Sunday, March 30, 2014

Aladdin: still amazing

I've been fiddling with the emulators on the Wii recently and have finally managed to get them in a state where they're easy enough to use.  I've also been experimenting with ROMs I've picked up.

The joys of being an adult and being interested in retro games is that many of the cartridges you long after when you're young can be had for a pittance when you're older - and you have the money to spend on them as well.  The disadvantage is having space to store them and the machines.  I've been buying various cart games off eBay for years, but often these have sat unplayed because my Mega Drive, Master System Converter, Game Gear, and so on, are all in the loft.  This emulation gives me a handy way of playing the games - and, of course, adding features such as save states and allowing me to run it through my video capture box.  It's not as good as using original hardware, due to the controllers, the lack of a clunk as the cartridge engages, and some emulation oddities, but it'll do.

The other benefit is that I get to try out some of the games I never played when I was young.  I've never owned a SNES, though have played many of the games through Virtual Console or other rereleases.  One day I will get a second-hand console, but until then this is ideal.

Anyway.  When setting the emulators up, the first game I wanted to try was the Mega Drive version of Aladdin.  This was always one of my favourite games when I was young, and I was great at it - making it all the way through without losing a life or even throwing any apples.  I thought that at the same time, I should try the SNES game, which was made by a completely different company, and also try the Master System and Game Gear games, which I own on cartridge but have never played.

Mega Drive

I immediately noticed that the game felt faster, which probably means that the 50Hz conversion wasn't entirely optimised.  Having said that, the difference felt marginal, and if anything controls felt a little less defined than I remember.  I last played the game on the Mega Drive about four years ago, so it may be a memory trick.

I ran through the first level with ease; I can remember ever jump, every enemy, every secret.  I lost a life on purpose just before the end of the level since I couldn't remember what happened - the genie int eh boxing ring.  I picked up the golden Abu and completed the bonus stage.

I played halfway through the desert before deciding that I ought to get on with one of the other versions, rather than spend the entire day playing this again.  It's still an amazing game, one of my favourites of all time, and I will play it again soon even if only to get to the rug ride stage.


It certainly looks nice, though the animation on Aladdin feels a bit off - his running animation isn't quite at the same speed as he moves.  And the controls feel a bit off as well, though this may be due to the emulation.  I went in expecting a bit of a rubbish game, because I've always been told it's not as good as the Mega Drive game ... and while it's definitely inferior, it's actually pretty good anyway.  You don't feel as free and athletic running through the streets, there isn't the same sense of scale and exploration, and it's doesn't make you smile as much when dispatching enemies.  It's still fun.

Master System

I wasn't sure what to expect from this.  I've never heard much about it at all, other than how great it looks.  And you know, it does look pretty amazing.  Obviously it suffers from direct comparisons to the Mega Drive game, but the animation is still top-notch, and it's vibrant and colourful.

What really surprised me was the complete difference in game style.  This is more like the endless runners that are now popular on the App Store, except with an end point.  The screen constantly scrolls, and you have to jump obstacles and avoid enemies in order to not get caught behind.  At first it's quite tricky, but you soon learn the level and can breeze through it.

The backgrounds are impressively drawn and the game moves at a fair pace.  I only completed the first two levels, but I will be back for the rest at some point - I do own the cartridge, so it'll be interesting to see how it plays on original hardware.

Game Gear

As with most games of the time, the Game Gear version is just a port of the Master System game, with a reduced window and slightly brighter graphics.  This makes the game a lot harder, as obstacles appear in front of Aladdin with much less notice.  It was no doubt great for anyone without other versions to compare it to, but against the Master System game it just seems unfair.

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