April 01, 2020 @ 9:34 am
For being licensed movie games, it's surprising that not just one, but both of the Aladdin games released in 1993 ended up being good. It's even more interesting that the games ended up having strengths and weaknesses vastly different from one another. Being developed by different companies in different countries for different hardware, this is unsurprising. Still, both games are intriguing in the varied ways a game adaptation from the same source material can be handled.
Just taking one glance at the two is enough to easily discern some differences. The visuals in both games look good in their own right, but the Genesis version is a bit more technically impressive. The gorgeous hand animated sprites are easy to appreciate in their own right, but saying this is all the visuals have to offer would be selling it short. The backgrounds are detailed, with rich, vibrant and daring colours, closely resembling the visuals of the original movie. It's also a nice touch to have Aladdin's colour palette change based on the lighting of different levels. This overall gives the feeling of being a playable version of the film, a nice benefit, one which must have been especially impressive at the time. Although the snes version looks good in its own right, it has more muted and less daring colours, which makes individual levels less memorable and interesting to look at. Its stages are also strictly confined to geometric shapes which causes the visuals to look more "video-gamey", and less like a real world. Both of these choices have knock-on effect on gameplay however. The more complicated environments of the Genesis version cause the stages to become harder to instantly read, such as not being able to tell which parts of the level are platforms, and where ramps start and end. The colour in some stages is overwhelming at times too and, combined with the detail of the backgrounds, can make the game less appealing to actively play. A great example of this is the Sultan's Dungeon, which has a ton of similar blue shades, making it a little difficult to see hazards and stage elements, such as the wall spikes, bats and disappearing platforms. In contrast the Snes version's geometric look requires no guesswork and has consistent behaviour. Hazards and useful gameplay elements contrast from the background, and walkable surfaces always lighter on the top than the bottom, creating an easy distinction between playable areas and other details. The Genesis version also has a disappointing viewpoint, as it will shift toward one side when Aladdin jumps in that direction. This means the player may be blindsighted by enemies and obstacles they can't prepare for. The viewpoint can be centered again by stopping horizontal movement and starting it again, but this "solution" disrupts the flow of gameplay. Something both games did right was Aladdin's pants, as they are good for easily tracking the players position, because distinct white colour makes it easy to tell where he is at all times.
Speaking of Aladdin, his character as the subject of gameplay has also been interpreted differently. Of course, just having a sword at all has a certain cool factor to it, but it helps that the sword is nicely animated with smears, complete with a satisfying sound effect and a stylish puff of smoke upon defeating an enemy. But there is something to be said about the inaccuracy of portraying the character in this way. Aladdin, in the original movie, is a charismatic and non-violent person. Most of the action in the film is due to him trying to escape enemies or environmental hazards, and using his wit, friendship and acrobatic skill to triumph. He only wields a sword during one point in the movie, which is pretty understandable as he is fighting an evil snakeman attempting to kill the person he loves. Having Aladdin wield a sword all the time, and swinging it around apathetically toward human enemies, is an unsatisfying adaptation of the character. The Snes version on the other hand, presents a much more accurate translation of character to gameplay, with his acrobatic side being fully realized. He is able to swing from objects, bounce on enemies and poles, grab ledges and break falls with a cloth. The idea of Aladdin "killing" his enemies is a non-issue because of the cartoony way enemies bounce off screen when defeated. The sound effect here is always quite nice, and rewards the player by allowing them to use the enemy as a sort of temporary pole to spring from. The apples in the Snes version also only stun enemies instead of damaging them, which again more accurately portrays the character. Both versions have tight, precise jumping with just the right amount of weight to them, although the Snes Aladdin can be a little slippery when running, and the genesis Aladdin having two different kinds of jumps, operating similarly to the two different kind of jumps in Metroid, can sometimes means the player will perform the wrong kind of jump.
Both of these games shocked me with their level of quality and regardless of which version you personally prefer, I think the two of them should be celebrated as great games from the era. Thank you for reading. ♡(¯▿¯)♡
Edit: I am just now realizing I released this on April fools but it's not a joke post, Oops! (￣▽￣;)
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