My three favorite platforming games for the Super Nintendo are, in order, Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country, and Aladdin.
To anyone who has played Aladdin, you may have a vague idea as to what I’m talking about — to anyone who hasn’t, you probably think I’m being sarcastic, or insane, or stupid.
Let me assure you, however, that I am neither sarcastic nor insane.
Aladdin, in addition to being one of the best Disney films of the last twenty years, may also be one of the most overlooked (yet totally awesome) sidescrollers on the SNES.
Hit the jump for genies, flying carpets, and an unusually touching bonus level.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Aladdin follows the film’s story to a T. Aladdin meet Princess Jasmine, gets thrown in jail, goes to find a lamp, turns himself into a prince, and defeats Jafar. Bing, bang, boom.
As it stands, the game is pretty short (an experienced player can probably beat it in two or three hours), but it stays totally loyal to its source material. The levels are defined by the film scenes, and while the developers couldn’t fight the urge to add their own, unrelated levels just for the sake of lengthening the play time, they do so sparingly and those levels (like, say, the dream sequence stage where Aladdin runs and jumps through a world made entirely of artifacts that resemble the Genie) are a hell of a lot of fun in their own right.
As said above, the film’s story dictates the pace of gameplay: when Aladdin runs through the streets of Agrabah singing and stealing food, the developers turn it into a platforming level full of palace guards and irritated merchants. When Abu accidentally steals a ruby from the Cave of Wonders and Aladdin has to outrun lava on his magic carpet, the game level manifests itself as a chase sequence where the background moves extremely fast and the player must manuever the magic carpet to keep from crashing into walls or getting devoured by the tidal wave of lava behind him (think the Battletoads bike sequence, but in one dimension and not as difficult).
Granted, I don’t remember the part in the film where Aladdin defeats Jafar by jumping on his head a bunch of times, but the basic idea is there.
Not to mention, of course, the fact that one of the more romantic scenes in the film is turned into a clever, effective, and (if I may be so bold) downright adorable level.
The song “A Whole New World,” and the scene that accompanies it, should be intensely familiar to anyone growing up in the early nineties. Basically, Aladdin (now using the alias Prince Ali) visits Princess Jasmine and takes her on a magic carpet ride across the night sky. The two sing “A Whole New World” to one another, and the viewing audience basically melts into a small puddle of romance-induced bliss.
For the game, this level is still included, but it works in a wholly original way. Considering the film scene includes no danger or action whatsoever (at least, not that sort of action), the game developers had to make a decision: do we leave the scene out? Relegate it to a inter-level cutscene? Include it, but add enemies and action?
Thankfully, they chose none of the above. The “A Whole New World” scene takes place in more or less the middle of the game, but includes no enemies whatsoever; instead, the entire sky is filled with green and red diamonds (collect a hundred, get an extra life) and the player must try to collect as many as possible before song ends. Functionally, the level almost works like a bonus stage: with no threats to the player and a veritable sea of collectable items, a level of this magnitude would usually be unlocked only if the player found a secret area or powerup. The fact that the level isn’t a bonus stage, then, the fact that it is a required level for every player, makes it all the more special. As an unusually good MIDI version of “A Whole New World” plays in the background, the player gets to rest and enjoy a leisurely bit of item collecting and romantic music.
Honestly, they should force people with anger problems to play this level, just to calm them down.
Actually, since I just replayed the level for the purposes of writing this article, they technically did.
Beyond the individual levels, Aladdin is, quite simply, a solid platformer. The controls could be tighter, but they get the job done; the graphics are quite good, for the time; and the difficulty is in just the right area — hard enough so each level will probably kill you two or three times, but not so difficult that you can’t rely on smarts and reflex alone to get you through each stage.
Why You Probably Haven’t Played It
This depends — if you grew up in roughly the same era I did, you probably played the hell out of this game. If you’re older than 21, however, you either (A) never thought to touch this game or (B) did, but felt sort of weird about doing so.
It’s fun and easy to pick on licensed games these days, but I have to say — while Aladdin is just a simple side-scroller at its core, it remains loyal to the film, its morals (you cannot kill enemies; you either avoid them, throw apples at them, or jump on their heads to knock them out, and its excitement.
While calling it my third favorite SNES platformer may say a hell of a lot more about me personally than the actual game, it’s definitely worth a play: it’s pretty damn cheap on eBay (we’re talking ten bucks, on average), and it’s very easy to NOT emulate.