The Average Gamer

Retroreflection #2: Aladdin Vs… Aladdin?

Aladdin Mega Drive vs SNES
This edition of Retroreflection is one that many may still be torn over: The Sega Mega Drive’s Aladdin, or the Super Nintendo Aladdin?

Forget the current resolution wars between Call of Duty on PS4 and Xbox One; this one intellectual property added to the already-brutal console wars of the 90’s, and literally split fans 50/50 (only kidding). I remember having brutal arguments with friends when I was 13 years old, unjustifiably defending my choice (SNES) even though I’d never played a second of the Mega Drive version. I was a SNES fanboy at that time, I won’t deny it.

Having experienced both from start to finish, is there an actual definitive answer? In this week”s Retroreflection column, let’s see which one truly is the diamond in the rough. (Sorry).

Aladdin (SNES)

First of all, Aladdin on both SNES and Sega Mega Drive were published and developed independently, the former byaladdinsnes1 Capcom, due to its Disney licensing rights with Nintendo consoles at the time. It is a simple, enjoyable and often challenging 2D side-scrolling platformer, with some of the crispest visuals to ever appear on the platform, and a great, faithful soundtrack. Although not the longest of games, every level plays out at pretty breakneck pace, as you vault from posts in the ground and swing from those stuck out of walls, Prince of Persia-like.

Capcom also used the Super Mario method of bad guy disposal: jumping on them. This version was the first hit game of designer Shinji Mikami, of Resident Evil/Vanquish fame, and it is indeed the level design that is Aladdin’s greatest attribute. The traversing of obstacles flow effortlessly when negotiated with the desired precision, in order to get all the health-increasing gems and 1ups. It’s a game to perfect as well as conquer, with the charm and essence of the movie all wrapped up in a nice few hours of entertainment.

Aladdin (Sega Mega Drive)

This version was published and developed by online casino Sega and Virgin Games respectively, with Sega’s licensing giving them something Capcom didn’t – working with Disney’s Animation Studios. Yes, Disney actually animated this game, so naturally, the character sprites looked ripped right out of the movie, and are superbly animated. But not just the visuals were different; Aladdin was given a sword, and jumping on enemies just caused you harm – cue a more recent Prince of Persia homage with its basic swordplay. For those enemies further away, collected apples could be thrown, which added an extra dimension to the very few boss fights.

So. Much. Rage.

So. Much. Rage.

Unfortunately for me, the fun factor soon transitions into massive frustration, and ultimately annoyance. The learning curve steeply rises about halfway through, while the ‘Rug Ride’ level was nearly as frustrating and life-sapping as the infamous Battletoads in Battlemaniacs’ bike level.

Compared to the SNES Genie level, it’s just a mess in level design, and at times very difficult. Catching, holding and jumping between several balloons with instant death should you miss, just felt unnecessary. Who knew Robin Williams’ Genie was so malicious? Oh wait, he wasn’t, so why is he TRYING TO KILL ME?

Another soon-to-be-famous designer was responsible for this version: Dave Perry, of Earthworm Jim fame. You can see the resemblances between the two. Unfortunately for Dave, I wasn’t a fan of Earthworm Jim either, despite both games’ success. It looks nice, though, I suppose.

References today

You have my view, but the debate still rages on between the two. As recently as February 2014, Polygon posted an interview with Shinji Mikami, who stated he preferred the animation of the Mega Drive version, and further complimented the game by saying he would have probably bought the Mega Drive version – if he hadn”t have made the SNES version of course. Over on Twitter, only this week someone declared their love for Aladdin on the Mega Drive to the @GAMEdigital handle, only for Game to re-tweet and add an image…..of the SNES version, later claiming it would be a ‘clearer’ image. Take that, Dave Perry.