2012 has been the year of sequels that I thought would never happen.

First Kid Icarus: Uprising, and now, Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, which is a direct sequel to Sega’s Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse. While Kid Icarus was a whole new experience, Epic Mickey stays very much true to its 2D side-scrolling roots, with a bit of its modern namesake thrown in.

The nods to the original games are strong: The jumping/bonking sound effects, the little mushroom enemies, certain animations, the cheery music from the original game’s first level…. The developers were fans of the 1990 classic, and it shows. This game took me back to a much younger age, happy with my Genesis.

That’s not to say that it plays exactly like Castle of Illusion. There’s some Epic Mickey influence as well, most notably the magical paintbrush with its ability to create and destroy the environment. It’s not as heavy as in the console Epic Mickey games, but what it does is clever and well used. But basic drawing talent is needed in order to make properly functioning items. At least there’s no time limit or enemies attacking you while you’re trying to draw. Could you imagine?

And then there is a point where it plays a little like Kingdom Hearts, and a (very small) bit like Suikoden. As Mickey goes along, he finds other Disney characters from just about… everywhere, really. The worlds themselves are based off movies like Peter Pan, Aladdin, and The Little Mermaid, the references are pretty up to date on the character roster, and the graphics are gorgeous. Other review sites have been really harsh on the set-up and delivery of these encounters: Mickey meets them, they have no idea how they got there, Mickey sends them to the Fortress, and most will offer you little mini-quests and bonuses. It’s not the most innovative of scenarios, but the writing stays in character, and it’s not as horrible as its made out to be.

Let’s talk about graphics for a moment. Disney has long been known for its lush, colorful backgrounds and characters. Even the Capcom and Sega games did a wonderful job of capturing that certain “thing” Disney does so you instantly recognize. The graphics here definitely represent the worlds and characters well, with nice touches such as the castle itself “bleeding” through the world, reminding you that nothing is as it seems. I’ve stopped a few times and played with the 2D/3D settings to check everything out. And Aladdin’s world strikes a very nostalgic chord of a certain Genesis game.

And then there are summons. There are two types, actually. Ones you can’t control, like Aladdin or Peter Pan helping you throughout their worlds, or ones you can create, like Goofy, Tinkerbell, and Scrooge McDuck. Castle of Illusion and Aladdin game nods aside, my jaw dropped when Scrooge manifested, and began to pogo jump enemies like in Capcom’s DuckTales (again, it’s a shame Disney won’t re-release these titles).

Music? Outside of the original game nods, the music is upbeat, pleasant, and appropriate. There are some voice grunts, similar to the first Epic Mickey, and everything just sounds good.

At its heart, Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is a love letter to the classic Disney games of the 8 and 16-bit eras, which is more than appropriate considering that Epic Mickey is a series that focuses primarily on “forgotten” Disney. For those who remember a time when Disney games didn’t focus on That’s So Raven and High School Musical, this is a wonderful step in Disney revitalizing the Mouse. It’s not a long game, but neither was the original. And there is plenty of stuff to find to keep you coming back for more.

I can work with these two decade-plus old revitalizations on the 3DS. They’ve been an enjoyable trip into one of my favorite eras of gaming.

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