Platform: Super NES
Year Released: 1993
At VGXPO last weekend, I spent plenty of time perusing the tables with older games for sale, digging through rows of NES, Sega Genesis, PS1, and SNES games to find worthy and reasonably-priced additions to my ever-growing collection. One of my acquisitions, Aladdin, was picked up because I remember playing the game and loving it as a child, albeit on my friend’s Sega Genesis. Most of the people I showed it to also had fond memories of the game, despite the fact that it was a movie tie-in directed at children. I was surprised to find out that, unlike most multi-platform games, Aladdin for the Super Nintendo was different from the Genesis version, even published by a different company. Still, I was excited to pop it in and give it a try.
In this era of video games, products based on hit movies almost always suck. Another trend I’ve noticed is that games directed at children are often dumbed-down, trite, boring, and sometimes barely functional. Obviously, this is not always the case, but it sometimes feels like publishers rush to get children’s games out, hoping that the intended audience is too young to know the difference. That’s why I wanted to see if this game held up as well as I remembered. It wasn’t the only movie-based game I ever played, nor was it the only one worth playing in the 16-bit era. However, it is a very solid platformer that can still offer a decent fun factor today, whether you’re a kid now or were in 1993.
While the SNES version of Aladdin, like the Genesis version, is a side-scrolling platformer, the title character is equipped with apples instead of a sword. My guess is that a sword-wielding hero was a little too violent for Nintendo, so instead he uses fruit to stun enemies that he can then jump upon. The controls are pretty basic, with Aladdin able to jump, throw, and move side to side, while his faithful monkey Abu follows him along. Each stage consists of several levels to clear, usually with a similar theme or background. Thankfully, the game uses passwords, and while that’s not preferable to an actual save system, it’s certainly better than restarting from the first level every time. Passwords are issued after a stage is cleared and consist of the faces of characters from the game and movie, which is cute.
As for the storyline, Aladdin actually does a pretty decent job of following the movie’s plot. I was impressed because many early tie-in games abandoned the story completely, which never made much sense to me. Though there are a few creative liberties, for the most part, the game is about Aladdin’s rise and fall from street rat to price and back again, as well as his meeting and rescue of Princess Jasmine. Some of the film’s music is included in the game, which is a positive for any fan of animated Disney movies, which I am. Aladdin even looks pretty good for a Super Nintendo game, with the backgrounds using impressive detail. All in all, it’s a pretty package.
There are a few issues with the gameplay, however, which can occasionally make you want to shut off your system. Jumping can sometimes be imprecise, whether you’re trying to land on a ledge or on an enemy’s head. If you don’t land on an enemy just right, you lose a bit of health, which is aggravating. Even more frustrating is when you don’t hit a ledge or rock where you should and plummet to your death. Lives aren’t exactly easy to come by, so they need to be conserved if you want to make it through the game. I also noticed a few levels in which the design just seemed cheap, as if the player was intended to fail. I know that older games were more difficult—sometimes to the point of frustration—because that was the main way to extend the replay value of the game, but that doesn’t excuse poor level design.
I was wary that the five dollars I spent on Aladdin wouldn’t be a good investment, but as it turns out, I’m actually quite pleased. After fifteen years, this is still a pretty good 16-bit platformer, which is even more impressive given that it’s based on an animated movie. It may not have the violence of the Sega Genesis version, but that’s excusable. The use of passwords means that I can easily go back and play this game stage by stage without having to start from the beginning each time, so I will probably spend a lot more time with Aladdin once the busy review season is over.