Aladdin, Gaming and Disney Magic
Guest review by RetroBoyJon
Ah Disney, once, before they owned everything ever created by man, they used to make cartoons, remember that? I wonder what old Walt will think about where they are now when they thaw out his head and attach it to a robot Futurama style?
They've lost something for me.
Anyway, their heyday for me was that period in the 90's when some of the staples of my childhood like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and The Lion King came out. Classics.
Films I watch a lot more now that I have a toddler to entertain. Now, why am I talking about those films in a gaming blog I hear you cry? Well Disney's hot streak in the 90's wasn't just in the cinema. During the 16 bit era they were also involved in some of the greatest platform games ever made. Yeah you heard me. Quackshot, The Lion King, Castle and World of Illusion and Aladdin to name but a few. And it's Aladdin specifically I want to talk about today.
Released in 1993 a year after the movie, it was developed by Virgin Interactive, with support from Disney themselves.
Back then, I borrowed it from a friend to see what it was like, I was 11 or 12 and Disney wasn't something cool that I would ever admit to my friends as liking, but let's be honest, Princess Jasmine was hot and I'd heard good things about the game, so gave it a go, and boy, was I blown away.
I played it on the Sega Megadrive, the version which is pretty much universally accepted as better than the SNES version (sorry Ninty fans!) I remember firing it up for the first time, hearing a Brave New World from the movie playing and seeing the titles over the purple image of the palace, ah, still brings back great feelings. It had that feel like you were about to play something special and boy is that not wrong.
On paper it's fairly standard, a platform game set over 10 levels, you fight your way through collecting gems to spend on extra lives and continues (people in the game world leave all manor of valuables lying around) dispatching enemies and eventually winning the day. But this game is not on paper, and thank God because it's a cut above your standard platformer.
Starting the first level is when it hits you just how stunning this game looks! It's like you ARE Aladdin running through the streets of Agrabah. This is where this, and other Disney games, were at exactly the right point in time to be released. See, if it was now it would be some fully 3D all fancy lighting effects and wotnot kind of affair, but that's not like the movie. Cartoons are flat, 2D, hand drawn and often very beautifully animated, and that's exactly what you get here. By only being able to work with 2D sprites what was created was something that even today over 25 years later, still looks like a Disney movie. The animation is smooth and exceptionally fluid as well. It was actually drawn by Disney animators themselves before being digitised by Virgin Interactive, so there is a legitimacy there that you can see on the screen. I played it again before writing this and it has lost none of its impact, it's beautiful and looks as good as it ever has done.
The sound is also great, it's laden with the tunes from the movie, and they sound great in that slightly edgy grungy way stuff did using the Megadrive's Yamaha soundchip. It was a treat to hear 'real' music in this way back then, Moonwalker anyone? To be fair it still is today. I still maintain that the first level BGM, a version of 'Prince Ali' from the film, is one of the best bits of 16 bit music I've ever heard. It's honestly that good.
It's not all eye candy and sing alongs though, the actual gameplay is also frankly brilliant. It's a platformer with all the elements you expect but they are very well done, it has mini games as well as flying the magic carpet level to mix it up so the gameplay never gets boring. Aladdin can obviously jump between levels , attack enemies with his sword or chuck apples you collect along the way (like you do) Its honestly a joy to play, and unlike 1994's Lion King which was a lesson in frustration and misery half the time, the difficulty level in this is just about right.
I still love this game to this day, and probably will still in another 25 years, quality doesn't age, unlike me unfortunately. It's one of those games, and I hate to use this term, but there is just something about it, it's beautiful, it's fun, it's got charm, maybe, just maybe, that Disney 'Magic' they always bang on about, might just be a thing.
And if so, this game has it in spades. I implore you, if you can get your hands on a copy, to play it, I don't think you could be disappointed, even if you don't like Disney, it's a really good platformer regardless. So what are you waiting for? eBay is only a click away....
Guest review by RetroBoyJon