The digital PC game distribution platform GOG made a lot of millennials very happy today when it announced the exclusive release of three 16-bit Disney platformers from the mid 90s.
GOG (formerly Good Old Games) is much like the digital distribution platform Steam, but with a focus on making old games available on modern PCs (and DRM-free!), which is why these three Disney games—The Lion King, The Jungle Book, and Aladdin—are a great get.
They have a few things in common. They were all released between 1993 and 1995, they all prey heavily on millennial nostalgia, and they were all made with the help of Virgin Interactive, back in the day when Virgin was in the video game business. The company developed Aladdin and The Jungle Book, and published The Lion King, which was developed by Westwood Studios (more famous for the real-time strategy series Command & Conquer). Though GOG doesn't say so explicitly in the announcement, it's clear that these are all the the PC versions of these games, which are ports of the Genesis versions.
This raises an old and bitter debate: Which Aladdin game is better, the one for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System or the one for the Sega Genesis?
The general consensus is that the Genesis version is superior. It has bigger sprites (the character's 2D art assets), more intricate animations, and richer sound that better emulates the iconic songs from the animated movie. In 2012, Kotaku ran a poll asking its audience which was the better game, and the Genesis version won with 12,208 votes compared to the SNES version which got 8,086 votes.
In 2014, Polygon even ran an interview with Shinji Mikami, who designed the SNES version for Capcom, where he said he prefers the Genesis version. Mikami said he likes the Genesis version better for the reasons I listed above, and because, unlike in the SNES version, in the Genesis version Aladdin has a sword.
With all due respect to Mikami, I think he's dead wrong. Yes, there is no doubt that the Genesis version looks and sounds better, but after playing hours of the SNES version as a kid and then playing the Genesis version at a friend's house, I learned to appreciate that presentation wasn't everything.
I think even the video comparison below makes it pretty clear that the SNES version was more fun to play:
It doesn't look as good, but I remember the hit detection was better and the jumping was less floaty, which overall made it a better platformer. Just compare the momentum and intuitive level design in the SNES Genie level to the flashy but frustrating Genesis Genie level. The director for the Genesis version was David Perry, who developed Earthworm Jim, and it has a lot of the same issues. It made a big impression with those big sprites, but when you go back and play it today, it doesn't hold up so great.
That being said, the excitement around these games is almost entirely fueled by nostalgia, so when it comes to the question of which Aladdin game is better, the most truthful answer is whichever one you played as a kid. If that's the Genesis version, today's your lucky day. If it's the SNES version, there's always emulation.