Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Little Mermaid (GB) Review

Written: September 26th-28th, 2013
(As played on the Super Game Boy)
Year: 1991, 1992 | Developed and Published by: Capcom
 
10/4/15 Update: I removed the M. Bison video (as it was taken down) and left a placeholder for it, and I also removed the entire "commercial" aspect, as I just did not find it funny anymore.  The things I do to polish the pace of my reviews.

Lately I've talked about Wander Over Yonder a lot (what with it being one of my new favorite shows and the fact that I enjoy talking about its episodes), so how do I balance it all out?  I'll review a Disney-licensed game, that's what I'll do!  Yeah, I know, that's not very clever since the series is also by Disney so bear with me.  -_-
 
You know what comes to mind for me when I think of the best animated movie that came out during the '80s?  I think of the 1982 movie The Secret of N.I.M.H. by Don Bluth, which I consider to be an all-time classic and near perfect movie (a very underrated one too).  It's got impressive-looking animation for its time (even now it looks great), offers lots of dark themes, has got great characters, lots of fantasy and magic elements abound (even though the Robert C. O'Brien source material did not imbue any magic), its got emotion and weight, a fantastic story, has its share of intense moments (yet somehow it got rated G), a sublime soundtrack by the late Jerry Goldsmith, a spine-tingling climax, and is not afraid to go the dark route without straying from its themes.  And hey, so long as it's got a happy ending, children can handle anything!  =)  ... Too bad the DTV sequel Timmy to the Rescue (which came out a whopping sixteen years later) did not follow suit and decided to pander to the least common denominator and devalue its predecessor (unless you're a fan of Eric Idle, I'd say skip it; but even then it's still not good).
But that's just my own personal opinion of which animated movie epitomized the '80s generation, and if you don't agree with my choice then that's fine; to each their own as I always exclaim.  What do you consider to be the perfect '80s animated movie?  Though that's not to say that there weren't other good animated movies during that decade as well, there definitely were (many of them have a strong cult status), in particular Disney's The Little Mermaid!
 
Having come out in late 1989, this movie was revolutionary for its time and it did so well that it helped spark the beginning of a Golden Age simply known as the "Disney Renaissance" which lasted for roughly ten years ending with the animated adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan in 1999.  And above all that it became a major hit when it was released in theatres and people fell in love with it.  The animation was some of the best that Disney showed in a very long time (since Sleeping Beauty at least), it was fun and colorful, the songs by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman were fun and endearing, the story was good, the characters were charming, the main villain was fantastic, and it was just an all-around great movie.
 
A long time after its original release date, it's still a really good movie.  I didn't see it in 1989 since I wasn't really around at the time, but I have seen it in theatres during its 1997 re-release and seeing it on the big screen really made a difference after having been introduced to it via muggy-quality VHS years prior (not to mention pretty much all movies shown in that medium were cropped up pan-and-scan versions, which for several years now has become a big no-no in my book since I'm a strong advocate of seeing movies and TV series in their intended aspect ratio like the director planned; thank God we live in an age where DVDs and Blu-Rays prosper where people can see the movies as they were meant to be seen in native widescreen as opposed to how they were forced to be seen in [sometimes cluttered] fullscreen, unless it was originally like that to begin with).  I really like The Little Mermaid, as it's got a lot of really great qualities and any time I watch it I find it enjoyable.  =)
 
It's done really well over the years, and for good reason.  Its success was so great that it's garnered a "Princess" line-up of toys, accessories, and dolls; a short-lived TV series that lasted for two years (1992-1994) which preceded the events of the movie, a harmless but so-so DTV sequel in the form of Return of the Sea, followed a harmless but surprisingly good (to a point) DTV prequel to movie number one Ariel's Beginning.  But regardless of how you feel about any of these relatives, it's just like RVGFanatic said one time: you've just got to love sequels, cause if they prove to be total bummers, hey, there's always the original you can go back to!  =)  Personally, I find that to be quite profound and it rings very true for countless series.  So riddle me this: in the early '90s Capcom decided to create a video game tie-in to the movie, originally in 1991 for the NES and the Game Boy (which is the version I'm reviewing now) the following year.  And all I've got to say about that is: why?  =\
 
