Each Vintage Vault review looks at the games of our past and decides whether they stand the test of time. If they do they become Vaulted and gain eternal protection from The Great Eye – Loganius. If they fail they get thrown in The Pixel Pit and receive eternal damnation. Let the trials begin.
The first contender for the hallowed Vintage Vault is Disney’s Aladdin. This game released worldwide on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis in November 1993 and was developed by Virgin Games. It is not to be confused with Capcom’s version released for the Super Nintendo around the same time.
It is contested that this version is superior to its SNES counterpart, but that of course is matter of opinion.
“I can show you the world”
I’ve played this game many times so I knew beforehand if this was going to be deemed worthy for the vault or not. However, I needed to go back and play this again to justify my decision with modern eyes and not just a nostalgic heart.
As soon as the game loads, you realise this is a game that will attempt to project humor akin to the genius of the late and great Robin Williams. Robin Williams of course played The Genie in the film, and this humorous addition is very welcomed.
“How do you like them Apples?“
The game follows the narrative of the movie as best it can within the technical limitations of the time. It contains still-image cutscenes detailing the go-betweens of the levels, a step apart from any pre-rendering. Each level is gorgeously rendered with colourful backdrops of well known locations from the film.
The opening stage of Agrabah’s market streets sees Aladdin running from the palace guards as a 16-bit rendition of the unmistakable song “Prince Ali” plays in the background – one of many musical compositions for the game that really do stand out. The animation is crisp and flows beautifully with minimal jagged movements. This is most prevalent and easy to notice whilst watching Aladdin climb a rope early within this sequence.
Aladdin’s weapons of choice are his sword and of course, apples. Yes, his projectile of choice are the apples he finds scattered throughout the levels. That’s a waste of food Al.
As you venture further throughout the game, the levels and enemies become more varied than just the guards. Bats, snakes and sentient statues all ranging in difficulty for the player begin to appear as new foes to defeat. The bats especially annoyed me personally as they violently flapped around my head making them difficult to hit with my sword. Luckily, other than the bats there is no real issue with control difficulty, and the game plays rather fluidly.
“Phenomenal Cosmic Powers – Itty Bitty Living Space”
The most interesting level in the game, (which in itself deviates from the film) is when Aladdin ,after entering the cave of wonders, gets sucked into the Genie’s Lamp. A strange level consisting of out-of-place design showcases the erratic nature of the Genie’s personality.
You get to see balloons with the Genie’s face on, that you have to jump and hang off. There are also giant hands that flick you from one side of the screen to the other. The surreal nature of the level breaks up what had been a relatively normal tangent up to that point.
The subsequent level features a frantic carpet ride whilst you are escaping the cave. The player has to dodge incoming obstacles that quickly appear on screen. This is very similar to the Turbo Tunnel from BattleToads, but thankfully it’s not as difficult as such.
The life meter consists of the Genie’s lamp with smoke emanating from it. The damage you take reduces the smoke and once it ends, you die. You then re-spawn at the previous save point, as is standard on most similar games.
The collection of Ruby’s throughout the levels gives you currency. This allows you to trade with a merchant who appears hidden in each level. The merchant offers you trades of extra lives and wishes. Wishes are basically a fancy name for a “continue”.
At the end of each level you also get the opportunity to obtain either apples or extras lives in a sort of press-the-button-in-time game of luck. There is also the occasional bonus level where Abu, Aladdin’s friendly sidekick, can also add to your rewards.
Once you get to the latter stages of the game, the difficulty of the levels don’t really get much harder, with reused enemies and traps used in previous levels. This is slightly disappointing, but the fun and pure playability of the game overcomes these slight negatives.
The final boss of the game gave me such unequivocal grief until I learnt the pattern. Once I did, it was one of the easier boss fights I had experienced, but figuring out said pattern is what makes the fight challenging.
“I Choose You, Aladdin“
Overall, I feel this game is deserving of a place in The Vintage Vault. It is one of the better movie adaptions in a genre that is (if you read my RetroSpective article Lights, camera, mediocrity) difficult to portray.
There’s a reason why Disney games of the time are heralded as classics and still talked about to this day. This is true even to the point of these games being re-released in this modern era. Aladdin is a retro classic and ironically, for a game about a Genie Lamp being locked away for centuries in a cave, it finds itself now locked away in The Vintage Vault.