Sunday, April 5, 2009

Aladdin-Genesis-Virgin Interactive

The final game, for now, in our jaunt down the classic cartoon to games line-up is the Genesis version of Aladdin. The specification that this is the Genesis version is important this time because unlike most multi-platform games, the various ports are all vastly different, due in part to the fact that different companies designed the different games. While Capcom and Shinji Mikami created the SNES version, it was Virgin Interactive and David Bishop that did the work on 1993's Genesis edition. This version of the game was so good that it was awarded Best Genesis Game and Best Animation by the late, great EGM. So, does it hold up to this day?

Well, as it was awarded Best Animation, lets start with the graphics. The game is gorgeous. End of story. The areas through which Aladdin travels are mostly varied, except for one instance of overlap, and even then it is a completely different level, it is just set, for the second time, on the streets of Agrabah. The sprite work is, also, superb. Everything in the game is fluidly animated down to the guards hopping up and down while clutching their feet if you lead them across burning coals. The presentation simply oozes character and the feel of the movie.

The story is told through text and still images in between each level. These bits of dialogue are entirely skipable, though doing so will cause you to miss some rather good pixel art renditions of the classic characters. Now, this is generally where I would explain the plot, but really, if you don't know the story of Aladdin, shame on you. Go youtube the songs at least and then come back.

Now, where was I? Oh yes. Like last week's game, this was one of the gaming staples of my renting career. I can't say how many times I rented this one over the years. Probably enough times to own a couple of copies, but in all those rentals, I never beat the game. And I only made it past the carpet ride once or twice, which is ridiculous considering the game points where you should go. So, it came as a complete shock to find out just how easy the game is.

However, it's not stupidly so. The game is a simple platformer at heart. Your job is to guide Aladdin through the various locations to the end of the level. Some of the levels require you to beat a boss, while others require you to find an item, and all of them require you to jump and fight your way through hoards of traps and enemies to do so. But Aladdin is no slouch. He comes armed with a sword, several apples, and his acrobatic prowess. The sword is your close range melee attack, capable of dealing high damage, but putting Aladdin in dangerous situations. The apples, which you collect throughout the level, are your weaker range weapons. It's important to recognize early that neither of these attacks are better than the others, and this is due to how fights with the enemies play out.

It is entirely possible to brute force your way through the levels using only the sword, check points, a few lives, and a lot of luck, but that defeats what makes the combat interesting. And that is that each of the enemies has a specific method that should be employed when fighting them. The large sword wielding guard should be attacked with apples because he will parry your sword. The knife throwing guard should have his knives reflected back at him by your sword due to the fact that he will slice your apples in twine. This creates a slight strategic air to the combat that makes it feel as if Aladdin is actually outwitting his opponents rather than defeating them, which is more in line with his character from the movie.

The music in the game is a combination of new song and those taken from the movie. On numerous occasions, I found myself actually singing along with the songs, despite not having heard them in years. And the created songs aren't bad either. Though not quite as good as the movie tracks, they capture the feel of both the area they are paired with and the movie as a whole very nicely. The sound effects aren't bad either, ranging from short vocal samples for Aladdin and Abu to cracking pots and clanging swords. None of which sound silly or out of place.

Of course, the game isn't perfect. In the third and fourth levels, I found a few spots where the edges of a ledge didn't seem to want to catch me, luckily none of these were over anything perilous, so it was just a minor annoyance. However, I did run into a glitch in the fourth level that resulted in a quick game over. After defeating the Golden Ape statue and riding the carpet, I reached a check point before some semi-tricky jumps over some water, which I, of course, died on. Luckily, or so I thought, there was a checkpoint right before hand, so I'd start right back at the beginning of the jumps. Unfortunately, when I respawned, the ground didn't want to catch me, and I ended up falling to my death over and over, losing all nine of the lives I had collected in a matter of seconds. Now, I've died there before, many times actually, and that was the first time I've encountered that glitch, so it doesn't seem like that should be a major complaint, but it is there.

In closing, I feel that EGM was correct with their praise of the game. The only downsides to the game are a couple glitches and the length. A competent gamer can beat the game in about an hour and a half, which isn't much bang for your buck, I admit, but it's a really pretty bang that's fun to look at while it's still around.

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