Why I think Sega’s Aladdin game is one of their best
I was lucky enough to grow up during the Renaissance era of Disney films and, during my childhood, they released films such as The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), The Lion King (1994) - and Aladdin (1992).
And it was around the time Aladdin came out on VHS that I’d also started getting into gaming. I got a Mega Drive II for my ninth birthday, with Sonic the Hedgehog 2 - the pack-in game for the system, along with a golfing one - plus another five or six more during the time I had the console (including another Disney title).
Having a game tie-in with one of my favourite films of my childhood meant it really appealed to me, and I was so happy when I got it. And even though it’s been nearly 25 years since I last played Disney’s Aladdin on the Mega Drive, I feel like I can remember pretty much every move, every level and reward.
So how did the Aladdin game come about? Well, Virgin Games was asked to develop a game based on the film for release in late 1993. This was to coincide with the video release of Aladdin on VHS scheduled for that October.
(FYI: the Super Nintendo version was developed by Capcom, the games developer and publisher behind iconic series such as Street Fighter, Resident Evil and Marvel vs Capcom.)
One thing Virgin Games did was use its own Digicel process - where traditional animation cels were digitised and compressed - for the game, so the company ended up working closely with Disney’s animation studio. Disney's Aladdin was the first game that used this Digicel technique, and used on other subsequent titles from Virgin Games (including the 1995 release The Lion King - it won’t surprise you to learn I had that game, too).
It’s the use of animation that I think helps make the gameplay in Disney's Aladdin so good: it looks like the movie (and it helps that the game’s storyline itself sticks closely to the original film). The colour palette looks like the cartoon’s. Songs from the film are even on the game! It’s fun to play and it’s easy to get to grips with, but still presents a challenge when you slot the cartridge in for games 20, 50 and 100.
The premise is fantastically beautiful, as it is with all good scrolling platform games (there are spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen the film or played the game!).
The player controls Aladdin as he goes through the market, the desert, the Sultan’s dungeon, the Cave of Wonders (and subsequent escape), and the palaces. He’s got his sword and apples to defeat his enemies; he can jump, climb and run; he gets gems and tokens for life boosts.
Each level is different enough to keep you interested, but doesn’t vary so much that some levels seem impossible to beginner gamers (yes, it gets harder the further into the game you get, but isn’t that part of the point of gaming?).
And that’s why I still think it’s one of the best games I played on the Sega Mega Drive: it was so accessible to its target market, and it strongly identified with the film. It’s bright, colourful, funny, the graphics are great (remember: it came out in 1993, during the time of 16-bit consoles), and the point of each level and function is clear for younger players.
And it’s just those little touches that make it special for me: the way Aladdin’s apples are sliced when trying to defeat one of the guards, the sound effects and music, the humour, the special levels with Abu the monkey, the Easter eggs (the desert level in particular!).
What makes it for me is that I can also remember pretty much every level, despite the number of years that have passed since I last ran through Agrabah market as our game’s hero. That in itself is testament to my enduring affection for Disney’s Aladdin on the Mega Drive, and the excellent game I think it is.
Want to see for yourself? Here’s a video play of the game I found on YouTube (the whole video is about an hour long) or watch this 13-minute clip of the first three levels.
This is my opinion: do you agree? Let me know your views on this or how I write these articles - I'd like to hear what you think!