Developer(s) – Sega
Publisher(s) – Sega
Director(s) – Yoshio Yoshida
Producer(s) – Patrick Gilmore
PEGI – 3
Released on third-generation hardware well into the fourth generation, Land of Illusion was brought out following the immense success of the previous Mickey Mouse game developed by Sega, Castle of Illusion, and for the most part, received the same level of critical acclaim being considered an adored classic by most who played it. Out of the original Illusion trilogy, Land of Illusion was the one entry that I never got to play, as, at this time, I was firmly immersed in fourth-generation hardware, such as the Super NES and the Mega Drive; and it’s a shame that this game never saw a release on the Mega Drive, because a multitude of reasons, it is the best in the Illusion trilogy in my opinion; superior to both Castle of Illusion and World of Illusion.
Graphics – 8.5/10
Where the technical side of things is concerned, the game kind of looks like a mixture of both 8-BIT and 16-BIT visuals, seemingly going above and beyond what many gamers may have thought the Sega Master System was capable of. People who have never played this game would most probably take a cursory look at it and maybe too hasty to write it off immediately as a game that seemingly came to a generation too late. But the fact of the matter is Land of Illusion looks too good to be a third-generation title. The conceptual design is also even more of an improvement on what the developers did with Castle of Illusion to me, as it borrows elements from much darker Disney films than that of its predecessor; most notably The Black Cauldron, as the antagonist is The Horned King under the guise of a new villain, The Phantom. There are certain elements of certain levels that also look to be inspired by previous third-generation classics, such as Super Mario Bros 3 and Castlevania.
Gameplay – 9/10
Perpetuating many of the same gameplay elements as seen in Castle of Illusion, Land of Illusion is another 2D side scroller whereby the player must traverse, explore, defeat bosses and take on the game’s end boss. What separates this game from Castle of Illusion, however, is that there’s a small Metroidvania element to it, allowing for players to backtrack to an extent with newly acquired abilities to reach otherwise impassable areas. There’s even a sidequest whereby there are a number of stars to collect throughout, giving the game slightly more replay value than the average side scroller. The boss fights throughout also provide a nice balance of challenge for players.
Controls – 9/10
The biggest problem I had with the game is only a minor one, which is that the jump mechanics can seem a little inconsistent, and as a result, gameplay can be hindered to a small extent unnecessarily. The same problem exists in the next game in the series, World of Illusion, but to a lesser extent. However, the jump mechanics are nowhere near as bad enough to be able to call the game unplayable by any means. Like the last game, the controls are as fluent as what is needed to be for the most part.
Lifespan – 7.5/10
Land of Illusion can be made to last around an hour, which though was the average lifespan for a game in the fourth generation, is actually quite impressive compared to other third-generation titles. The amount of backtracking the game warrants makes it slightly longer than the average 2D side scroller that was a mainstay in the industry at this time, and it does fairly well to stand out on its own as a result. Of course, other games have been released by this time that lasted considerably longer like A Link to the Past and the Final Fantasy games, but for what is a very retroactive experience, it succeeds to deliver.
Storyline – 8/10
The plot of Land of Illusion is extremely similar to that of Super Mario Bros 2. Mickey is reading a book one day only to fall asleep and awake again in an unfamiliar and fantastical land whereby he must recover a stolen magic crystal in order to help the inhabitants of a small village protect themselves from an entity known as The Phantom. Along the way, the player encounters several classic Disney characters to rescue, and along the way providing a greater deal of substance in the story and more memorable moments than Castle of Illusion.
Originality – 8/10
Although it was released arguably three years too late, the fact of the matter is the game stands out for all the right reasons regardless of its late arrival on the Sega Master System, and for a game that at first glance would seem completely outdated, is immensely impressive. It’s amazing what developers have been able to do with basing games off of a pre-existing license before and after Land of Illusion, but very few developers took that concept to the heights that Sega took many Disney franchises in the realm of games, and this game stands out as yet another shining example of that.
Overall, I was surprised to find out that I would end up enjoying Land of Illusion more than any of the other Illusion games. It’s got a great deal to play for, for its time, the story is much more involved than in previous game, and although it seems to be Castle of Illusion that gets the accolade of the classic Mickey Mouse game, the fact of the matter is that Land of Illusion is in many ways superior.