torstai 19. toukokuuta 2011

REVIEW - Aladdin (1993)

GENRE(S): Platform
RELEASED: November 1993

Disney's 31st animated feature film Aladdin is one of the Walt Disney Company's proudest creations. It's one of the most definitive films of the Disney Renaissance era, and although essentially it's a love story as most of Disney's animated features are, it's also a dashing adventure that was bound to spawn a video game. It did, a couple of different ones. Virgin Interactive made a game for the Sega Genesis and home computers. This game was later ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System, and finally the Game Boy. Just weeks after the release of the Sega game, Capcom's Shinji Mikami presented his version of Aladdin, originally exclusive to the SNES. This game was so critically and commercially successful that it was unofficially ported to all the platforms that already had Virgin's game in their libraries. Yes, it is that good.

It's like a wish come true

I smell something a bit more kinky.
For years, Grand Vizier Jafar has been searching for the Cave of Wonders, a magical treasury that holds the one artifact he can use to overthrow the Sultan of Agrabah: a magic lamp. Whoever holds the lamp is granted three wishes by an eccentric genie trapped inside it. When an expedition to the Cave of Wonders goes wrong, Jafar sets out to search someone strong and agile enough to overcome the dangers of the Cave, the "diamond in the rough". When a street urchin named Aladdin falls in love with the Sultan's beautiful daughter Jasmine much to her father's dismay, Jafar takes all advantage of the boy's obsession, reminding him that only with the power of the lamp he has some hope of becoming a part of the royal family of Agrabah. On his quest for the fabled magic lamp, Aladdin learns that the most important thing in love is being yourself.

Aladdin is one of my favourite Disney films. It has all the potential of being annoying, but even Robin Williams (an actor I absolutely despise) rocks in that flick as the genie with the worst case of AD/HD ever seen. It's very balanced, it doesn't bathe in the drama like Disney love stories usually do - it's also an exciting action/adventure movie, with a lot more comedy to it than what the character of the genie alone provides. To this day, it remains the only Disney animated feature that has a tolerable sequel outside of the Classic Series, in Return of Jafar (I actually saw it before I saw Aladdin). Since I like the movie so much and the SNES video game is incredibly faithful to it, to avoid a veil cast by the beloved theme, I tried not to think about it so much and attempted to look at Aladdin from the pure standpoint of a gamer. It's still freakin' fantastic - to be perfectly frank, it's the best Disney platformer there is.

Escaping the Cave of Wonders is NOT easy.
The graphics are among the best of the 16-bit era. The character and level design were obviously very crucial focus points here. In the movie, the genie shows Aladdin and the viewers things that are far from normal and shouldn't exist in that point of time. Mikami apparently somewhat attempted to capture that same innovative element of surprise in the level design. It's phenomenal work. The music is somewhat repetitive and I absolutely hate the songs they picked from the movie - no, I definitely cannot stand "A Whole New World". That song stinks! Luckily it only plays once, during Aladdin and Jasmine's magic carpet ride, which is translated into a non-fatal bonus level.

This game has just a few flaws which are worth mentioning. At its worst, it's one of those hectic platformers in which you must move all the time, but you must also engage in some trial and error, because you simply cannot see what lies ahead, beyond or below. Some enemies have just one extremely precise weak point you can jump on; even if you're sure to have nailed your jump, the game might not detect it and you're damaged instead of the enemy. Jafar's first form is like that; you don't need to do more than place one of Aladdin's toes just slightly to the side of his turban, and you're fucked. Remember: aim to the absolute middle, plus/minus zero! Finally, the "trial and error" bit is at its absolute worst in the first magic carpet level. One, the whole level is a one-hit kill. Two, you have waves of lava on your ass the whole time. Three, you can see ahead by about half an inch. Four, the tempo's FAST. Five, there are rocks falling from the ceiling to go with the lava. And finally: six, you guessed it, it's a tunnel with sharp ascents and descents. Imagine this sinister six together, and you don't have yourself a really challenging level, you have a mostly luck-based level that's pure shit - the noxious brown stain on this diamond. These kind of levels simply don't work in 2D since you have about half a second's warning of an obstacle ahead, especially if the level's based on one-hit kills. Hell, they don't always work in 3D, either... hey, Mikami, weren't you responsible for that jetski sequence in Resident Evil 4, too?