I mean don't get me wrong, The Little Mermaid is a really well-crafted movie, but it's not exactly the kind of film I think of that screams "Make me a video game!  Make me a video game!".  Were there really people out there that demanded an interactive adaptation for it?  Because honestly I find that a bit head-scratching; but there is a video game adaptation nonetheless, so it's my job to review it.  And hey, considering the advent of the Diamond Edition coming out on Blu-Ray and DVD at the beginning of October, I think this is a perfect opportunity to do it, wouldn't you agree?  =)  You may have noticed that the previous two times I reviewed a Game Boy game it did not end well, and both times they got a 5.  Will The Little Mermaid be able to break that boundary?
More importantly, though, will it prove to be both better than Portable Movie Adaptation that Did Not Feature Hades in it At All Even Though He Was Referenced Often During the Cutscenes and is it better than Poor Excuse of Mickey Mouse Platformer with Same-Looking Cutscenes and Same-Sounding Dialogue Where Main Duo Wander Around Aimlessly Searching For and Ultimately Retrieving Minnie's Present but Letting Pete Get Away in the End While Contending with Frustratingly Unpolished Structure?  I can answer that with a resounding "yes", and seeing as this was actually developed by Capcom as opposed to just published by them (like the latter) I think we're in good hands here.  =)  I mean when has Capcom ever let us gamers down?  ...  You're right, I shouldn't jinx it, let's just start the review proper.  Oh, and I almost forgot:
SPOILERS (both pertaining to movie and game)
So we begin our story where I presume it takes place in the beginning of the movie, only to then take place during the second act.  Gotta love how the intro just throws its exposition at us in case any one wasn't acquainted with the feature-length film.  Also noticeable is the fact they dropped major plot points; in the movie (which itself is an adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson's story) sixteen-year old mermaid Ariel got infatuated with a human named Prince Eric after having seen him and saved his life.  After King Triton found out and reacted angrily, Ariel is left in tears and is told by evil eels Flotsam and Jetsam that the sea witch Ursula has lots of powers.  Ariel as a result agrees to go, but only reluctantly; Ursula agreed to turn her into a human for three whole days, but at the expense of Ariel's voice (I'll spare the uninitiated some nightmares by saying that the less you know about how Ariel originally lost her voice in the story, the better).  If she got Eric to fall in love with her within those three days, she would permanently be human otherwise she would revert to being a mermaid and become Ursula's prisoner.  Here, it's all glanced over and it doesn't seem so bad.
*waves hand* Oh hi, Scuttle!  =D  I loved your brash way of introducing yourself to Ariel in the prequel series and the unspoken cameo you made in movie three!  It was quite something!
And just so everyone knows, this is Scuttle's sole appearance in the entire game.  But it's nice to see that he at least gets one scene here.
Ursula, as you may recall from the movie, is a sea witch that's half octopus/half violet-skinned human that often conjures up spells and tricks people into turning into creepy-looking ... uhhh, whatever those things are supposed to be.  In the movie it was specified that she once worked for King Triton until she was given the royal boot, so her motivation for tricking Ariel into giving up her voice and then attempting to ruin the teenaged mermaid's chance at love is pure vengeance for the royal family.  Here: she just does this stuff 'cause she's evil.  ...  Sure!
 
*insert M. Bison "Of Course!" meme here*
 
Uhhhh, when did that happen in the movie?  |=/  'cause I'm pretty sure she did no such thing.  It's a noble thing to do but it strays so far from this game's source material.
Ah yes, because Ariel has verbally confessed to Prince Eric that she was a mermaid and a sea princess, willingly going to sea to save her friends!  I'm so glad Capcom did not miss the point of the movie whatsoever!  o_o  -_-
Oh, yeah, 'cause in the movie he begged Ariel not to go.  He also found out about her secret *clinches teeth* after Ariel became a mermaid!  *stops clinching*  I mean it's not like Ariel was taken against her will by Ursula by that time she resumed her original form, and Eric was a little slow to stop her until later... oh, wait!!!
But before that Ariel has got to deal with a few things undersea, so I hope Ursula understands her tardiness.  =<  We haven't even started the game and already there are problems; the storyline has been altered entirely, and it just deviates so much from the movie.  Frankly the game is not off to a very good start.  =(  Not a very good sign.  We open up in
STAGE 1 - SEA of CORAL
 
