The Little Mermaid is a rather simple action side-scroller. You play Ariel, a mermaid princess, who has just given up life as a human to return to the ocean and save her undersea friends. She sets out to defeat Ursula, an evil witch that is trying to take over the ocean, and battles all manner of marine life along the way. One of the many games based on a Disney animated movie, this is one of the most overlooked. The NES version was produced by Capcom of America.
Taken from the instruction manual:
"Flounder, Sebastian and Scuttle have bad news. The evil witch Ursula is taking over the whole ocean! To save her friends, Ariel gives up her human form, and her prince, Eric, to rush back to the foamy depths of the sea. She must stop Ursula!"
Back to mermaid form you go! The game is set mostly underwater with a few brief points where you're allowed to jump onto land. There are a total of five stages and one final boss stage, making it a short game compared to other NES titles that were released around that time. You move from section to section, battling fish, seahorses, shrimp and crabs until you reach the boss for each level. Boss fights are pretty much all the same, with the exception of the type of boss you're fighting. You use bubbles generated by your tail to encase the local wildlife in a large bubble, allowing you to grab hold of them. These bubbles can then be thrown at other fish, nooks and crannies, or the boss of the level. You also pick up shells to use as shields, a la koopa shells in Super Mario, as well as busting open locks on treasure chests. Treasure chests generally hold red and blue (the manual calls them green) pearls that enhance your bubble-generating powers. Red pearls enhance bubble power and blue enhance the range that your bubbles travel. With no power pearls, you need to hit small enemies twice to encase them and cannot move objects with your tail. After obtaining one power pearl, you can encase small enemies with one hit and you can set barrels rolling. After two, you can encase large fish and push small rocks. At three, you can push large rocks and the enemies you encase will sink. Concerning the nooks and crannies that I mentioned earlier, you will encounter parts of the scenery that will have a space just wide enough in which to throw a small fish. In most cases, if you do just that, you will receive a heart or treasure item. Small hearts refill one health unit, large hearts refill three, and the two treasure items only serve to give you bonus points after completing the level. Ariel can also dig up seashells by swinging her tail through the sand.
I don't know if it's just my eyes, but it seems that the colors aren't exactly what they should be. The reds are more magenta and greens are more cyan. This may actually be because the NES does not output in true RGB, but I'm no expert on these things. Other than this, the graphics are standard NES issue. Depending on the level, your surroundings are reminiscent of a coral reef, sunken ship, or ice-filled arctic ocean. The sprites (enemies, player, objects) are drawn to the likeness of characters in the movie, right down to the strange eel-like kelp that appears just before Ursula's lair. Ursula herself, in true boss form, takes up 75% of the screen, although most of her is not animated.
The music reminded me of Adventure Island because of all the Caribbean music being played throughout the main parts of the levels. The music during the "cut scenes" is pretty decent, but the boss music is basic and is the same for each boss with the exception of the final battle with Ursula. The end music is, of course, a part of the song "Under the Sea" from the movie. The sound effects are good, with the exception that the same sound effect is used both when you are injured and when a boss is injured.
Control is very good and easy to get used to, as is customary with most Capcom games. Ariel swims around the screen in free movement and she can speed through the water when you hold B. Pressing A will generate bubbles for trapping enemies, moving objects and stirring up items from the sand. In level 5, you also use A to enter doorways. Pressing start will bring up the status screen, showing your score, number of lives, number of blue and red pearls and bubble style.
Given the simplicity of this game, I didn't think I would enjoy replaying it. However, after playing through the game three times in less than a day, it does seem to have some replay value, if only to give you the satisfaction beating a video game without losing any lives. This game would actually be a good candidate for speed runs, if someone hasn't done that already. Actually, I might see if there's a world record set for this game yet...
This is an all around fun game for when you have under an hour to kill. I personally enjoy playing through it on my PSP since the speed in which you can play through it is conducive to a handheld game as well as the PSP's average battery life (Ooh, right in the kidney, PSP!). You can find this pretty much anywhere that NES games are sold for under $5.00. At the very least, The Little Mermaid will give gamers of all ages and abilities something they can brag about upon completion.