The genie's magical dominion is one deliciously
f'd up place.
Now, then. Aladdin has perhaps the greatest physics engine out of all SNES platformers made by a third-party developer. I'm on a mission to prove that wrong, but out of all the SNES games I've played thus far in my life and which were not developed by Nintendo's R & D, I haven't seen a platformer with such amazingly solid controls. I have also not seen controls of this quality and such incredible level design manifest in one single 16-bit platformer, let alone a movie license. Aladdin is more of a true platformer than most, you'll be up in the air for about 85% of the time. On narrow platforms, Al makes a handstand, which results in a spring jump to a given direction. Usually, narrow platforms equal death in games. Here, it's quite easy to maintain balance and focus, and make extremely flashy, good-looking combo jumps from a narrow platform to another, or to poles you can hang from and swing on. Aladdin is a very physical game, it looks exhausting but it's extremely comfortable to play. It's like one of those 16-bit cinematic platformers, with much better controls to go with the already impressive physics. The theme itself brings Prince of Persia to mind more than once.

Break time! I dare you to hit something other
than the star!
The power-ups include diamonds (green and red ones), food (bread and meat), apples, a piece of cloth and a golden beetle, or something like that. Collecting a hundred diamonds - the green and red diamonds are of different value - grants you a permanent increase in maximum health. Also, if you find all the red diamonds in the game, the end credits change very slightly, it's kind of like the alternative ending to DuckTales, nothing really concrete. Bread heals one heart worth of health, while the meat cures you completely. Apples can be thrown at enemies to stun them, or kill them if they're small and weak enough. The piece of cloth is a rare item that can be used to a huge advantage, since it enables you to hover in the air after a jump - it actually took me a while to figure it out, and it helped me a bunch in one of the final boss fights! The golden beetle only appears in some levels, once, and after freeing it, you need to be able to catch it to make it to the genie's bonus round in the end of the level, where you have a chance to gain extra maximum health, lives or continues. The game's surprisingly rewarding in comparison to most of its "peers".

Time to come out swingin'.
It's definitely rewarding to play it, too, thanks to the controls and the level design, which I have already praised so much. However, there are two things that bother me about the whole game, but are not critical mistakes in any way. Some scenes in the movie are only shown via the very impressive, but dull cutscenes, although they could've been translated into decent levels. On the other hand, there are two levels which have nothing to do with the movie - however, if they had left that "Aladdin inside the magic lamp" level out, this game would've lost a whole heap of appeal! What an excellent level! Also, the game lacks boss fights; there are only a couple of true boss fights in the whole game, and they're innovative to the point that I would've loved to see a few more, maybe one to cap off each stage, no matter if they were true to the movie or not. I'm particularly disappointed of how they downplayed Jafar in his final form. Finally, the game is over quite quickly. It's definitely challenging, but surprisingly short. Oh, well, they couldn't have made it much lengthier, considering the source material and how advanced the game was at the time of its release in every way.

Aladdin is definitely a diamond in the rough, and it at least should've paved the way for a whole new era of Disney games, as well as movie licenses. It is not only the best Disney platformer there is, but an extremely good game which I gladly recommend to each and every SNES enthusiast, be they Disney fans or not.

SOUND : 7.0


a.k.a. Disney's Aladdin

GameRankings: 65.17% (GBA), 78.38% (SNES)

Capcom's second and last game based on a full-length animated feature by Disney.

Virgin Interactive was originally rumoured to handle all versions and ports of the Aladdin license, but at the time of the SNES game's development, Capcom held the sole licensing rights to Nintendo games based on Disney's intellectual property.

1 kommentti:

  1. I have this for GBC and play it on my GBA when I'm out and about waiting in line or on a plane or something. It is quite the fun little game! Instead of "break time" though, the GBC version has a slot machine type mini game where the icons quickly rotate and whatever it finishs up on when you press the button is what you get. It's actually quite easy to get things other than the Jafar head which says LOSE underneath it.