If you didn’t know any better you may thinking this is just another middle to low range film to game adaptation, however this is not the case. Aladdin is the 3rd best selling game for the Sega Genesis, and the other two were at some point pack in titles. The game is a legitimate side scrolled, beautifully animated graphics, excellent 16 bit midi music, some inter-level story, bonus levels, Easter eggs, and spot on difficulty.
There is a reason why I chose this as the first video game to review. Christmas 1993, I got my very first video game system and began my transition from kid to gamer, buying video games instead of action figures (the process was however slow and not complete or permanent.), I was 9 years old. I had originally requested/wanted Sonic Spinball, but for Christmas that year I got Aladdin. Many years later I did get Sonic Spinball as part of the Sonic Mega Collection for the GameCube, and comparing the two games, my dad/parents, absolutely made the right choice. On top of being a great game, Aladdin was for a long time my favorite Disney movie, and even now it is probably my second favorite (my first is the obscure war time anthology film “Melody Time”), I’ve even seen the entire trilogy, I don’t know how many people can even say that.
Let’s go through the game shall we?
There is a story to the game and it follows the movie fairly well, or at least I assume it does. The intertitles play so fast though that I cannot read them, I know I’m not the fastest reader out there but come on, this is a kids game after all. The first level takes place in Agrabah, the background score is a rendition of “Prince Ali”.
In the second level you are in the desert searching for the first half of the scarab, the soundtrack is an original and jazzy number aptly titled “Camel Jazz”. To make the level a little more interesting the scarab moves the first two times you catch it, and it is not exactly in the primary path, you do have to do a little bit of searching for it. There’s an interesting and helpful Easter egg in this level, early on, on a close line between two palm trees there’s a couple of garments hanging and one of them is a pair of mickey mouse ears, if you push Aladdin at the exact right spot so that it looks like he’s wearing the ears there is a gaging sound and a 1up appears. There’s another part where you have to run across tree tops that are very slippery. I still have a bit of trouble with this part. This is also the first time I experienced game rage, after about 20 minutes of not being able to get up the trees (on Christmas day of 93, I remember my dad actually helped me get through it by reading the instructions to me.). At the end there are 3 tall narrow tents that are clearly supposed to be some sort of Bedouin outhouses, the men and women’s are easy enough to spot, but the third is for genies.
In level three you are on the Agrabah roofs, with the music being a rendition of “One Step,” and it looks pretty similar, however the overall path is much more up then right oriented. This is the only level in the game that has 2 bosses. First you have to fight Gazeem (the short thief from the movie) then get the other half of the scarab and the flute and ride the rope that takes you to the main boss (charging up your health and apples if you need it)
Level 4 is the dungeon, and the background music is “Arabian Nights.” There are several background Easter eggs to look out for. There is a high number of skeletons in the dungeon, which is no surprise, what is surprising is that several of them are warring Mickey Mouse ears (the trick of “putting them on” does not work here; I’ve tried it at most of the possible places), also Sebastian the talking crab from The Little Mermaid is chained to the wall in several places. I love how there is a large exit sign hanging over the door at the end of the level, I don’t think most dungeons of that era had that particular safety feature.
Level 5 is the cave of wonders, with an original minor key song for the background. This is the midpoint of the game and done well by both starting and ending several features of the game. This is the last of three levels to future an Abu Bonus Level (the other two are found in the Streets of Agrabah and the roofs of Agrabah, and they are exactly the same, called Abu in Agrabah). This is the first level to feature the fez warring spitting flounders, the sexy stone statues, and the first time the magic carpet appears.
Level 6 is the hardest in my opinion “The Escape,” with an original fast tempo score called Arab Rock 2 (Arab Rock 1 is used for the Abu bonus levels). It always takes me many many times to get through, I probably spend a third of the time on the entire game trying to get through here. The cave of wonders has turned into a volcano with lava and boulders, and a high amount of max length platform jumps. There is a 1up at about the midpoint of the level so you won’t lose a whole lot of lives if you’re good, but there are no restart points. The worst is the jump at the very end, a trust fall into nothing that if you don’t do absolutely perfectly the bolder behind you will catch you and then you have to do the whole level over again. If you do make the trust fall then the flying carpet comes out, saves you and takes you to the next level.
Level 7 “Rug Ride” may actually be harder than the escape, but luckily the game only makes you attempt the level 3 times, and then lets you move on. The entire level is in the same volcanic cave of wonders, and you are on the rug the whole time trying to dodge flying boulders, no point using your sword or apples they won’t do anything or even work for you in this level. It has an original song too and it is my favorite song in the entire game, with about twice the tempo as the previous, and it is the only level in the game with apple quarters. It’s easy enough at first and there is at least one 1up to get so you won’t lose any/many lives in this level either, but it gets incredibly fast at the end (I could have sworn I saw (but not played) an Abu bonus level for this level too, in which Abu was flying right to left doing essentially the same thing, and at the very end of the level there are several 1ups moving so fast that one of them might actually be an Abu icon. Regardless I have not played that bonus level.)
