Handheld Chronicles #4-Aladdin Review

You know, whenever you’re me and you start something new, chances are it doesn’t take long before people come out of the wood work, calling you out for favoritism as far as which handhelds you cover the most games from. Now while I’m usually someone to flat out ignore said whining, because really, what good does whining ever do? It just makes people ignore you that much more, but you know, with the holiday season fast approaching I’d like to start on a new leaf, because we all know..


So with that in mind, I’m going to step away from the Nintendo Gameboy this time around and play a Game Gear game. Why? Well aside from the fact of it being a new day, I was told by Aaron Hickman that this would be interesting, and when a guy who can spend an hour talking to you about things like what life would be like if Kindergarten Cop had a video game and what songs were Wham! titles and not just George Michael tells you something is interesting, you better believe him, buckeroo!

That buckeroo part was for you, Aaron..well you and your friends, those trees behind you.
That buckeroo part was for you, Aaron..well you and your friends, those trees behind you.

So there are some things about the Aladdin games in the realm of all things retro that are certainly well documented and apparent to anyone who grew up around the time of their debut. Obviously there are significant differences between the SNES and Sega Genesis versions, and chances are most people didn’t even know they made the game anywhere off either of these two consoles, but they did, Mom, they really did! Just saying hi to my mom is all. So just where does Aladdin on the Sega Game Gear, a handheld ripe with Sega loving problems like horrible battery life and faulty capacitors (You know, but who’s paying attention, right? Colors, look at the colors! SEGA!) fall on the spectrum of the various versions of the game? Heck I’ll even entertain the absurd question of whether this is a gem, good, or garbage (I’ve only just been allowed to even use that phrase. I feel so cheap and dirty.)

Sound: 8
As I am keen on mentioning during any reviews of handheld games, one of the greatest challenges game developers face is capturing the feel of a much larger game on a smaller scale, with composing stellar music that can actually be enjoyed by a gamer on the go as the steepest of the many challenges faced. Whether you are a fan of the SNES or Genesis version of this game, what cannot be debated is some stellar soundtrack work, and thankfully that seems to have transitioned over to the Game Gear port as well, which is great news. All the tunes you’d hope to hear and enjoy are present so you can tell that at least in that regard making a solid port of a Genesis title to the smaller screen was important.

Graphics: 8
While a lot of the sprites look faceless and unappealing at times, there’s still enough character there to show that once again a solid attempt was made at creating a near perfect transition from the Genesis to the Game Gear. The levels, while not quite up to par with their console counterparts, still maintain a lot of the color and charm that many original console games lose when being “shrunk” down to a smaller size. Sadly, this is once again a representation of the high point of this game, because as we all know, even today in 2015, games can look as pretty as a picture, with soundtracks that make you envy the composers behind them, but this isn’t enough to create memorable, and most importantly, playable video games.

Gameplay: 5
The problem with Aladdin as a video game on the Game Gear is calling it an actual video game. Allow me to explain. When a console game gets the handheld treatment, usually one of two things happens. For better or for worse you are treated to a complete version of the console title on a handheld device. Maybe the sound isn’t right on, maybe there are some snippets here and there that are cut due to hardware or software limitations, but you’re still getting the core of what made the console title so enjoyable to you as a gamer. The alternative, of course, is a portable version of the console original that is its own beast. Sure, the core elements of the game are there, but perhaps the plot, levels, or even enemies are changed. There may even be a whole new soundtrack. This insult to everything the Genesis AND even the SNES versions of the game stand for is nothing more than mini games laced with poor hit detection and uninspired “fun” that really is all the things that frustrate you about the console versions all rolled into one. Let’s say you hate having to time jumps or tangle with certain foes, but yet the soundtrack and even the rush of playing these levels on the consoles more than makes up for the things that frustrate you. Well this version of Aladdin strips away all those things that make the frustrating stuff tolerable and all you’re left with is a bare bones experience of enduring all the horrible elements over and over without a safety net. This is the equivalent of ordering an extra cheese pizza and getting this..

I’ve got 99 calories but pizza cheese ain’t one.

Incredibly disappointing, right?

Overall: 7
It’s hard to really come to grips with how I truly feel about Aladdin on the Game Gear. On one hand, my Sega loathing senses are tingling at how they could have taken something as simple as Aladdin and screwed it up, and yet could I have empathy for the fact that it is usually incredibly difficult to stuff an entire console game into a handheld cart? I think my feelings like somewhere in between. I grew up in an era where even the most established company at the time found a way to make Donkey Kong look like an angry gingerbread man and Pac-Man look like..well, not Pac-Man, so I can understand how even a company poking fun at Nintendo for not having color display in their handhelds (and also, not battery sucking power) can stumble over something like Aladdin. For Rob’s sake, not even Super Mario was safe from the growing pains of being put on the Gameboy the very first time. All of this in mind, there are certainly worse games on the Game Gear, but this is certainly not a title that captures the essence of its console brethren, and that’s a shame because the soundtrack and graphics alone show that the promise was there to be yet another solid Disney title in the 90s. If you can blatantly ignore that Aladdin is truly a series of uninspired mini games/mini versions of great Genesis levels then you’ll enjoy this for what it is. However, if you’re looking for a fine representation of what developers can do on the handheld scene with a successful title at the time then you will want to avoid this like the plague…

Or like a chili dog made from Nick Stephens. I wouldn’t trust that hoser.

Speaking of plagues, next time we’re going to be looking at Pit’s outing on the Gameboy in Kid Icarus of Myth and Monsters. Until then, remember, Christmas is coming, so be sure to get that special someone what they REALLY want this holiday season..

A copy of “12 Days Of Christmas” by Retro Junkies Rob, Landon, Aaron, and The Mario Paint Band.


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