Stalagmite's Aladdin Review
Excellently designed levels that are a lot of fun to go through, and with such excellent controls, there'll be no frustrations when playing it. The graphics and sound design really helps it feel like you're playing the movie!
It's too short and easy.
Released in 1993 by Capcom, Aladdin is yet another game in a long line of the Disney/Capcom collaboration of the late 80s and the better part of the 90s. Whether it's based off of a TV show or a movie - or even Disneyland at one point - one thing is always for certain, and that's that Capcom will try their best to entertain players, for better or for worse, and Aladdin continues this tradition by being a very well made platformer. Given that Aladdin got through a good chunk of the movie with the use of his acrobatic skills and the locations seemed ripe for it, it would make a lot of sense to make a platformer based on it, and if I'm being perfectly honest, it works really, really well by making you feel like you ARE the street rat who just wants to be a prince known only as Aladdin...
This game follows the movie's story, so you should know what happens. But just for the 5 of you who haven't seen it, Aladdin is a street rat (or a bum who isn't going to sit around and ask for spare change) who wants to win princess Jasmine's heart, but he thinks he has to become a prince to do so. After heading into the Cave Of Wonders, he finds the genie of the lamp within the deepest recesses, and that's when the magic happens... what magic, I'll never tell, go see the movie for that. But yeah, it does follow the movie quite well, even giving you the important bits and bops of it between each world. It's not much, but with SNES games that aren't RPGs, it's just easier to take what you can get when it comes to stories.
The basic idea is to make it to the end of each level. You'll be running, jumping and swinging your way through the city of Agrabah, the inside of the Cave Of Wonders, and other locales you'd expect from something based off of Aladdin. One thing this game really gets right is its level designs. Simply put, each of the worlds feel different - one will have levels with a mix of verticality and horizontal bits while another will be more horizontal, and one is a feel good mixture of stable platforms, balloons, pressure sensitive platforms and a whole host of other things. In short, each world feels unique in design, not just visually. Not only that, but each level feels just right. Each stage is always set up to allow Aladdin to showcase his acrobatics - whether you're flipping off of tiny platforms, using enemies as a boost in the air or swinging across the tips of stalagmites, there's always something on offer that'll keep the levels fun and interesting. They also know whether to be big and expansive, and when to keep things linear, which could be seen as a bad thing if you think games should be one or the other, but in Aladdin's case, it actually works out pretty well because even the bigger stages really aren't that big and usually tend to have some collectibles in nooks and crannies, rewarding those who take that step to the left.
But yeah, like any platformer, collectibles are around to give you reason to explore. Throughout each level until you collect it, you can find a big sheet that, when you hold R in mid-air, can slow down your descent. You keep it for the rest of the game, and holy hell, is it a godsend in getting all of the red gems or what... oh yeah, gems. Green gems, like the coins in Super Mario Brothers, are seemingly useless until you get 100, which will then give you an extra life, which is always a good thing, especially since if you lose all of your lives, you'll need to use up a continue (you start with three). Red gems, on the other hand, are even more seemingly useless, despite being tricky as hell to get, and you'd think that getting 100 would give you a continue... well, besides there not even being 100 - there are 70 - you don't see an effect until the ending. See, if you collect at least 51, you'll get the "good" ending, while getting under 50 will give you a neutral one. If you're looking to squeeze some replay value out of this game, go for it. Beyond that, there are some vases with health pickups in the form of food, unless they're hard and round fruits that can be used to stun enemies from afar, and there are chests that contain either a heart that'll increase your maximum HP or a shiny scarab, which will initiate a roulette bonus game once you complete the level you found it in that can get you extra lives, continues and health restoration.
Aladdin has a couple of issues - for one thing, it's pretty easy. Jumping and swinging across gaps doesn't require anything more than pressing B and holding the d-pad in the direction you want to go, and enemies don't offer much resistance, allowing Aladdin to lay both of his hands on their shoulders and throw them away in the middle of a front flip. Actually, neither do the bosses. The most you'll ever have to do is dodge their slow attacks and jump on top of them. The patterns and method to defeat the boss are very obvious and, really, it's hard not to beat them on your first or second try. This was definitely catered towards the kids. The other issue is that it's a tad too short. Perhaps I've been spoiled by the likes of Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country, or perhaps I loved the game so much that I wanted more, but yeah, I wanted more, like it could've used a few more levels. Let's just say that it's very easy to blaze through this game unless you're a little kid who hasn't really played any video games. If anything makes up for this - besides how fun it is - it has to be the red gems, which are often in places that are difficult to reach unless you're being creative and precise with your jumps. Beyond that, eh, it's short and easy.
One thing Aladdin really gets right is its presentation. The graphics are vibrant and colorful, even when they intend to be darker, and when combined with the detailed characters, objects, backgrounds and foregrounds, it all makes for a beautiful looking game. The animation is especially well done as everything flows beautifully, yet unlike a lot of other games, it's never to the point where the mechanics are clunky - everything handles like a dream. But animation isn't limited to object movement, as the multi layered background/foreground scrolling is quite effective in giving the player an illusion of depth, especially in the Agrabah levels where there may be a fair few layers of buildings, scrolling at different speeds. What ices the cake is the story's presentation. It may just have a set of 16-bit stills from the movie with clear and easy to read text narrating it, but it's effective in telling the story as it gives you an idea of what's happening without needing heaps of words. Overall, it feels like you're interacting with the movie not because it has ten million thirty minute long cutscenes, but because of the visuals.
The soundtrack is fantastic. It has a mix of original tracks and renditions of some popular songs from the movie, all of which go with the levels they're each played on. The renditions are very faithful to the source material and are probably the best you're going to get as far as 16-bit remixes are concerened, especially from a big name company. But I wouldn't be so quick to downplay the original songs, because they, too, work very well. What really does it justice is how it uses the SNES's sound capabilities, which - like in games such as Actraiser – makes the songs sound like they were orchestrated rather than played on a keyboard, and like the visuals, it feels like you're interacting with the movie...
So there you have it – a fantastic platformer bogged down by being short and easy. Aladdin opened himself up to be Capcom's answer to the Prince Of Persia games, but just being a fun platformer that shows off Aladdin's acrobatics is good enough because the way in which it's done is really good. When it's not being a really fun platformer, it's a faithful interactive version of the movie. While I wouldn't have minded a few more levels and a bit more challenge, this is basically what I'd ask for in terms of a movie game – one that makes me feel like I'm playing the movie, not some bad game that would've sold terribly had it not been slapped with the logo of a recently released movie. So yeah, this is a definite buy. You'll wind up, at the very least, playing this every now and again.
Gameplay – 8.5/10 - The levels are designed brilliantly, which helps make the game a lot of fun to play. Bit of a shame it's too easy to beat and it's short to boot, though the gem collecting can be tough at the best of times.
Controls - 5/5 - Very tight and responsive.
Story – 5/5 – It follows the movie quite well... plus it's a non-RPG SNES game, take what you can get!
Graphics – 5/5 – Vibrant and colorful with some very detailed objects... it looks brilliant, to say the least.
Sound – 4.5/5 – While the sound effects are a bit generic, the soundtrack – both licensed and original –
Overall – 8.5/10 - The epitome of 16-bit sidescrolling games can be found in this game if you don't mind some easiness and shortness.