Game Over, Man! – Fantasia

In our Game Over, Man! series, we explore the history of video games that are based on movies, one game at a time. This week, Shaun Eddleston takes a look at 1991’s Fantasia for the Sega Mega Drive…

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When it comes to “prolific” characters in gaming history, there’s always a handful that immediately come to mind. Characters such as Mario, Sonic The Hedgehog and Donkey Kong headline this group (don’t worry Shovel Knight, you’ll get there!), but there is one character that is surprisingly easy to overlook; Mickey Mouse. The squeaky-voiced mascot of Disney has appeared across entire generations of gaming platforms, dating all the way back to the LCD Game & Watch handheld games and 1984’s Mickey’s Space Adventure.

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Inspired by the success of 1990’s Castle of Illusion, a game that sealed the reputation of Sega’s Mega Drive before the arrival of gaming’s most famous hedgehog, Sega decided to pursue another Mickey Mouse-led property – 1940’s Fantasia – a movie that was celebrating its 50th anniversary that year.

Released in November 1991, Fantasia loosely follows the plot of the movie. Players take control of Mickey as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, guiding him through a handful of side-scrolling levels in order to recover musical notes that had been stolen away while he was asleep.

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Infogrames (famous for Unreal, Alone In The Dark and the song that “rocks my world”) took charge on the development side of things, under supervision of Sega producers. To say that they handled things poorly from the start would be an understatement, as the team that they put together consisted of just six people who had very little experience in console game development.

Sega’s summer smash hit Sonic The Hedgehog and the impending Christmas rush of that year forced the game’s development to be hurried. This meant that the team couldn’t bring things up to a suitable standard for the console or even replicate the iconic visuals and soundtrack of the original movie in an effective way.

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The game’s four levels do share somewhat of a likeness to the segments of the movie, and even attempt to recreate the famous classical music (as crappy as it turned out, a chiptune version of “Night On Bald Mountain” is something that I have a soft spot for).

The positives about Fantasia are only skin deep though, because pretty much every other aspect of the game shows off just how rushed things were in order to make a quick buck. The gameplay is absolutely horrid, with sluggish and unresponsive controls, predictable enemies with wildly unfair collision detection and bland, boring level designs that are guaranteed to make playing feel like a chore in no time.

Had Sega not released Castle of Illusion just a year prior to Fantasia, this could have been a serviceable game with a longer development cycle and less flaws, but instead, Fantasia feels like several steps back for not just the game, but for the company as a whole.

 

Interestingly, the events that followed the game’s release were also slightly troubled too. Roy E. Disney, the nephew of Walt Disney, complained that releasing an adaptation of Fantasia went against his late uncle’s wishes, and Sega shouldn’t have made the game in the first place. As it turns out, the licensing that was obtained by Sega for Fantasia was granted in error. As a result of this, Fantasia was pulled from retailer shelves and every unsold copy of the game was ordered to be destroyed, along with all advertising for it.

Fantasia is a prime example of what happens when a game developer rushes things. An inexperienced team working on a license that they shouldn’t have obtained in the first place, released in a panicky hurry to piggyback on the success of a much better title. The game utterly fails to recapture any of the magic and wonder of the film, and is rightfully considered to be one of the worst Mega Drive/Genesis titles ever released.

Have you played Fantasia on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis? Let us know in the comments below, or send a tweet our way!

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