Adventures in the Magic Kingdom for Nintendo

This article originally appeared in Issue 6 (August 2011) of WDWNT: The Magazine.

In June, Microsoft announced that a new game would be coming to the Xbox 360 Kinect this fall that would allow players to wander around a virtual recreation of Disneyland, filled with mini games based on attractions in the park. I will undoubtedly be picking up a copy the day it is released, and expect a full review following that. Hearing of this game immediately took me back 20 years. Take out the 3D graphics and motion controls, and this reminds me of something I played back on the NES, Adventures in the Magic Kingdom. The game, published by Capcom, was released in 1990. It is a collections of six mini games that take place within some of the most well known Disney attractions. While we await the release the Kinect game, let’s go 8-bit and take a look back at this old favorite.

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The premise of the game is that you need to find six keys located inside the park in order to open the gates of the castle and start the parade. Right off the bat you will probably notice that while the game is called Adventures in the Magic Kingdom and the box art clearly shows Cinderella Castle, the layout of the park is clearly Disneyland. Having not had a chance to visit the west coast park yet by 1990, I was quite confused to see Pirates and Haunted Mansion so close to each other. And why are they calling the Grand Prix Raceway the Autopia? It ends up not mattering all that much as, name differences aside, all attractions featured in the game exist on both coasts.

When the game begins you get to pick a name for your character (if you do not choose a name, it defaults to BAMBOO.7). You explore the park from a Zelda style overhead view as you go from attraction to attraction. The six games are Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Autopia, Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and a Quiz game played in the overhead view. You may play the attractions in any order. It is interesting to note that no actual Disney park music is played in the game, despite being an officially licensed title. This is not to say it is bad (it is composed by Yoko Shimomura, who also composed the music for the Kingdom Hearts series). The overworld music always reminded me of the Baroque Hoedown from Main Street Electrical Parade, if only vaguely.

Space Mountain is a first person flying game. The goal is to fly to star “F” where the key is located. You need to pilot the spaceship through various turns and use missiles to destroy asteroids and other spacecraft that block your way (just like on the ride – for those of you who never rode Space Mountain before that was a joke). This is actually one of the more difficult of the games. You are given very little reaction time when the buttons appear on the screen, and you only get three misses. The key to this game is to ignore everything else on the screen and concentrate on the panel that shows you which button to press. A helpful hint is in the later parts of the game when you are given a choice to go left or right, always go left. It leads to much easier combinations.

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Big Thunder is a top down perspective game where the goal is to get the train to one of four stations at the end within a limited amount of time, and avoiding hazards such as falling boulders. You can accelerate and decelerate the train, as well steer down different tracks. There are four stations at the end, and you only get the key by going to the one you were instructed to at the beginning. If you go to the wrong station, go back and start again. This game is not terribly difficult, although it is possible to start moving way too fast. Couple that with limited visibility of what is coming up and it is very easy to head straight toward a dead end.

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Autopia is another top down perspective game. Pete has the key and challenges you to a race. Along the course are numerous obstacles, including water that must be jumped over. Although you are supposed to be racing Pete, it is never clear which car he is in. In reality you are simply racing the clock. As long as you finish before time runs out, you win. There are enough hazards that you are unlikely to make it through on the first try, but the course is not terribly long and so not too difficult to just memorize.

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Haunted Mansion is a side scrolling platformer. You must enter the mansion and defeat the boss ghost at the end (this is the level to have a boss at the end). Your weapon of choice is candles. You have a limited amount, but there are plenty to be found throughout the mansion. Aside from the ghosts, other dangers include numerous gaps in the floor. In fact later parts of the mansion, you need to jump to and from moving chairs. Falling into the gap immediately ends the level and you lose a life. There is a particularly difficult section where you must ride a chair past flying books that attempt to knock you off. Finally you get to the boss. It takes quite a few candles to defeat him, but you are in little danger of running out as the room is full of them. Due to all the combination of elements, this is probably the most difficult level in the game.

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Pirates of the Caribbean is another side scroller. You need to rescue stranded villagers and light a fire to signal that you have done so. The villagers are scattered throughout the level, and you need to find them all in order to complete it. There are numerous pirates, many that throw cannon balls. You also need to find the candle in order to light the fire at the end. The candle can also be used as a weapon line in Haunted Mansion, although this time you never run out. While not as difficult as the mansion is, this level can be frustrating as you are completely defenseless until well into the stage. You also are given no clues as to where the villagers are, which can make it difficult to track down one that you missed.

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The final game is the only one not based on an attraction. It is a quiz game. Several children in the park will ask you questions about Disney trivia. Answering correctly will lead you to the next child until you finally find the one with the dog, who is wearing the key on his collar. While many of you who reading this are undoubtedly quite confident in your Disney knowledge, some of the questions could be pretty tough for your average player. Humorously, the children claim that they are only asking you these questions to prove that you are indeed Mickey’s friend, despite the fact that there is no one else in the park.

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Upon completion of all six games, you can now go to the castle and begin the parade. As with so many of the games from the 8-bit era, the ending is brief, so don’t get your hopes up that you are going to see an amazing show. But hey, you finished the game. And it didn’t take very long. This is good as there is no save feature or password system. It must be completed in one sitting. This is not much of a problem as the game is brief. What is great about this game is that it is accessible to games of all types. And there is very little commitment needed to play. Just pop the cartridge in and get started.

Ultimately this was an enjoyable game for a Disney fan, although those who are not will likely find little value in it, as the mini games are not very special theming aside. The other problem with the game is a lack of replay value. Other than the random order of the questions and the changing station goal at the end of Big Thunder Mountain, there are no random elements to be found. You encounter the same ghosts in the same order in Haunted Mansion. Space Mountain always follows the same flight sequence. While not uncommon for games on the NES, it does mean that after finishing once, there is little incentive to come back.

But all flaws aside, this is one of those games I remember fondly. Unfortunately there has never been a remake since its original release, and it never showed up on the Wii’s Virtual Console. If you still have your NES, this is not a terribly difficult game to find for sale online.

Kinect Disneyland will no doubt make this game look almost silly by comparison, but we are now 21 years of technology more advanced than when this game was first introduced. It may be showing its age, especially compared to one that faithfully recreates the park in great detail, where you move around by point your arm at the screen, but it remains one of those quintessential pieces of my childhood that I still love to revisit from time to time.

Adventures in the Magic Kingdom for Nintendo was last updated December 22nd, 2013 by Michael Truskowski