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The Nostalgic Attic: Movie Tie-In #4: Aladdin (Mega Drive)

2 July 2014

Movie Tie-In #4: Aladdin (Mega Drive)


It's hard to believe there was a time when Disney made great cash in's on their movie licenses, but growing up in the early 90's meant we played some excellent titles that held up solidly against the offerings in similar genres from the likes of Nintendo and Sega. While Sonic and Mario had the platform genre nailed by 1993, there was still plenty of room for others to get a toe in the door. And what better way to do it than with the recognisable, colourful branding of well-loved Disney movies?


The game follows essentially the same plot as the film; you play as Aladdin the street-rat, jumping and dodging your way through the mean streets of Agrabah and the desert beyond, before getting yourself thrown into the palace dungeons. Once you escape from there, you head to the Cave of Wonder, unleash the Genie and have yourself a wild magic carpet ride. It all builds towards the show-down with the evil Jafar in the palace, where you must defeat him to get it on with Princess Jasmine. The game play employs all the staples you expect from the genre; you can jump on enemies heads, slash at them with your scimitar, or pelt them with the apples you collect throughout each stage. The objective of each stage? Make it past the final goal post in one piece. Bonus stages are littered throughout, and involve you needing to collect the 'Genie-head' icons scattered in the levels. You then get to play as Aladdin's hairy little sidekick, Abu the monkey, dodging bad things dropping from the sky. You can collect extra lives, continues and apples here, and it's best to stock up early to get you through the leaner later levels.


Saying that, it definitely isn't the toughest game out there, by platforming standards at least. But the difficulty builds up nicely throughout the game, and you never feel like you die from cheap shots that you had no choice but to collide with. This sense of fairness goes right through to the final stages, and a lot of it really comes down to the game design. The controls are absolutely spot on; the act of jumping or attacking is fluid and perfect, as are the wilder moments such as the magic carpet manoeuvring. You always feel like you have the best grip on getting your sprite through the chaos, and in platforming, it's essential. 

What really compliments the game play is the gorgeous graphics and sound. The game was made by Virgin who had the license from Disney, but they supervised Disney animators to create the fluid sprites and characters that made it into the code. By doing this, it created a visually delightful style that holds up to this day. Screen caps really don't do it justice, playing the game on a CRT still brings a smile to your face. This level of detail given to the animation extends into all the minor characters you meet in the game, and all have chuckle-worthy reactions to being hit or jumped on. This created a really vivid world which captured the film of the film in ways that many previous licensed titles had failed in the past. The music too has plenty of character, re-creating many of the films well-loved tracks in that distinctive Mega Drive 16 bit sound. 



Incidentally, by the time Aladdin the video game came out on home consoles, I hadn't seen the film, which hit cinema screens the previous year in 1992. At the time I was probably feeling too old for it, but like many of the Disney films that came after, it's only recently that I've caught up on them. It's testament to the game designers though that when I watch it now, I still see the different levels in my head; for me the game is just as iconic as the film is to others. It's a defining moment from me and my brothers gaming history, and summed up the kind of interactive entertainment we loved in 1993. A completely different port of the same license was brought to the SNES the same year, but this time published by Capcom. Even though the SNES had a better colour palette and sound chip, the game lacked the same fluidity and character that made the Mega Drive version shine, though I'm sure SNES purists will disagree. Overall, the game is a nostalgic time-machine link to 1993 for me, and proof that there were plenty of great platformers out there that didn't have a blue hedgehog or Italian plumber involved. It was also the first game that Debbie bought for me when I got back into old school games, so it now has bonus nostalgia attached!


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4 Comments:

At 2 July 2014 at 19:19 , Blogger Craig Edwards said...

I actually played this one for an hour or so on my nieces' Sega machine back when it was new. I did also see the movie in the theater - as well as The Little Mermaid - the last Disney movies I saw in the theater in the 80's or 90's.

 
At 3 July 2014 at 01:20 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

It's weird, by the time this game came out, the last Disney film I would have seen was something like the Jungle Book. Was probably too busy watching Arnie and Stallone blowing things up to be bothered with cartoons. I did finally catch up on the likes of this, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King recently though, and they were excellent. Still haven't seen Little Mermaid, though!

 
At 3 July 2014 at 13:44 , Blogger Alvin Brickrock said...

What a cool post. I'm a bit older so I just missed the whole home game console explosion (just as well as god knows how many hours I would have spent with one of these). My friend had a Colecovision console that we use to mess around with (they had Zaxxon). The graphics on that Disney game do look beautiful !

Dick

 
At 4 July 2014 at 10:33 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

Thanks Dick, yeah, consoles really are a time suck, but hey, it's all entertainment! I've never had the pleasure of playing with a Colecovision, though hopefully some day I will.

 

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