All right, let's start!  It's a simple enough area where a series of fish and starfish under Ursula's command... are you sure this isn't based on the prequel TV series instead?  /=(  ...try to attack Ariel on her adventure and try to serve as obstacles.  Along the way she'll come across treasure chests and alcoves which may have contents that will serve her greatly (or just extra stuff to collect). 
At the end you'll be dealing with this menacing shark that almost turned Ariel and Flounder into mincemeat in the beginning of the movie.  All he needs is a few enemies encased in bubbles thrown at him and you're good to go.  The stage will end once a fancy two-handled wine bottle slowly flows down to the center; just roll with it.  Okay, we've got that out of the way, where to next?
The sunken ship?  That was the start of the movie, where the shark was also at!  You're telling me that Capcom deliberately shifted through events just to make... it's too soon!
 
The gameplay in The Little Mermaid is simple yet intuitive, and is mostly polished.  Ariel can swim around, swim fast should you hold down the B button and be able to attack by launching attack bubbles with her tail with the A button.  I've mentioned that there were treasure chests and alcoves, but the only way to access the items is by throwing a seashell at them, push and/or rollrocks or boulders that will forcefully open them, brushing through the underwater sand, or by throwing a bubbled-in enemy on there.  Speaking of which, that's one of many ways to attack as opposed to just a seashell.  There are few moments when you'll be able to jump up a surface and gradually bounce your way through some platforms; as refreshing as that is, it's shortlived.
 
Looking in chests and alcoves will gain you certain items; such as a heart that will either give you one or two health, a life, a dinglehopper (fork), a snarfblat (pipe), or surprisingly enough a power-up.  You can only have up to three of power-up A and power-up B, and with all that power together you'll be able to amass a powerful bubble attack.  And if all comes to worse (ergo, lose a life) then simply resort to the most basic of shmup clichés (lose all power-ups).  Not that it's likely to happen here, and I'll get to why.  We then progress to
STAGE 2 - SUNKEN SHIP

Okay then.  The next area has Ariel maneuver herself around a long decrepit ship as fish, spiky fish (I'm sure they have a name but it escapes me at the moment), octopi, and fish with sails on them that make them resemble ghosts (point for creativity there) all culminating towards the abyss as Ariel fights
Flotsam and Jetsam!  Maybe an odd time to fight them considering that they never once were close to any ship in the movie, but okay I'll buy that, since they are key characters.  From time to time both of them will pop their head out of holes, so encase the crustacean crabs (who I hope are not related to Sebastian) inside the bubbles and throw them at the eeeeeevil conniving eels!  Oh, and speaking of Sebastian, here he is, having this to say to Ariel:
Eh?  0_O  Frozen?  As in Arctic/Antarctic frozen?  I don't recall any moment in the original movie when Ariel and friends were anywhere near the frozen subzero climate of the ocean but okay.  Sounds cool, I guess.
 
The visuals are good but a little on the basic side, as is the norm for most Game Boy titles at the time, but they're serviceable enough.  =)  Each area has their own unique look and style, and in some cases the backgrounds are very detailed; there are even moments when there's enough shading in the backdrop to create some depth.  That's quite nicely handled.  The enemies and bosses look good but generic, with the sole exception of Ursula who's very detailed and matches the look that she had in the movie (particularly the final confrontation).  Ariel especially looks good, for she has got smooth jumping, tail swishing, and swimming animations; I like how her hair just floats around whenever she holds still.  I enjoy tiny details like that.  The most impressive aspect of the game's visuals however are the cutscenes, for they look superbly drawn and have got so much detail and charm put into them; less impressive however is the fact the ones used between each area have got an uninteresting space in the background (save for some static bubbles), and the same image of Ariel is used very often.  On the bright side, at least some conversations are either initiated by Flounder or Sebastian so at least there's some variety.
 
