Disney's Aladdin
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Developers:
    • Virgin Interactive (Genesis)
    • Disney Interactive Studios (Amiga/DOS)
    • NMS Software (GB/NES)
    • Crawfish Interactive (GBC)
  • Publishers:
    • Sega (Genesis)
    • Virgin Interactive (Amiga/DOS/GB/NES)
    • Ubisoft (GBC)
  • Released:
    Genesis
    • 11/11/1993
    Amiga
    • UK 1994
    DOS
    • US 1994
    • UK 1994
    GB
    • UK 12/08/1994
    • US October 1995
    NES
    • UK 12/31/1994
    GBC
    • UK 11/10/2000
    • US 11/30/2000
Score: 75%

This review was published on 02/26/2017.

Disney's Aladdin is a side-scrolling platform video game developed by Virgin Interactive and published by Sega for the Sega Genesis and Mega Drive. It was originally released worldwide on November 11, 1993. The game received a slightly enhanced port on the Commodore Amiga and Microsoft DOS in 1994. A massively downscaled port also came out on the Nintendo Entertainment System and Game Boy in 1994, but a slightly better version of that port was released on the Game Boy Color in November 2000. As its name implies, this game is based on the animated Disney film of the same name, which was first shown in theaters on November 25, 1992. It was the most successful movie that year, garnering over $504 million in revenue worldwide, $217 million of which came from the United States alone. The success prompted Disney to license various companies to make games based on the film for countless platforms. Despite sharing the same name, many of these games were radically different. The two most well known ones are on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis. They also happen to be the two best Aladdin games, though the SNES one, made by Capcom, is better. However, this is a review of the Genesis version.

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Based on an old Arab styled folktale from The Arabian Nights book, Disney's interpretation of Aladdin is set in the fictional sultanate of Agrabah. One day, Jafar, the Grand Vizier of the Sultan, sent a thief to the mysterious Cave of Wonders to retrieve a magical lamp. However, the cave trapped the thief inside it and revealed that only a "diamond in the rough" could enter. Later, Jafar discovers that the cave was referring to an impoverished young lad living in Agrabah named Aladdin. Said lad was thieving in the marketplace when he met Princess Jasmine, the Sultan's daughter, and the two immediately fell in love. Much to Jasmine's dismay, Jafar sends guards to apprehend Aladdin and drag him off to prison. There, Jafar disguises himself as an old man and frees Aladdin, tricking him to go into the Cave of Wonders to retrieve the lamp for him. Aladdin manages to keep the lamp from Jafar, and soon discovers that it contains a genie named, well, Genie. Now Aladdin has three wishes, but Jafar is still scheming behind the scenes. What happens next? Well, you'd know if you watched the movie. The game follows the movie's plot, but it improvises a little.

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While Aladdin on the SNES is the better overall game, the one on Genesis has overall better visuals. The SNES version still has a slightly more vibrant color palette, but the Genesis one has more detailed artwork and better animation. This is highly unusual, because the SNES has superior graphical hardware to the Genesis. As for why this is the case, it's likely due to the people at Virgin Interactive working together with Disney during the game's development. The game used traditional animation done by actual Disney animators while under the supervision of Virgin's animation staff, including animation producer Andy Luckey, animation director Mike Dietz, and technical director Paul Schmiedeke. They used a process referred to as "Digicel" to compress the data onto the cartridge. A bunch of arranged music from the movie is also featured in the game, which doesn't sound half bad. Some of it does sound a little goofy, though. Goofy isn't even in this game!

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You control the eponymous Aladdin for most of this game. He can run, jump, duck, and look up. There are various things in the environment he can interact with, like ropes he can climb up or down on, poles he can slide down, horizontal flagpoles he can somersault off of, and he's able to climb hand over hand on clotheslines and other similar objects. Unlike the SNES version, Aladdin is armed with a sword in this game; a scimitar, to be precise. In addition to being able to swing it while on the ground, he can slash his sword while running, jumping, and even climbing. While ducking, he'll do a stabbing motion instead of a swing. It's even possible for Aladdin to deflect swords and daggers thrown at him by swinging his sword at the right time. Alternatively, Aladdin can collect apples throughout the game and throw them at enemies to damage them. The controls are decent enough, but Aladdin's movements feel a little sluggish.

