Aladdin was the movie event of 1992 and with good reason. The film was amazing, both story wise and in its animation. The following year the video game blitz would occur with every viable platform seeing some version of the game. Curiously the NES appeared to be left out but in reality that version of the game was only released in Europe. Once you’ve played it you’ll know why. The Virgin edition of Aladdin is a god damn travesty that should never have been released in the state it’s in. Stay far away.
Of all of the many editions of Aladdin it’s obvious the Genesis title received the most attention. As a three way collaboration between Sega, Virgin, and Disney themselves it was a technical accomplishment made in just a few short months. Whether it was the best or not is an open debate but it was an amazing game. That is where the NES version goes wrong. Rather than creating an original title based around the hardware Virgin took the already bad Gameboy port of the Sega game and then port that to the NES with disastrous results. The game is beyond ugly with severe framerate problems that affect gameplay and nearly render it unplayable. It really is sad that the unlicensed Aladdin game is far superior to this in every single way.
Look at any screenshots of the game and its plain to see that it is flat out ugly. They took a black and white Gameboy game and did the bare minimum in terms of adding color or even improving the sprites for the increased screen size. What you are left with are incredibly small characters against plain backgrounds with garish color choices that only slightly resemble the original Sega game. For a game released in 1994 it doesn’t even compare to something like the original Castlevania, let alone later titles such as Shatterhand and Kirby’s Adventure. The one lone compliment I can give is that the animation is surprisingly well done although that brings problems of its own.
As if the graphics weren’t bad enough the game runs at an atrocious frame rate. Most NES releases were 60 fps however I would be surprised if Aladdin were running at a fraction of that. There’s a jerkiness to movement and the way the screen refreshes that is maddening to see in action. Everything is just so slow. Aladdin is also host to some of the worst sprite flickering I have ever seen, literally entire chunks of the screen disappear for seconds at a time. It happens so frequently it is hard to tell whether you’ve hit an enemy or they’ve up and vanished. It really is that bad. I honestly question whether the game was finished or not.
Unfortunately the graphical issues affect the controls. Because the entire game seems to be running in molasses the controls are sluggish and slow to respond. There’s a delay with every button input to the point that you need to plan your moves out in advance. Even that isn’t enough as Aladdin is a bit slippery due to the animation. You’re not so much playing the game as you are pressing the buttons and hoping things work out. To be fair the controls in the Sega version were not the tightest either but the rest of this game’s flaws make it worse.
Amazingly all of the stages and mechanics have been included. Whether you will actually want to play through all the content is a different matter. What made the Genesis original great is that it captured the best moments from the film so well. Here they are just plain sad. The streets of Agrabah look completely desolate and are hard to navigate. The carpet ride in the Cave of Wonders is brain dead simple as you’ll only have to dodge the occasional rock and it’s short. The worst is Jafar’s palace. This is the longest level in the game and brings all of the it’s problems together in one terrible package. Bad enemy placement, cheap hits, and a confusing layout make reaching Jafar a task in itself. The final battle is so confusing I still don’t know how the hell I even won.
You might have guessed but with all of the game’s flaws it’s no wonder Aladdin is incredibly difficult. Apples go to waste due to the terrible hit detection and relying on the sword is just….no. Even though you can find plenty of power-ups its never enough as the sloppy controls lead to many cheap deaths. The more I write about this the more I can’t believe I had the patience to play through it. Christ.
It’s not every day that a game is so bad that it makes me mad just playing it but Aladdin is that terrible. I can’t believe this was an official release. At least it was only unleashed on one territory so its badness was contained. Let this one rot in obscurity.