The Great Aladdin Debate
Some arguments can never truly be settled, and one of the great ones in gaming (that wasn’t really a debate back when the games were new but have come up a lot more in recent years oddly enough) is what is the best version of a beloved Disney video game classic. That being which 16-bit version of Aladdin is superior, the Sega Genesis or the Super Nintendo one? I’m not saying I’m going to settle this debate once and for all here and now, but I would like to give my in-depth take on it.
It seems like a really odd thing nowadays, but prior to pretty much the 32-bit days of consoles, it was actually kind of rare to have a game released on multiple competing platforms. You would have an NES or SNES version of a game and maybe a Gameboy version, and because of the difference in specs those would often be different versions of the same title, but for the most part, the libraries of the NES and the Master System and the Sega Genesis and the Super NES did not have a lot of the same titles. And in some cases, even if the title was the same, the actual game was very different, none more so than the two different versions of Aladdin based on the hit Disney animated film released in 1992. Both versions came out in the same month, a year after the movie was released in theaters, but the Genesis version was developed by Virgin Games and published by Sega, while the Super NES version was developed and published by Capcom.
Before I go any further, while I will not claim to be an expert, I am pretty well-versed in both the subject of Aladdin & 16-bit video games. I love Aladdin, it’s easily my favorite Disney animated film. I’ve seen the direct-to-video sequels, Return of Jafar and The King of Thieves, multiple times. I watched the cartoon show religiously (why is that not on Disney Plus already btw?). So you could say I’m a fan.
I’m also a veteran of the Sega/Nintendo console wars, and during the 90s I was definitely a hardcore Sega fan. I honestly thought it was the better, cooler system. I was a Sega fan pretty much up until the Dreamcast died. And at the time, you better believe I thought the Genesis version was the superior one. It looked more and sounded more like the film, surely that means it’s the better version, right? Plus, Aladdin has a sword!
However, once you get past the flash and pizazz of the Genesis version (and it was rare that the Genesis version of a game looked and sounded better because the SNES console definitely had the superior graphical capability and a far better sound chip), does it still hold up?
Well, like a lot of things it depends on how you view the games. Capcom in the 1990s could do virtually no wrong, and that’s also true of licensed games. A lot of the Disney video game classics of both the 8 and 16-bit era were the ones they made. This holds true with their version of Aladdin. It doesn’t look like the movie, it does look like what you’d think a game based on a movie of that time might look. But it’s a Capcom game from the 90s, a virtually guaranteed great time.
The Genesis version by Virgin Games, we know how that looks. It really gives you the feel of playing the movie. It looks and sounds like it. But it also falls to some of the worst pitfalls of games from the 90s as well. There’s a lot of cheap hits, off-screen enemies that can really screw you over, and the game is just surprisingly difficult. Back in the day, I don’t think I ever finished it without using a password I got from a magazine or website, I don’t think it’d be much different today.
It’s a classic case of style vs. substance. You can show friends the Sega Genesis version and they’ll be pretty wowed by it, maybe even today. The SNES one isn’t as flashy but odds are you’d play that more because it just handles better, isn’t as frustrating and a more fully fleshed out title. The Genesis version was recently released along with the Lion King in a collection for modern consoles and did get a new “final cut” version that fixed a lot of technical issues with the original version. I’d love to see the SNES version get a similar treatment, maybe we could settle this debate once and for all. It seems unlikely, but so did the Disney Afternoon Collection, and the Aladdin/Lion King collection once upon a time.
Think differently? Feel the same? Feel free to leave a comment and why. See ya real soon!