Screen2Screen: Disney's Aladdin for the Genesis/Mega Drive (Part One)

by David McDougal

Screen2Screen is a series where we explore software adaptations of films and television series -- the weird, the wacky, the somewhat obscure. In this edition, Disney’s Aladdin on the Sega Genesis — let’s see if it holds up!

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Disney’s Aladdin, developed by Virgin Games and published by Sega, is one of the most fondly remembered games of the Genesis/Mega Drive. It was, in fact, the third highest selling game in the Genesis’ run, and the best selling game not starring our good friend Sonic.

But it almost was not to be! The classic game had a difficult development cycle, as well as an almost unbelievably hectic crunch period before its release. The fact that it turned out as well as it did is a minor miracle in and of itself.

After Disney squabbled with Sega’s handling of their license after Disney’s displeasure wit Sega for contracting development to Infogrames for games on Sega systems due to infamous crud like Fantasia, Disney signed a deal with Virgin Interactive. Virgin was by this point a well-respected development and publishing house, particularly in Europe, and they were generally well-known for high quality.

When it came time to develop a game for the classic film Aladdin, Disney insisted to Sega that this game was going to be a standard-bearer on the Genesis, like Sonic or, uh, Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker. Having a failure on par with Fantasia was not going to be acceptable this time around.

Before Sega and Virgin worked together on the game, though, Sega fobbed off Disney’s Aladdin off to developers Blue Sky Software, who had made the competent Ariel in “The Little Mermaid” a few years previously. This probably could have produced a good game. but Blue Sky was spending the majority of their time and money developing the Genesis Jurassic Park game and, well. weren’t doing all that much with Aladdin. This is a testament to Sega’s typically lackadaisical approach to organization, and Disney was not pleased when they found out.

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Blue Sky was out, and Virgin was in. Virgin had developed some well-regarded platformers, including the weirdly ingenious Cool Spot (a 7-Up tie-in game, of all things), and they were also currently collaborating with Disney on the above-average platformer for The Jungle Book. With Disney convinced Virgin were the people to make their super-game, development began!

But what exactly happened with development? And how does the game hold up? And is it a good adaptation? For that, my friends…you will have to wait for part two!

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