real, since no one around me had ever heard of it. But it is real, and it's got quite a few fans surprisingly, unlike the last one where it seemed a little lukewarm. Hopefully they don't hate me after this, the last thing I need is angry comments from The Great Circus Mystery community. All nine of them.
I kid, I kid. Let's put on our cowboy hats (I swear that'll make sense) and figure out what happened at the circus, and whether or not it is worthy of our time. And again, bonus points oif you read this in your best Mickey Mouse voice.
The Great Circus Mystery, or Mickey and Minnie Magical Adventure 2 in Japan (I'll get to that in a bit) was released for the Super Nintendo in North America in October 1994 (no date this time), November 11th 1994 in Japan and 1995 in Europe. There was also a Sega Genesis/Mega Drive version also released sometime in 1994 in North America and December 6th, 1994 in Japan; sorry Europe, you guys sat out the Mega Drive version. If you remember in my look back at the original Magical Quest, I mentioned that there was going to be a Genesis version of that game, but it got canned for some reason. I imagine that Genesis/Mega Drive version is the reason why this game wasn't called The Magical Quest 2 outside of Japan, since maybe Capcom of America was worried that Sega fans wouldn't know buy it because they never got the first one. Then again, they also released Street Fighter II on the Genesis, so that doesn't make sense. I'll talk more about the title later, but for now there are other great mysteries surrounding this game.
Specifically, who actually made it. Unlike the last game, which listed the people who worked on it, albeit with abbreviations and nicknames, this game didn't even do that. It has the producers, Noah Dudley and Gary Graeper (the latter working on the last game), but when it comes to the Capcom developers, there's just a generic "all Capcom staff". They actually list Mickey and his friends in the credits over the actually developers! Like the last game I did, I searched for info on the team, but I didn't get anything this time. I'm guessing they maybe didn't want to have their team get poached by other developers, but yeah there really isn't anything here. Not even Moby Games has anything on them, and I feel like this is the greatest mystery about the game.
So yeah, there really isn't that much of a backstory or anything behind this game. So let's just dive right in.
With the exception of Lord of the Rings, every trilogy has that one weak entry that isn't as fondly remember as the other two. It could be because it's bad, like Devil May Cry 2 or because it's a radical departure from the other parts, like Temple of Doom to the other movies in the Indiana Jones trilogy (yes I said trilogy). It could also be that the other two parts were so amazing and groundbreakng, that anything less than that would be seen as less, like Return of the Jedi when compared to A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. The Great Circus Mystery is easily the weakest of the three Magical Quest games, but in terms of which weak link it falls into is a mystery.
The story this time around is that Mickey and Minnie go to a circus, and things are messed up by a mysterious figure which has caused Donald and Pluto and hide, and Goofy has an existential crisis (no, I'm not kidding). Spoiler alert, it turns out it was Baron Pete being an asshole for some reason and that's why the circus got messed up, Donald is hiding in a circus tent, and Pluto is hanging out with the Lonesome Ghosts; Goofy is still having an existential crisis though. I know the plot of these games isn't important, like at all, but it's such a disappointment that when you call yourself The Great Circus Mystery and barely have anything to do with not only a mystery, but the circus, which is the first level of the game, is almost never brought up again until the end. You don't even get a circus themed costume! Like why did you call it The Great Circus Mystery if there is barely anything having to do with circuses or mysteries?! Maybe they didn't want to call Magical Quest 2 since the Genesis/Mega Drive never got the first one, but ignoring the fact that Street Fighter II, another Capcom developed game released on multiple platforms with no problem, the game could have been called something like The Magical Adventure or Mickey & Minnie's Great Adventure or something.
But enough of that tanget, let's talk about the gameplay. Much like the last game, The Great Circus Mystery uses costumes to get through the game besides the default outfit, which you can wear to jump on enemies and grab blocks. The first is the sweeper, which lets you vaccum up blocks and enemies for coins, using battery power, and is used for a couple of boss fights. Next is the safari outfit, which acts like the mountain climber in the last game, only with a shorter range; you can climb walls, which is neat. Finally there's the cowboy outfit, where Mickey and Minnie ride around on a hobble horse shooting corks out of a gun, which does use up energy. You can also hop across spike traps and can use a special dash through the air that uses energy, which serves absolutely no purpose.
