Sunday 19 February 2012

Donald no Magical World

A video game sponsored by the McDonald's fast-food restaurant chain? Well Christ I don't think I can cope with such a new and innovative concept - certainly haven't seen that before! And for the Sega Game Gear too? It's as if my prayers have finally been answered.

This is the poorly titled "Donald no Magical World", otherwise known as "Ronald in the Magical World", because it stars everyone's favourite clown, Ronald McDonald and he's in the... "Magical World". I'm guessing the executives in charge were hanging out there too.

I walked past a branch of Burger King not too long ago, and I can't say it looked pleasant. Sporting a late 1990s decor, with signage having not been cleaned since it was put up, it's clear that perhaps Burger King might not have moved with the times.

McDonald's, however, is a very different story. In the last few years they've really seemed to work towards losing that tacky image of yesteryear - their walls are dark green, complemented with a wood-grain supports. They advertise coffee, and distribute Happy Meals with carrot sticks instead of fries, to please the parents who shouldn't have been allowed to breed. Ronald's friends were murdered one-by-one by PR groups, while he himself was shoved onto the sidelines to catch dust. It's as if the company has "grown up", and I can't help but commend them for it. Burger King hasn't got that memo yet.

I could never imagine a game like Donald no Magical World being produced to complement the restaurant today. Now of course, it's a far more likely to happen than the revival of other attempts, which usually pitch pre-teens against the chemical waste industry in a flawed effort to raise environmental awareness, but there no longer seems to be that focus of only catering for the kids anymore. McDonald's outlets are respected by business for their free Wi-Fi hot-spots these days - they don't need the clown.

Donald no Magical World never left Japan, which might explain some of its differing design choices when compared to the likes of M.C. Kids or Global Gladiators. Donald no Magical World is a fairly standard platformer which doesn't dwell too much on the fast-food elements - something which might not match the louder and more colourful US marketing strategy. It's certainly not a game that makes you hungry, and I imagine that might defeat the point of something sponsored by place that sells food.

And perhaps this is the reason a western release was cancelled. That, or because... this isn't a good game. You play as Ronald McDonald, and he can jump, can hit things with a folded umbrella, and if you hold the up and 1 buttons while in mid-air, you can open said umbrella and glide. Levels generally have you wander about looking for a key, which in turn opens a door, which in turn leads you to a goal. And of course, since it's set in "Magical World", none of the enemies or settings bear any resemblance to anything ever. There's a boss to fight every few levels, and the threat of a game over if Ronald dies too often.

Donald no Magical World is allegedly a Treasure creation (Dynamite Headdy, Gunstar Heroes, Radiant Silvergun, Sin & Punishment, Ikaruga etc.) but it doesn't seem as if they were on form for this one. "McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure", a similar Sega Mega Drive adventure built by the company, shares a similar story and music, but has different gameplay and levels (bar a few shared mechanics here and there) and levels). You can class that one of as being reasonably entertaining, but it's a little harder to accept this Game Gear version. It lacks the charm of it's 16-bit cousin, is undeniably basic and doesn't stand as a very good reason to invest in the handheld. This is something you generally want to reverse if you're dealing with a system exclusive.

Much in Donald no Magical World is fairly predictable - the level design is a little awkward in places but it doesn't challenge, partly due to its target market. It is, however, painfully slow. Ronald is slow, the backtracking can be slow, and in a world popularised by Sonic the Hedgehog, it feels a bit outdated. For me at least, there isn't a huge incentive to keep playing until he end, mostly because it completely fails to do anything even remotely innovative or interesting. It truly is mediocre at best.

I've also never been too keen on Ronald McDonald and the cast of McDonaldland - when I look upon these 1980s relics they happily remind me of the artificial sweeteners and preservatives that plagued the restaurant back in the day. There could quite easily have been fuzzy purple things in the burgers - I don't really want to think about it. Also as a 90s child, I only really saw these characters in older, tackier McDonalds restaurants which hadn't been renovated (or cleaned) in a while. So the themes in this one don't really work for me.

And that's not even taking into account the fact that Ronald McDonald is a grown man dressed as a clown. He's never been an appealing mascot, and despite having existed for decades he's never really been given a personality. Predictably I find myself feeling a little indifferent about his pointless quests - at least you can relate to Mick and Mack (even if you don't really want to) - with Ronald, I'm not sure anyone really cares. I'm happy to let Grimace die. He's been "dead" for years.

You have a small number of hit points (extendable by playing redundant mini-games like card matching) and there's reasonable amount of levels to trawl through, but never does it take the same risks as the Mega Drive version. There are few diversions here and there, but ultimately it comes off as a bog-standard platform game with not a lot to give. I'm not even entirely sure if I could say it was good for kids, because kids don't tend to sit down with Game Gears these days and even in 1994 expected something a bit more from their game consoles.

The music is acceptable (though better on the Mega Drive) and the graphics are decent by Game Gear standards, but it's not one to hunt down. Still, if you should feel so inclined, the game will translate itself (poorly) into English if placed in a non-Japanese machine. It's a relatively solid Game Gear experience and you could do much worse, but it's not likely worth the six AAA batteries you'd waste completing it on the go. One for the history books, nothing else.


  1. McKids looks more fun than this :V

  2. Hi, thanks for this write up of this little known Game Gear game.
    One bit of misinformation to correct:
    this game was developed by "Sims" not Treasure.