So let me get this straight, Legend of Illusion stars Mickey Mouse as a laundry boy adventuring to such locales as Castle Goofenstein and Duckingham Palace armed only with soap which later becomes magic soap? And you are saying that it is ... good? Sadly, too many new gamers, and a shameful number of old-school gamers, seem to think that the first good game with a Disney license was Kingdom Hearts. Regardless of your opinion of the company or their recent string of non-Square related offerings, it would be advisable to look into some of their older titles. Quite a few, including Legend of Illusion, are surprisingly good.
The iconic little mouse starred in several titles in the early 90's, this outing pits him against his old rival Pete, who is the king of Mickey's land. According to legend, the recent drought can only be lifted when a king returns the Water of Life. So the actual king names our hero an "honorary king." Does it even need to be said why? In the cut scene following the first level, King Pete learns that Mickey will become the new king if he succeeds, and so begins to sabotage efforts to save his own kingdom. And with that, Mickey can save his kingdom from its two biggest blights at once. All the more reason to not screw up, eh? Along the way, he receives help from the familiar Donald and Goofy (who are both kings), as well as a sphinx and a talking tree. None of these other characters appear during the game, but rather give out items, bits of story and instructions on where to go and what to do there in between levels.
Legend of Illusion is consistently simple enough for children to figure out, yet stays fresh and entertaining for older players. No small feat. Kids may need some time to finish. Vets should breeze through in just a few tries, maybe even one, but will not feel let down. Sega does a terrific job of replacing the challenge with other things that will pique the mature gamers' interest; like creativity, variety, eye candy and unique gameplay.
One of the more common pitfalls of both licensed and kid-centric games is the inability to mix things up. Spitting in the face of convention, this game takes diversity up as its strong suit. The puzzle-oriented platforming never gets old as each level has its own unique feel and a commendable number of puzzles of many types are used. Quick, streamlined levels help ensure that the game never feels repetitive. It may be short, but that is because they packed everything in at tight as they could; there is no filler or bull to weigh things down. This is also one of the few kiddy games to have fun and creative bosses.
Visually, it would be unreasonable to expect much more out of the Game Gear than this. The fluidity of the animation in particular makes just about every other Game Gear hero look like Frankenstein. In fact, some of the animations, such as the little dance Mickey does upon completing a level, seem to exist for the sole purpose of showing off just how well the development team could handle them. Oh, the detail, effects, huge assortment of sprites and all that color-this was a later release, and it really shows.
Too many developers would look at such a project and say, "this is just kids, they won't know any better." Disney did not take that approach with this title, and so Legend of Illusion is truly a game "for all ages." It may be silly, short and easy, but packs a punch where it needs to. It even puts a lot of "mature" games to shame in many areas.