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Aladdin (Genesis)

Disney’s Aladdin was a phenomenon the likes of which hadn’t been seen in quite awhile.  Even I was a fan and got swept up in the marketing blitz, and I was more or less indifferent to most of Disney’s offerings by that point.  The videogames that followed were almost all excellent with the Sega Genesis game the most high profile of the lot, achieving classic game status.

Aladdin was released for Genesis in the summer of 1993 by Sega.  A 3-way collaboration between Sega, Shiny and Disney the story of its development is just as interesting as the game itself.  The animation work was completed in conjunction with the Disney animators using a technique to adapt the animation cells to the Genesis limitations.  That they were able to create such a technique for an old console like the Genesis is miraculous, especially more so with how quickly the game was done.  Between the parties involved the game was done in 3 months.  Despite the protracted development schedule the game turned out excellent and would be the flagship for all console adaptations of the movie.

Like the SNES game Aladdin is a side scrolling platformer that takes you through a variety of set pieces inspired by the movie.  Although you can throw apples like that game your primary means of attack if your sword.  Versatile to a fault the sword is quick and has decent range enabling you to face most threats head on.   Versatile to a fault, you can even block or return most projectiles if your timing is correct.  All of these tools are necessary to complete the at times maze like levels.  While the animation is the biggest talking point when it comes to this adaptation the gameplay also deserves the same credit.

The variety in the levels and the pinpoint accurate controls are what make this game so enjoyable.  Using the framework of the movie to the fullest effect you are presented with a range of action set pieces that have you doing something different at every turn.  Navigating the numerous platforms in the caves is tricky while The Rug ride is recreated here in all its glory.  Even the minor fetch questing does not slow the game down like so many lesser platformers.  While the controls in general are tight there is a bit of slipperiness when it comes to controlling Aladdin’s jumps.  The challenge is very fair overall with few spikes in difficulty.  The boss fights are more or less a joke and there are enough bonus levels for chances at extra lives that it isn’t a concern.

Let’s get it out of the way right now: the animation is astounding.  We were accustomed to Sonic and his idle antics but this is in another league.  The digicel process allowed the animators to shrink the film’s animations to fit within the Genesis’ limitations and the results speak for itself.  From Aladdin himself to the lowliest enemies everyone single is loaded with numerous sight gags and quirks that never get old to watch.  The fluid animation and quality backgrounds set a high benchmark for the system that would take a while before being bested, ironically by Dave Perry and company creation, Earthworm.  The system’s limited color palette is a non factor with graphics that are just as vibrant as the SNES edition if not more so.   Dave Perry and his team were very familiar with the Sega hardware and that experience shines beautifully here.

It isn’t very often that a licensed product is given the star treatment that this edition of Aladdin received but when it does it becomes an event unto itself.  Aladdin joins Goldeneye, Batman Returns and the Chronicles of Riddick as an example of how to turn the limitations of a license into a strength and has aged gracefully.  There aren’t many licensed retro games that are still worth your time but this is undoubtedly one of them.

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