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Also unlike the SNES version, Aladdin can't harm enemies by stomping on them, so he has to stick to chucking apples and using his sword. Unfortunately, the spotty collision detection makes it difficult to determine the exact range of Aladdin's blade. You'll also often get hit by things that look like they shouldn't have hit you. There's almost no feedback when getting hit, either. Aladdin merely says "ouch" and flashes for a short while; there's no knockback or anything. On the one hand, not having knockback makes things slightly easier. On the other hand, this hurts the feel of the game, because Aladdin doesn't quite feel solid. It's almost like he's a ghost passing through his foes. Also, Aladdin's life bar is represented by smoke coming out of a lamp, but it's hard to tell exactly how much health he has left. None of these things are game breakers, but they do cheapen the experience somewhat.

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As the opening screen shows, there are quite a few collectibles in this game. Besides the aforementioned apples, there are gems that can be used to purchase extra lives and continues from the peddler's shop, blue Genie hearts that restore varying amounts of Aladdin's health, black lamps that kill all enemies on the screen, Genie faced vases that act as checkpoints, and more. You've also got Genie tokens that let you play a slot machine styled bonus game in between stages; each token gives you a chance to win extra gems, apples, and lives. Then there are tokens in the shape of Abu, Aladdin's pet monkey. These let you play a bonus game after completing stages where you take control of Abu. As Abu, you must avoid falling objects, defeat enemies with your sword, and collect items. Getting hit once immediately ends the Abu mini-game, though, and it's ridiculously hard. Anyway, the game kind of overdoes it with the collectibles, and their functions aren't obvious unless you read the manual.

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Many of the locations in the movie are stages in this game, such as Agrabah's marketplace, the wondrous Cave of Wonders, the palace dungeon, and the palace itself. However, some stages take place in locations not from the movie, like a desert area with ancient ruins and a magical world within Genie's lamp. Sadly, the stage design lacks direction. Most stages only have one path leading to the goal, but because you go up, left, and around, it's hard to tell if you're on the right track. You'll often see paths that you can't quite reach, giving you the impression that you're going the wrong way. Some of the stages also flat out suck. For example, the dungeon stage is fairly boring, as you spend most of it waiting around for blocks to jut out from the wall so you can jump on them. Then there's the incredibly unforgiving escape sequence from the Cave of Wonders, where nearly everything kills you in one hit. The same goes for the rather lackluster Magic Carpet ride, which only lets you fly upwards and downwards. Surprisingly, the last two stages are the best in the game, as they're the most straightforward.

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This game has far bosses than the Aladdin on the SNES, but they're far less good. First of all, you don't fight any bosses until the third stage, at which point you fight two back-to-back. That's some weird pacing. At any rate, the main issue with the bosses in this game is that they all have disgustingly simple attack patterns. For instance, one boss is a palace guard who throws barrels at you, Donkey Kong style, and does nothing else. All you do is jump over his barrels and throw apples at him to win. He's even simpler than Donkey Kong, as he doesn't vary his barrel throwing pattern at all. Keep in mind that Donkey Kong originally came out in 1981. The battle with Iago is similarly monotonous, because he doesn't do much other than spawn ghosts to chase you. The final battle against Jafar is also rather anticlimactic, being that you just chuck apples at him while he does the same attack repeatedly. Apples are necessary to beat most of the bosses, but in a rare display of good design, the game will give you more apples if you run out. It's too bad that good design didn't extend to the bosses themselves.

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The Amiga and DOS ports are surprisingly accurate to the original as far as graphics go. The only major visual difference is the new HUD interface at the top, which displays stuff like the current score, health, lives, apples, and gems. When it comes to the music, they've both been enhanced to varying degrees, but the DOS version is better, especially since it has some audible lyrics for the opening song. The lyrics sound a bit garbled, but they're a far cry better than the shoddy voice samples of the Genesis version. The other ports aren't as good. The Game Boy and NES versions are downright awful. Graphically and musically, these two versions are terrible, featuring tiny sprites with poor animation and sparse environments. They also play like molasses, with everything moving in what feels like bullet time. The stage layouts are surprisingly true to the original, but that's of little comfort considering how bad everything else is. The Game Boy Color port is a little better, as it's faster and has more colors, but it's still vastly inferior to the Genesis original. Unless you have access to the Amiga or DOS versions, the Genesis original is your best bet.

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It's by no means a bad game, but Disney's Aladdin on the Genesis has a couple of issues that prevent it from being the true classic that the SNES version is. The Genesis version does do a few things better than the SNES one, though. For one, it's got better graphics and animation, truly capturing the likeness of the characters from the film. For two, you've got a sword, which is freaking cool. You can even have sword fights with some of the guards! However, the SNES Aladdin has better controls and tighter stage design, resulting in a much more polished product. Aladdin on the Genesis is all flash and no substance.

Word Count: 1,808

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