If you were alive anywhere between 1990-2000 I’m sure you remember having this argument at one point. Whether it was on the playground or in the office, these games touched all demographics. Because they were so fucking good!!
I don’t know why there were so many damned good licensed games around this time, perhaps it has something to do with the fact that there were just so many that there was bound to be a decent one here and there. But I mean come on, games like TMNT 4, Batman for the NES, Indiana Jones (just to name a few) were all unique and fresh games with unique and fresh ideas. Nowadays we just get fuckin Star Wars skins on a Just Dance game and that’s innovation! Woo! Okay, to be fair the Arkham games are fucking splendid
Now, Aladdin was developed by two separate studios with two completely different styles and they were two completely different games. Each game still had you playing as the token street rat we all know and love and each one had platform-y aspects, but that’s where the time streams split and we get to parallel universe versions of Agrabah.
Aladdin on the Genesis was developed by Virgin Interactive, a subsidiary of Virgin Group (the company that has had there hands in just about every pot for the past two and a half decades). While you wouldn’t expect a company whose main purpose is unadulterated capitalistic growth to be able to put out some genuinely good games, you would be surprised. They were responsible for a ton of awesome games, like Dune 1 and 2 and Earthworm Jim. So, they were decently well suited to go head to head with one of the greatest game companies ever to grace this mortal plane.
Now, I’m sorry if I’m being biased here, but Capcom may be my favorite developer from the 8-16 bit era and for good god damn reason! Seriously, look at there library, you got Street Fighter 2, Megaman, Megaman X, UN Squadron, Breath of Fire, the list goes on. Capcom had already had some experience developing for Disney Interactive and had fucking nailed it, making such great games as Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers and Duck Tales. So you could almost guarantee that they were gonna make something badass with Aladdin. And boy did they.
Let me just get one thing straight before we move ahead. I didn’t have a SNES growing up, I had a Genesis and was pretty ferocious about defending my system. I was one of the kids that would talk about blast processing, and Genesis doing what Nintendont. But to be perfectly honest I was pretty jealous. I used to go over to my friends house and play Yoshi’s Island and Street Fighter 2 and there was something about it that was just so, soulful. I don’t know how else to describe it, but when I would go home and put in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 I couldn’t feel the same amount of love that went into the game. Yeah sure, Sega was cool, and freaking Michael Jackson did the music for STH 3, but maybe being cool isn’t the end all be all of my desires when I sit down and play a game.
That being said, Aladdin on the Genesis was my favorite fucking game for almost a decade, it had style, it had swords, it had humor, and one of my favorite Disney protagonists of all time, it was the real deal. And even when I got my N64 and had games like Banjo Kazooie to play I still came back to this title. Virgin Interactive really did make an amazing game when they put out Aladdin, and also it was tough as nails! It took me years to beat the Cave of Wonders and when I did it was so damn sweet. The art style was crisp with those cell shaded graphics, the music sounded uncanny to the source material (at the time).
Now, I never truly played the SNES version until about a month ago when I picked this game up at a garage sale, actually that’s what prompted me to write this. I had always held the Genisis version as the be all end all of Agrabah awesomeness, but when I slapped that bad boy into my snes and heard that familiar Capcom jingle something wonderful happened on that there screen.
Right off the bat you can see the art style in these games is supremely different. The SNES version has a much brighter tone to it with a pastel color pallet. All the characters and animations look original and fresh, and while it doesn’t stray to far from its source it gives enough to have its own charisma. Also, assets are much larger and thus have more detail and also take much more presidence on the screen. The one thing that clearly stands out the feel of the world, the SNES version has a more varied and wider array of world decorations, making the world feel very much lived in and not just a maze of obstacles created specially for you.
The Genisis version on the other hand decided to stick very closely to its source material opting for a crisp cell shaded art style. It looks good, don’t get me wrong, but it just doesn’t really feel right. The pallet is much darker and so is the overall tone. You can see from the very beginning that Virgin is appealing to the older, cooler market, which Sega had a foothold in, when the Genie straight up shoots eogo. There’s a lot of humor in this game, but it edges on that slightly demented humor, which works very well in games like Earthworm Jim , but feels very unsettling in such a game that’s based off of such a whimsical movie.
2. Gameplay and Combat
While the Genesis version opted to stay true to form for the art-style they took the combat in a completely different direction. Instead of being the fun loving street rat you’re a scimitar wielding murderer vanquishing everything in your path. Which admittedly is freaking awesome. And since you have a sword everyone has a sword which makes things a bit frustrating, because enemies are ruthless, and everywhere. But, when you finally get rid of them, or find that lamp that turns them all into puffs of smoke it’s very satisfying. You do jump around a lot and climb different objects, but platforming is less of the focus in this version, this ones all about the action!
The SNES version has a completely different approach to gameplay. In the SNES version the focus is all about jumps, glides and hand plants. The game has a very well flushed out parkour-style system which has you swinging on poles, doing hand plants on enemies to dispatch them and gliding with blankets you find throughout the world. The fluidity of the movements are very rewarding and lets you explore the world in a lot of fun and awesome ways. It’s such a common thing for games with a lot of ledge detect to often fail, but in the SNES version that was never the case, movements always connected, actions always performed perfectly and it just feels so good.
When I was a kid I could not tell the difference between the Genesis soundtrack and the actual movie, they sounded so insanely similar to me at the time it blew my mind that that was even possible. Listening to it now I’m still very impressed, sound compression is no easy task, especially when you’re dealing that god awful Genesis sound chip. The soundtrack is still plagued with that strange metallic sound so many Genesis games had. The sound effects are crisp and satisfying though, collecting gems has a rewarding “pa-tink”.
The sound on the SNES is again, decidedly original. All the effects have a ver Capcom feel to them and are just so satisfying. When you make a game like Street Fighter 2 you gotta know how to make some incredibly rewarding sound effect. Everything from the little boing when you pounce enemies to that glorious jingle when you get a one up just feel amazing.
It’s strange, while Virgin tried so hard to emulate the look and sound of its source material they just fell short of making a game that really captures the feeling of exploring the Cave of Wonders or traversing the dangerous streets of Agrobah. While still a great game in its own respects, when compared to the fluid wonder that is Capcoms creation it’s difficult to look away from its blemishes. Capcom truly made a masterful game when they put there energy into Aladdin, they wonderfully captured the magic and fun of the movies without making just a clone. These games seems more like collaborations between studios, all of which are masters of their crafts, and while some are better than others, they still made two of my favorite games of all time.
Thanks for reading!