STAGE 3 - SEA of ICE

As we cut to Ariel swimming in perhaps the most frozen-looking part of the game, there are moments that will take place inside sea-filled caverns.  Trying  to stop you are fish, tiny sea horses, and a few more creatures.  Considering all this, you can't help but wonder how (unless they're adapted to their environment) any creature could possibly stand this icy cold current?  =/  Once you reach the final portion you'll be fighting against
... uhhh, a cute version of the walrus Dash from the second movie?  Huh??  ...  Anyway, just throw as many seashells from the surface as you can towards it and you'll be off to the next area.  The first movie never once took place in a cold environment, but a bit of the TV series and second movie (for some part of it) did.  It's almost as if Capcom knew that the movie would be getting a sequel in roughly a decade later.
*gets head closer to monitor*
Are you time traveling, Capcom?  -_I  Because if you are, then you risk serving a lifetime in prison for breaking the number one rule of Earth and reality; never travel outside your time period!  I hate to sound harsh about all this, but time is not something you want to mess with... ever!
Well this is a Capcom game, so why not?  You can't have an ice-themed world without a fire-themed one; it must all be balanced out you see.
STAGE 4 - UNDERSEA VOLCANO

I hope no one's eyes are bleeding from all this red  =(
Things are heating up down here!  Ariel must swim her way around whilst she avoids the blasts from the volcanoes, krill, fish, fish that camouflage themselves in the sand, and crabs with knightly helmets on them.  She must work her way around so as to be careful.  Too bad she picked now to explore the area, for under different circumstances and a much more docile environment she would've stumbled upon an undersea club that was kept secret for years due the no music law BS that was made after a terrible incident occurred a very long time ago.  o_o  What?  Capcom warped up the movie's timeline and plot, it doesn't mean I'm not going to reference all things The Little Mermaid-related because of that; one has to know these things.  And isn't this exactly where the climax in the first episode of the series involving the orca whale that Ariel raised as her pet took place?  ...  Yeah, did I mention I grew up with the first two movies and the series?  =/  Anyway let's not waste anymore time dabbling with details, for now it's boss time!  Introducing
... I don't get it!  There is a fish that's got anthropomorphic qualities, acting as if he were the captain of a sunken ship, signaling cannon fire any time he lunges his stick forward.  Ummm, okay.  The ship has got two cannons protruding from it, and surprisingly they're still operational; from time to time a couple fish will pop out, but make sure you stay out of harm's way should one or both of them shoot a spiky ballfish instead.
Oooh, a maze?  Sounds intimidating!  }=O
 
Let us take this moment and discuss its music.  The original movie's soundtrack was composed by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, and a lot of the songs in it were engaging and fun to listen to.  The one song they picked from it serving as the title and ending music is "Under the Sea" and while I'll admit that I'm not as big a fan of that song as a lot of people are, I will concede that it's a fun number to listen to.  In the movie it was exciting, fun, and enjoyable.  So how come it sounds so somber and dramatic in this portable video game version?  It's rather distracting actually.  The rest of the songs are nice and cute, and each serve their respective areas well (even though admittedly many of them sound similar).  The boss theme isn't too shabby either, especially the final one against Ursula's final form.  The sound effects are decent, and overall the sound quality is not bad.
 
STAGE 5 - URSULA'S CASTLE

I'd make a case as to why Ariel couldn't have come here immediately after being warned of Ursula's plan of undersea world domination, but then that would've made the game a lot shorter than it already is.  I will however question why Ariel decided to come back later when she only entered it once in the movie (and that was around the end of the first act); but then in this adaptation Ariel never gave up her voice to become a human and all logic has been thrown out the window, so why complain?  In this maze-like area are a series of doorways which Ariel must pass by in specific order in order to reach Ursula.  Once that happens, it's time to face Her Villainy herself, Ursula!
The object to this fight is battle Ursula by throwing bubbled-in enemies directly at her.  From time to time she will summon her fish army via swirling spheres from her cauldron and then they will pop out and try to attack you.  Um, I didn't think too much of it until just recently, but if Ariel is out to save her fish friends... then why is she hurting them?  o_O  Isn't that a bit hypocritical as to what you're trying to accomplish here?  I'm just saying Capcom, you're starting to send mixed messages right now.
But it's not over yet, since Ursula has gotten a second wind and has decided to wage Round 2!  Never minding the fact she became big in the movie after deciding to harbor revenge on Ariel for preventing her from killing Eric and instead killing her pet eels by mistake, this is actually a good set up.  It'd be even greater if no words were spoken at all, since it ruins the dramatic feel for the climax.
And here we go!  =)  Look at Ursula, she is just towering over half of the screen!  I'll excuse the fact that Ariel ends up slaying her with bubbled enemies here as opposed to Eric in the movie via a mortal jab from a decrepit pole from piloting a boat charging towards her (and that Ariel was trapped and helpless at that point), only 'cause this just looks freakin' awesome!  =D  Ursula can even control the currents underwater, so be mindful of that.
 
