It's no secret that My Little Pony is a big franchise and naturally something that large in scope would spurt out all sorts of media. Whenever I hear about things that fans have wanted with FiM, I always hear of a full blown video game on actual consoles. When you think of a video game based off MLP, you'll probably immediately think of that Gameloft app on mobile. But believe it or not the older generations of MLP actually had their own video games.
My Little Pony - Crystal Princess: The Runaway Rainbow on the Game Boy Advance. A game from Generation 3 of MLP.
The Runaway Rainbow was published by THQ. Yes, the company that published Saints Row 1 to 3 were involved with this. The game itself is based off the film with the same name. So yes, this is technically a movie game. Most games based on movies have a stigma of not being very good. Does The Runaway Rainbow break that tradition? Does it challenge the stigma? Is it an outlier?
I'll be honest, this game isn't very good, but the novelty of it being an MLP game is something special in it's own right and I think it deserves to be looked at.
Chances are that you haven't seen the film or played the game, so I'll break down the plot for you. There's a city known as Unicornia (Essentially the G3 equivalent of Canterlot). A young unicorn named Rarity is learning about being a Rainbow Princess, since she has the sole responsibility of creating the first rainbow of the season. Rarity ends up goofing off and accidentally transports herself far away to far away. This is a problem, as with Rarity gone, there won't be anypony to perform the ceremony and that means no more rainbows. Rarity finds herself at Breezie Blossom, home of the Breezies. They take Rarity to Ponyville, where she meets Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Spike and others and they go on a journey to bring her home while racing against time.
The game has five chapters. You start the game in Unicornia, but you soon travel to the peaceful Breezie Blossom, Ponyville, a mountain and even go camping. The graphics and sprites look pretty solid, considering that this game was released towards the end of the life of the GBA. The characters definitely look like they're from the source material and the scenery is pleasant to look at. Not really much I can talk about regarding the control, because for the most part, minigames are the only thing that's really involved. They control fine, anyone can pick up and play.
Speaking of which, you'll spend most of your time doing fetch quests and playing minigames. Admittedly, some of the minigames are pretty fun. One of my favourites is one where you have to make an ice cream sundae, but the problem is that they aren't really fleshed out enough. Interesting piece of trivia: The telescope minigame in the Gameloft app was originally from this game.
The game itself is pretty short, so you could easily finish it in less than two hours. I think the developers realised this, because the game doesn't even have a save system, but rather relies on passwords. Considering the time that this game came out, that was surprising, as save files had been basically normalised in games at that point.
Considering the demographic and especially because bronies were an even bigger rarity back then (Haha), this game was purely marketed towards very young girls. The game is genuinely one of the easiest I've ever played, to the point where you really can't lose. Even if you mess up the minigames, there is no major penalty or repercussions. I can't really blame the game for that considering who it's aimed at. The developers probably wanted children to have an easy-going and comfortable experience over a challenging one. I wouldn't really associate a My Little Pony with a game that is as hard as nails, especially at a time where an adult fanbase barely existed and had no real presence in the marketing.
One thing I can definitely compliment the game for is the soundtrack. Considering how obscure this game was, the soundtrack is relatively unknown. It's actually some seriously good stuff and I recommend you give it a listen. I'd personally tell you to listen to the GBA soundtrack. The PC version has most of the same songs, but I think the only track that beats the GBA version is Ponyville. Just personal preference, I suppose. Here's my two favourite tracks:
Oh and yes, I said "PC version." Interestingly enough, The Runaway Rainbow got a PC release. It was more or less the same game and followed the same structure and story, except for the fact that it had 3D models and full blown voice acting. The models and style of the game definitely screams mid 2000s. Like most games of this nature, it was a simple point & click game. I'm pretty sure this version was far more obscure than the GBA one, because I had to spend an hour looking for footage for it.
The game came out on September 13 2006, one day after the film, so it's safe to say that they were being made at the same time. What really shocked me was the fact that they released it for the GBA. The DS was already out and had two models and even the Wii was almost out, so I don't know why they opted to release it for an older system. But guess what? They actually ended up releasing a game for the DS in 2008, called Pinkie Pie's Party. Unlike the GBA one, this wasn't based on a film and was its own thing. I can't really give you much of an opinion, since the only experience I have with the game was glancing at the cover back in 2010 and watching some footage on YouTube.
But the real kicker was that there were more games before this. Generation 3 had another PC game in 2004 and even Generation 2 had one all the way back in 1998. Like Pinkie Pie's Party, I haven't played any of them, but they are point & click games. They're products of their time of course, but I think the idea behind them is interesting.
I'm actually kind of surprised that they never made a full blown game for FiM. I guess because the show got so popular, they didn't want to taint it with a licensed game. Then again, keeping that popularity in mind, making a game would pretty much be a sure-fire way of printing money.
With that said, The Runaway Rainbow is definitely the most accessible. A baked potato of a PC can run a GBA emulator these days, so you could very well experience it for yourself if you have an hour or two to kill. It's also the most well known out of all the games mentioned here, but I mostly used that as an excuse to just talk about MLP games in general, as I feel that it's an interesting, yet very underlooked topic.
So now I'll leave you with something to take away from this. What would you want from an MLP game?