We all know Shigeru Miyamoto as the man that created Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Star Fox, and F-Zero, but he has also worked on a number of smaller games that have been lost to time. These include Giftpia, Geist, Popeye, and even Hamtaro: Ham-Hams Unite!. However, did you know that Miyamoto was also producer on a Mickey Mouse game? And not just any Mickey Mouse game, but a point-and-click game for the GameCube? Well, back in 2002, he did just that on a game titled Disney’s Magical Mirror Starring Mickey Mouse.
First revealed at Nintendo’s Space World show back in 2001, Magical Mirror appeared to be just another 3D platformer and was slated to be Mickey’s first full game on the GameCube, a relatively new platform at the time. Development was done by Capcom, the same studio known for legendary series like Resident Evil, Street Fighter, Mega Man, and Devil May Cry. Capcom had already demonstrated that they could do Disney games too though, as they did the DuckTales games, that Aladdin game for the SNES, and all of the Disney Magical Quest games. The common link between all of these is that they are all platformers, so when Magical Mirror was first announced, it was assumed to be a platformer as well.
That is why, when the game was formally revealed at Nintendo’s 2002 E3 show, many were surprised to find that it was a completely different genre. I personally would have been surprised as well, as who would expect a point-and-click game to come to console. The genre is much better suited to PC and just feels weird to play with a controller. What makes it even worse is that this was announced at the same time as other games that were really pushing the new GameCube hardware, including Super Mario Sunshine, Star Fox Adventures, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and Metroid Prime.
It was a recipe for disaster and that shows in the reviews the game received upon release. Critics knocked the game for its slow pacing, tedious gameplay, and complete lack of direction. Even IGN, a site known for using the 7-10/10 scale gave the game a 4.8/10. Today, the game sits at a 50/100 on Metacritic, which is pretty much a death sentence considering that most find 65/100 to already be pretty bad.
So given that, you may be wondering why I’m writing an article talking about this game. Well, the truth is, I have a bit of history with it. Back when Blockbuster was still a thing, I remember renting this game on more than one occasion. The reason being that I was never actually able to beat it as a kid. This was in part due to the game’s lack of direction, as mentioned previously, but also because the game was actually a bit scary. In fact, after having beaten it now as an adult, I am positive that someone on the development team really hated Mickey Mouse.
So the whole premise is that you play as Mickey’s soul, who has been kidnapped by an evil ghost and locked in an abandoned mansion. The only way back is through a mirror that shows Mickey’s still sleeping body on the other side. However, that mirror gets shattered by the ghost right at the start to prevent any sort of escape. The mirror shards are then scattered throughout the game world and it is up to you to travel around and find all of the pieces in order to reassemble the mirror and make your escape.
That sounds pretty easy on paper, but, as stated before, you’re not actually given much direction on what to do at any given moment. I had trouble figuring it out as an adult, so considering that kids are supposed to play through this, I can definitely see why the game was criticized for it. The gameplay becomes trial and error, as it pretty much just boils down to the player entering a new room, clicking on everything that looks like it can be interacted with, and moving on once that is done. A lot of the puzzles revolve around finding objects in other areas of the mansion explored later and bringing them back to the earlier rooms, so there’s quite a bit of backtracking as well. That, combined with the slow animation speeds all around, definitely justifies the “slow pacing” complaint.
What makes it worse is that many of the mirror pieces cannot be recovered without first spending a certain amount of stars to trigger an event. These stars are found scattered throughout the map, so it isn’t too hard to keep up a good stock of them, but if you run into an event trigger and don’t have enough stars, then you risk being locked out of that event until the game is reset, at which point the event can be triggered again. This happened quite a few times in the playthrough I did for this article, so you can imagine how annoying that can be.
So, by this point, you may be wondering why exactly I think that the development team hates Mickey Mouse. Well, it’s actually quite simple. During your quest to find all of these mirror pieces, the ghost and the mansion itself are actively trying to kill Mickey. Not hurt, not scare (although that does happen), but actually kill the mouse. This is evident right at the start of the game, when the ghost launches the sharp shards of the mirror towards Mickey. However, it gets much worse than that. Mickey is then almost beheaded by a piece of wood guillotine-style, is attacked by a killer suitcase with sharp teeth while screaming “help me”, and is also chased down by a giant rubber duck attempting to crush him. But of course, it doesn’t stop there. Mickey is then almost crushed by a falling chandelier, is chased down a hallway by a phantom sword swinging wildly, and then gets brutally crushed between the gears of a clock tower.
I don’t know if it was Miyamoto that hated the mouse so much, but someone really wanted him dead. Of course, it is a kid’s game, so it’s not gonna end up like Mickey Mouse in Vietnam, but you can definitely see the undertones. Given all of that, it’s no wonder that I found the game to be scary as a kid. Not only was a ghost constantly trying to kill me, but the whole game takes place in a creepy mansion, complete with dungeon and all. It’s basically a darker take on Thru the Mirror, the 1936 Mickey Mouse cartoon short from which the game’s plot is based.
In fact, the game directly mentions this short, as Mickey actually watches it while in-game, on top of certain parts of the short being referenced elsewhere. The main difference is that the short is generally pretty happy in tone, with Mickey dancing and being a goof with a bunch of household objects. For the most part, this tone is lost in the game, but there is a bit of light in the various minigames found throughout the mansion. There’s one that has Mickey rocking out, another that has him dancing, and even one that has him throwing Hadoukens out against a bunch of bouncing barrels. Although these minigames do shake up the atmosphere a bit, they are generally pretty bad and don’t really serve a purpose outside of being a distraction from the main goal.
And speaking of main goal, you’ll quickly find out that you don’t even need all of the mirror pieces to return back home. After a certain point, you’re able to venture back to the mirror in which you arrived and attempt to cross it again, but are presented with a moral dilemma. It is revealed that the ghost that trapped Mickey’s spirit only wanted a friend to play with and you’re given the option of leaving that ghost behind and returning or staying with the ghost. Choosing the former presents the player with a rather depressing cutscene and ends the game right there. Choosing the latter just kicks you right back to the mansion. However, if you actually collect all of the mirror pieces, you can get the game’s “true” ending. This ending has both Mickey and the ghost travel back through the mirror to be on the other side together — a rather Disney ending.
I don’t actually have footage of that ending to show you, as I left that killer ghost behind after collecting all but one piece of the mirror. There’s no way I’d trust a ghost that actively tried to kill me in the spirit realm in the real world, so he can stay behind and suffer for all I care.
And yeah, that marks the first and last time Miyamoto was ever involved with a Mickey Mouse game, or any Disney game for that matter. The game has pretty been lost to history and it was actually hard to find information on it to make this article. However, it was lost for a good reason: the game wasn’t really all that good. Regardless, it did feel nice to finally come back and beat this game that I failed at so many times as a child — now I can finally put it to rest.