And now once Ursula has kicked the bucket you'd think that it would be time to celebrate right?  Not quite for our heroine still harbors feelings for Eric and does not wish to be apart from him.
Eh heh, the movie was actually pretty subtle in this scene.  Yeah Ariel was sad and wished to be with her one true love.  She had a longing look and sigh, she was quiet about it, but she wasn't full of "tears".
What they don't show you in the movie is that after transforming her back into a human with his magic trident, King Triton reduced her to just her bare legs.  'o'  Having realized that mistake he decided to give her a bright shining dress to cover her all up.
You know, for kids!
Well at least Capcom got that part right.
That is until they gave birth to a daughter named Melody in a reverse The Little Mermaid-like plot where Melody wishes to go to the ocean but Ariel won't allow her 'cause as a baby she was almost taken by Ursula's sister Morgana (voiced by the same actress as Ursula oddly enough) so she makes a wall to keep her safe.  Things would get resolved by the end however as Melody runs away from home, trusts Morgana to turn her into a mermaid and naïvely follows her advice to take her grandfather's trident not realizing that the sea witch has ulterior motives, makes a couple of comic relief friends, learns the truth about her mother the hard way, and saves all of Atlantica and the surface world by throwing the trident back to King Triton who encases Morgana in ice, therefore inviting opportunities for people to quote Christopher Lloyd's immortal movie line with joy (you know which one I'm talking about).  Other than that though, Ariel and Eric lived happily ever after!  =)
 
So that was The Little Mermaid for the Game Boy, and even though looking back and comparing it to the movie I find it mindboggling that it was even made to begin with, I do consider it a noble attempt by Capcom to create an interactive adaptation where you take control of Ariel.  It's got the look and charm of a good Disney-licensed Capcom game, the areas are well-constructed, the music is nice to listen to, the gameplay is rather absorbing, and there is a big hint of polish in this product.  However if there's a downside to the game it's that the enemies have little to no AI in them, it's incredibly easy, and the biggest con is that it's astoundingly short.  There's nothing wrong with being an easy game so long as you've got elements that make it fun, and while it lasts it's definitely fun; however, one could not help but think that maybe there could've been more to it.
 
The game is easy in the most basic of ways, and it can be beaten in just one life if you're careful.  Many of Capcom's other Disney games, as easy as they were, had at least a bit of challenge in them and it was possible to lose at least one life if not more if you were not careful; with this game you can plow through it in your sleep since here the challenge value is marginally low.  To make things even worse in this regard, the game can be beaten in as quick as fifteen minutes if not less; the original Kirby's Dream Land took longer to beat than this!  I'm still not fond of the fact that Capcom had to alter the movie's plot in order to make a game; adding an extra area not originally in the movie or two, that I'll buy, but changing the plot is a big no-no.  With a game based on a series you can get away with that since there are so many episodes to choose from; but a movie?  If you feel like embellishing a bit, that's fine so long as the central focus in the movie is left in tact, but I didn't feel it was the case here.  As mediocre and slow-paced as Hercules on the Game Boy could be at times, at least it stayed mostly true to the core plot of the movie it was based on.
 
Even then, The Little Mermaid is still a good title on its own, it just doesn't have the high standards set by Capcom's other Disney titles in my opinion.  Short as this game may be, I'll take it over Mickey's Dangerous Chase's frustrating twenty-five to thirty-five minutes of playing time, because as easy this game is it at least has the decency of feeling polished and fun; unlike the latter as it was cheaply designed, more frustrating than fun in terms of structure, and felt oh-so repetitive in terms of cutscenes and dialogue.  Ariel's closer image may have been used often, but at least they changed the character that she spoke to once in awhile; that way it always felt fresh.
 
