Into the Vault: Little Mermaid: Magic in Two Kingdoms (GBA)
The Little Mermaid has had a long stretch as a video game franchise. It makes sense in some ways, it’s one of the most important and influential animated films of all time and has a huge following even decades after it’s debut and is still incredibly present in many ways in our everyday lives. Of course there would be repeated attempts to make hit video games based on it that might continue even to this day. And it’s been a fixture in major video games involving Disney properties such as the Kingdom Hearts series.
As such, there have certainly been some straightforward games based on the film, but also some oddball experimentation (pinball, anyone?). But the most nonsensical video game release based on The Little Mermaid to me might just be the 2006 Nintendo Gameboy Advance release The Little Mermaid: Magic in Two Kingdoms.
And it’s not even that releasing a Little Mermaid game in 2006 is weird, there are new Little Mermaid games that came out later than this. The timing even makes a lot of sense. Disney had re-released The Little Mermaid on DVD with a whole bunch of extras as part of its “platinum line” a new video game alongside that makes sense. The GBA was a very popular system, especially with kids, a game based on a kids movie releasing on the GBA makes total sense. All of that makes sense.
What absolutely does not make sense is that The Little Mermaid: Magic Between Two Kingdoms is just an extremely cut down slightly interactive retelling of the movie. Seriously, the game is maybe 30 minutes long. And even at that 30 minutes, the game feels stretched a little thin on content as some sections go on for way longer than you would want them to (I don’t need to play a rhythm game for “Under the Sea” three times in a row dammit). And again for some reason, huge chunks of the movie aren’t even included. If you are going to re-tell the movie, show the movie, even if it’s in retold in still images with talking heads, that would at least help the game feel more padded out.
There’s really only one aspect of the gameplay worth discussing, and only because it’s very odd, and that’s the stage where you play as Sebastian and are trying to escape the chef, but it also encapsulates everything about the gameplay. A stage based on Sebastian outrunning the crazy castle chef makes sense and could be fun. The stage itself is functional. It’s not broken or anything, but very perfunctory. What’s odd is that Sebastian is basically a super crab in this level, he can not just jump but double jump to what relative to his size is an astounding height. Why? for what purpose? Like you do use the ability but why did they design a level where you play as a tiny crab like that in the first place?
So while there’s nothing inherently awful about The Little Mermaid: Magic in Two Kingdoms, it just doesn’t make much sense as a game product. Would kids want a cliff notes version of one of their favorite movies? I think 14 years ago they’d just have their portable DVD player and watch it in the car and that would be a way better option. Also while 30-minute game recreations of a show or movie might’ve flown in the NES era (you can certainly beat some classic Capcom Disney faves from that era in that time), it definitely didn’t in 2006. The Little Mermaid: Magic in Two Kingdoms is pretty much the definition of a shoddy product desperately trying to cash in on a popular IP experience a boost in popularity due to a media re-release.
And this column is an opportunity to introduce a new review system I am in the process of trying out. I really wanted something themed in Disney, and this may be revised or just thrown out as time goes on. It’s inspired by the old Disneyland “ticket-ride” system. You used to have to buy a ticket book or at least individual tickets to go on rides, the more popular the ride the more expensive class of ticket you had to buy. These tickets were based on popularity of the ride, “A” being the least popular, and “E” being the most. With that in mind, here’s my official rating for The Little Mermaid: Magic in Two Kingdoms for the Nintendo Gameboy Advance:
That’s all for now, see ya real soon!