Developed by Virgin Interactive
Published by Virgin / Sega / Disney
Release in 1993
Travel back in time to a nineties playground and you will hear the sound of geeks arguing.
Clearly, the same source material has inspired similar ideas across both games but they seem to be executed with a bit more flare on the Super Nintendo. For example both games see Aladdin thrown into the abstract world of the Genie's magic lamp. The Snes presents this in a joyous explosion of colour and a similar stage on the Mega Drive is bland in comparison.
The background of the stage is solid black and the level is largely filled with blind leaps to platforms off-screen; by far the most aggravating part of the game. 'Aladdin' on the Snes is undeniably more creative and varied than the Mega Drive equivalent. bosses in the Virgin developed game are all identical to each other; a small Sprite sits in the middle of the screen that needs to be hit until it explodes. Meanwhile the Snes game's sees you riding on the back of a snake at one point, something I've not seen in any other game. But it isn't just bosses that are more unconventional in Capcom's 'Aladdin'. The Snes game plays more like a parkour platformer where your agility and ability to string jumps together lead to success. In contrast Virgin’s ‘Aladdin’ on the Mega Drive is a lot slower and certainly more repetitive. Like a stage seen in the Snes game, you do get to ride a carpet through a collapsing cave. However, this is the only short respite from lots of monotonous jumping. The majority of stages essentially see you just plotting a course through a level, climbing up ropes, avoiding obstacles and hacking enemies to death with your sword. Despite the film showing 'Aladdin' shying away from violence, the sword isn't the only weapon in the Mega Drive game. Aladdin can also throw apples which act like one hit kill grenades. However, while these deadly apples may be a useful way of clearing a platform that you wish to jump to, with a limited supply you must be sparing with them.
Most bosses, including the end of game boss, can only be beaten by throwing apples. If you've used the projectiles too excessively in the preceding level, the boss battles become significantly harder as you search to replenish your apple supply while avoiding their attacks. It's not 'Aladdin's only frustration though.
However while one or two can be navigated, a string of five or six timed jumps will prove to be a frustrating experience for a 6 year old. Worse still some later sections will require jumping to vanishing and moving platforms that hover over instant death pits. At least there are plenty of continue points, but run out of lives and a continue returns you to the start of a level. If that wasn't sufficiently unfair one level involves escape from a bolder. At least Genie's severed hand is there to point you I the best direction, well, it is for most of the stage. At several times the guiding arrow is replaced with a question mark so survival is simply down to blind luck. This literal helping hand would have been desirable in every stage as frequently there's a lack of direction. The large levels in 'Aladdin' feel confusing, where repeating backgrounds and re-spawning enemies make it hard to determine where you have already been and where you should be headed.
Exacerbating the problem more some routes only open when you have performed a random action elsewhere on the stage. With no on screen or audio indication that a new part has been unlocked, you'll fruitlessly search areas over and over.
Double page spreads in games magazines were keen to draw attention to the marriage of "Disney Magic" and "Sega Power". While it would be incorrect to claim that the Mega Drive was the more "powerful" machine, it would have been fair to say "the power" referred to Sega's ability to distribute the game. Dr. Clarke-Willson was the VP of Product Development at Virgin. To this day he remains shocked by how well 'Aladdin' sold on the Mega Drive. "At four million it is still one of the top ten video games, sales-wise, in the last fifteen years" he claims. "One factor was that Sega distributed the game for us. That alone could account for twice the sales. Sega had amazing distribution back in the day."
critically and commercially. Virgin had beat Capcom. Sega had won over Nintendo and yet the console war continues. "A while back, I got into a heated exchange with columnist Lisa Foiles about her flagrant proclamation that the Super Nintendo version of 'Aladdin' was superior to the Genesis version of 'Aladdin'" Kotaku's Kirk Hamilton recently admitted."Maybe I'm wrong. Enough people seem certain that the SNESversion was indeed the better game". To settle this "once and for all" Hamilton asked the readers of the Kotaku website to decide between the two 'Aladdin' games. The problem was that even this poll of more than 21,000 readers didn't reach a conclusive result. While more favoured the Mega Drive's 'Aladdin' it only received 58% of the votes; hardly unanimous.
Where did I get this game from?
Like so many of my Mega Drive games, I found 'Aladdin' in a bundle I bought from a local Facebook selling page. While it came with the manual, it wasn't in the best shape with a cigarette burn on the instruction manual. I always wonder why people would spend money on something (maybe £50 at the time of release) only to treat it so poorly.