Level 8 takes place inside the magic lamp, and the BGM is “Friend Like Me.” The level is tough for its wide array of pitfalls, slippery genie stuff (if you’ve read the Bartemeus books that stuff is called “essence”), and tight platforming, but the more relaxing music, calmer colors and the fact that you are not being chased by anything will help you make it through fairly easily. Both Column A and Column B appear as obstacles, and if you look closely on the background walls you can an original Sega Genesis. The exit door for this level is the genie himself with his tongue in the shape of stairs. This is the only level in the second half of the game not to feature the flying carpet.
Level 9 is the Sultan’s Palace, with a very nice cool marble color, and an original smooth jazzy number for the BGM called “Turban Jazz”. First you have to make your way through the water gaurden by jumping onto flamingos. As far as visuals go this is my favorite level of the game, though the rug ride is slightly more fun to play. The boss for this level is Eago (the parrot voiced by Gilbert Godfried from the movie, who (spoiler alert) turns to an anti-hero or quizi-good guy in the other two movies in the trilogy, and the animated series).
Level 10, the last level of the game, “Jeffars palace.” It has the same music as “The escape” and is even harder because of the end boss. The palace is now in red and orange tones with the background pillars in snake form. The sexy stone statues are back this time tinged in blue which somehow makes them even sexier (I’ve clearly spent more time thinking about these sprits then I should have). The final boss is Jaffar and he is the only two stage boss in the game, first he’s in his normal form, pulling you toured himself with his staff, and once you’ve thrown about ten apples at him he turns into snake form, throwing waves of fire at you from the ground. If you jump on the platform fire will appear appear burn your feet unless you keep moving. In snake form he takes at least another ten or fifteen hits with apples and her is the big problem. When you die you only get 10 apples, and when you jump on the carpet you only pick up a half dozen more, so you will run out and quickly, appels will appear on the platforms but getting them is problematic. It can be done though, it’s not impossible. After Jaffar disappears the congratulations screen pops up, Aladdin flies away with jasmine on the magic carpet and then kisses her as the credits role with “a whole new world” playing in the background.
I beat the game (without cheating), I believe for the first time in my life, after playing the game for 3 hours for this review. I played on another two hours so I could talk about the code and give a brief overview of the SNES counterpart.
Go to the option screen and press ACACACACBBBB and you will hear the 1up sound effect, a screen comes up with a digitized picture of a man’s face and a line underneath reading “Ah, Dave Perry! What’s your wish?” followed by the cheat screen. There’s some interesting numbers such as tiles used per map and a certain amount of RAM bits used which is interesting because I didn’t think there was any RAM in the game (i.e. no save option). At the bottom of this screen is your cheat menu. There is a cheat mode you can turn on (which I’ll get to in a minute), and a map view mode, in this mode Aladdin goes invisible and you scroll through the whole map, unfortunately it doesn’t work if there’s things you need to collected like in the Desert, or something you need to touch like in the Cave of Wonders. There’s also an option to start on any level of the game (this is interesting if you want to practice the harder levels like the escape, or do the some of the latter more fun levels, unfortunately as soon as you finish the level you go to the desert and proceed to play through the rest of the game, and you have to redo the level you started at when it finally comes up. So it’s more of just an interesting curiosity then a quick way of beating the game.).
The SNES counterpart made by CAPCOM has always gotten a lot of flak for being much less of a game then the Genesis version. I do not own the game (and have no plans on owning it any time soon) but I have played it on Vizzed Board just to make a comparison. You have a jump attack but no sword (part of the stereotype that Genesis was a more adult system) and the graphics are much more pixilated, not awful but much worse by comparison. They are not the same game by any means; the levels are mapped much differently with multiple acts per stage. You only get four hits where in the Genesis version you get 9 hits on one life, and the system is not able to handle a lot going on at once and will slow down in parts, you never see this in the Genesis game (perhaps owing to the “blast processing.”) I had to use 2 continues by the second stage and gave up from there, but I could probably do better if I played the game more often.
The NES version of the game is even more unusual. It is a port of the genesis version with generally the same map and music, but the graphics and sound are much worse (it is an 8-bit system so I can’t complain about that too much) the big complaint is that Aladdin is carrying the same scimitar yet he is only able to use it if he runs out of apples (I rarely even use the apples in the Genesis game, even though they are abundant). The other problem is that the system really struggles with the processing and it causes not just the screen but the control response time to be quite sluggish.
According to some (like the Angry Video Game Nerd) if a game is available for both Genesis and SNES then usually the SNES game is the better option. Aladdin is generally the big exception, but this is kind of unfair. The SNES version is not what I would call a “Bad Game” but the Genesis version is damn close to a perfect game.
One last thing to do before I wrap up this rather long game review: Speed run the game on Cheat Mode. In Cheat mode nothing hurts you, you can still suffer from the pitfalls, but you won’t loose any lives doing this, if anything hits you it does no damage. It took me an hour to beet the game the last time I beat it, on cheat mode it took: 28:38 (7 minues spent on the escape)