The GBA has been on a SNES port drip since the day it was first committed to market. Almost every one of our SNES favourites has appeared or is in transit, and with a few exceptions, they haven't changed much. Of course some games have - Mario Kart being the prime example - but in the case of games like Disney's Magical Quest, changes are negligible, and to be completely honest, they weren't terribly good in the first place.
The real reason Disney's Magical Quest exists at all on GBA is its big brother, Disney's Magical Mirror. This original Cube title from Capcom will partner up with its little brother to some end, but as neither game is going to brush shoulders with Mario for the platforming crown, this isn't too important. Magical Quest is a simple six-level platformer with a number of sub-sections in the oldest of old school traditions. Mickey races around these levels bopping bad guys on the head and negotiating platforms, bosses and various, mercifully brief sections of plot. One change from the original formula here is the option to use Minnie - a totally superficial change, mind.
The plot is the usual platform dross, and because it's Disney it's simple enough to make sense to the kids. This is no Kingdom Hearts. Pluto has been stolen by the evil Emperor Pete, and Mickey has to go and get him back. Along the way he becomes steadily more magical with the assistance of an old wizard, and his costume and abilities change accordingly. Later on, for example, Mickey can fire magic bolts out of his fingertips and latch onto platforms with a hook, but to begin with it's simple bop, bop, bopping along without much imagination or variation.
That's not to say the design is bad, it's just so-so. You bop enemies on the head and throw them at others, you use special propeller fruit to climb into the skies, you ride boulders across beds of thorns, and you head-bop bosses who zip around the screen until they dissipate into nothing and lead you onto the next section. And in an unfortunate blow, the GBA port has a few annoying leap-of-faith moments right from the get-go - a harsh situation given the game's audience, and harsher still given its die-and-start-over approach. Falling through a gap you couldn't see off the bottom of the screen is unfair.
In order to try and spice up proceedings, Capcom has included four mini-games for single player and link play, but these seem to have been an afterthought and suffer accordingly. Each game is based on one of Mickey's special abilities, and challenge Mickey to race to the top of a steep climb or something like that. Playing in multiplayer is possible on one cart - a good move - but the actual gameplay is tedious and uninspired, and what's worse, you have to turn the GBA off and on again to change game!
The GBA has had its fair share of clangers, and a large number of the almost-good. Disney's Magical Quest falls into the latter category, and it's a shame, because if started afresh, Capcom could have done something interesting with this. Sadly, it was a three or four-hour long adventure with little to add to the platform stable when it was a SNES title, and as a port it ranks amongst the mediocre and the unremarkable.