If I had to make a comparison to another Capcom game it would be Final Fight 2 (and don't worry I'll get to that one eventually).  I'm more lenient on this game for being so mercifully short as opposed to that beat-em up being so painfully long!  I'll gladly pick this game's fifteen minute length over Final Fight 2's grueling one-plus hour it takes to get to the end (even for a beat-em this length is very excessive).  I heard that there was also a video game adaptation of the movie made for the MegaDrive/Genesis and Game Gear by Sega, though from what I hear it is worse than Capcom's Nintendo version; I'd confirm it myself, but I haven't played it.
 
At the end of the day in the grand scheme of things this is a harmless game, and Capcom wanted to make an adaptation (as questionable as it may be) as easy and undemanding as it possibly could be; can you really blame them for that?  I still have mixed feelings on this game but I respect it as a noble attempt to appease fans of the movie.  It's got good things going for it and when all is said and done it's not bad.  If you have spare time (or are taking a small break at work should you for some reason bring a Game Boy with you) it's fun to play in short bursts, despite its issues.  If you're in the mood, this game is worth the time.  If you're expecting something bigger, than you may wish to lower your expectations and watch the movie it's based on.  The game is good, but you can't beat the original.  =)
6.5/10
( >'.')>TO EACH THEIR OWN<('.'< )
P.S.: Finally, I reviewed a Game Boy game without that accursed mediocre 5 rating!  =D  This is a momentous occasion, this calls for a celebration: DUBSTEP!!!  XD  *dances off to Muse's "Follow Me" instrumental*

P.S. 2: Regardless of how you all feel about the third movie, it did do one thing that neither of the first two movies or the TV series ever accomplished before: introduce us to Ariel's mother.  The only downside is how she died in the first few minutes of said movie during Ariel's toddler years.  Some might find the way she died tragic while others might deem it BS... to me it's for the most part sad, but I do get where the "BS" part comes from.  Although, it does explain King Triton's hatred for humans (forbidding contact with the surface world) when you think about it, since his wife died after a pirate ship had come and squashed her tail as she was saving some of her daughters from harm in the surface.

P.S. 3: Next up in my blog is my analysis on Wander Over Yonder's newest episode "The Good Deed" (which was really good), and dammit Craig McCracken, this is the second time I almost cried in the show already (five episodes in)!  Imagine that: a program by Disney that tugs at your emotional heartstrings.  I know, hard to believe!  =<  And just so everyone knows: I'm not a fanboy (that part in the commercial gag was a joke, which I hope people found funny).  =)  Just because I'm a fan of something it doesn't mean I'm obsessed or go "CoCo for Cocoa Puffs" about it; I do love Wander Over Yonder and I am a fan of that show, but a "fanboy" (not that anyone's ever called me that... at least I hope not)?  Not even close!  Gee, I hope I worded this properly; I'm also cautious and conscious about my writing when discussing moments like these, which is one of my weaknesses because I want to word these genuinely and carefully so as to give a proper idea of what I'm trying to convey.  =$

P.S. 4: Capcom's second (and last) attempt at making a video game adaptation based on a Disney movie, Disney's Aladdin for the SNES, would prove to be much superior in my humble opinion.

P.S. 5: You know what's funny?  In 1994, ex-Disney employee Don Bluth released Thumbelina (also based on a Hans Christian Anderson novel) where the titular character was voiced by Jodi Benson (as well also the case in all things The Little Mermaid), Kenneth Mars voiced Prince Cornelius' father (also a member of royalty just like King Triton in the series and first two movies), two people of different classes fall in love, it's a musical, the main character aspires to be and wants more to her life, and there are few moments that just feel so similar to or make you think of the movie The Little Mermaid.  I find it to be a funny coincidence, to be honest!  XD

P.S. 6: I know that like the Aladdin TV series that the TV series for The Little Mermaid lasted for two years, but there's a main difference.  The Little Mermaid had thirty-one episodes in just three seasons, while Aladdin amassed a whopping eighty-six episodes in just two seasons!  So yeah, Aladdin wins; hence the "The Little Mermaid was a short-lived show" comment!  =)

Thank you for reading my review!  Please leave a comment and I hope you have a great day, take care!  =)

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