......Look, I'm going to be real here: I'm not a fan of any of these costumes. They're fine to use in game but there really isn't that much incentive to use them outside of just getting through the levels. Sure, it has a hidden shop where you can buy health and ammo upgrades like the last one, but the game is so easy even on the hardest difficulties that it's not really needed. For me personally, The Great Circus Mystery is overall in a very weird place. Because while it is pretty much the same game as The Magical Quest, complete with the same length and gameplay, it just feels like a lesser game overall. The stages aren't as amazing or flow as well as the last game, the gameplay doesn't feel as fun, and while the game looks and sounds okay, none of the music is anything that I would call great. The game does add some co-op where you and someone play as Mickey and Minnie, but they play exactly the same and there really isn't much of a difference.
I do want to emphasize that despite my problems with the game, I hesitate to call it bad. In fact, I think it's a rather good platformer......just not as amazing as the first the game or the third game (spoiler alert I guess). I guess the best way to describe it is when you cook something amazing in the kitchen, and then when you cook it again you do something different to the recipe, like adding more salt or using a different brand of butter or something. The final meal is fine, but it's missing something that made it amazing the last time. It also doesn't help either that the name is misleading and no I'm not letting that go, WHY WOULD YOU NAME IT THAT-
Okay you know what, let me just move on. *breaths deeply*
The Great Circus Mystery got mixed to positive reviews at launch, with many outlets praising the game's graphics and sound, while criticizing the game's difficulity and length. Some reviews compared the Super Nintendo version to Mickey Mania, another Mickey Mouse game that came out around the same time, which is hiliarious in retrospect because outside of the graphics and music, Mickey Mania sucks. There weren't any sales numbers released for the game, but it clearly did well enough to make one more game, which I will get to at some point, probably next year. Maybe. Much like the first Magical Quest, The Great Circus Mystery got a Game Boy Advance remake, this time called Magical Quest 2, and was released on July 18th, 2003 in Japan, August 28th 2003 in Europe, and November 12th 2003 in North America. Unlike the remake of the first game, where the excellent soundtrack sounded like it was developed on an NES soundchip that was thrown through a woodchipper, this one sounds just like the Super Nintendo original, which is nice I guess. As for why it was forgotten, I think we all know the answer to that, but for those that don't, it's the same as the first game: too many great platformers.
When I talked about The Magical Quest, I mentioned that while I absolutely adore the game, I would hesitate to call the best on the Super Nintendo/SFC, mostly because that system had such amazing games like Super Mario World, Mega Man X, Donkey Kong Country 2, etc. The same applies to The Great Circus Mystery, only it's much worst because it's now also on the Genesis/Mega Drive. While I've always been of the opinion that the Super Nintendo had the better overall platformers, the Genesis was no slouch either, and I don't just mean when it came to games starring a blue hedgehog. The Genesis had Rocket Knight, Castlevania Bloodlines, Strider, etc. That would be stiff competition already, but then when you consider the fact that the Genesis was also a gold mine for Disney games, and it's all over at that point. I'm talking games like Castle of Illusion and World of Illusion, the latter being considered an all time classic, Gargoyels, the Genesis version of Aladdin, which isn't my cup of tea but people seem to like it, and of course mother-quacking Quackshot, most if not all of which are great games. And if you have to ask people to pick between Castle of Illusion and Quackshot or The Great Circus Mystery, the former are going to win every time.
So that's honesly what it boils down to. There were just so many amazing games that came out across both systems at the time, that The Great Circus Mystery didn't stand a chance. Which makes sense, because if a great game like The Magical Quest couldn't stand out, what chance did The Great Circus Mystery, a game not as great, have in this generation?
.......I'll be honest: this was a boring game to research.
While I feel like you have to be an incredible grumpy head to hate on The Great Circus Mystery, at the same time, there really wasn't anything in it to make it stand out. While I did have some fun with it, most of that fun was less so than the last game, and doesn't come close to capturing the magic (ha!) of the first or the third one. It's a fine game that is great for what it is, but if you really want to play a great Mickey Mouse game, stick to the first or third Magical Quest games, or even play Castle of Illusion or Quackshot.
So that was one of the easiest mysteries to solve. Hopefully the next game I cover will have a little bit more meat on the bones, but I'll leave you with this hint: it's a bullet hell game from Japan that recently got it's 18th numbered entry and recently celebrated it's 20th anniversary. What could it be?
.........It's a Touhou game. We're looking at a Touhou game next time.