With the stage production of Aladdin set to leave Sydney for a stint in Melbourne, it seemed a good time to ask a simple question: what did the cast think was the best video game version of Aladdin?
Perhaps unsurprisingly for people whose careers forces them to relocate interstate, sometimes internationally, games are a pretty common way for performers to pass the time. And four of Aladdin's cast members - Ainsley Melham (Aladdin), Adam Jon Fiorentino (Kassim), Robert Tripolino (Omar) and Aljin Abella (Iago) - have grown up with gaming just as much as anyone else, which proved handy when it came to a simple question: what was the best version of Aladdin?
Before the interview, I shot over a version of Aladdin that could be played in a browser. The cast had all played some version of Aladdin beforehand though, and Tripolino went as far as to get an emulated version of the game working on his phone. The general consensus: the Cave of Wonders was bloody hard, and the SNES version probably had the best music.
"I played it on the original Game Boy, so Aladdin had a sword," Abella explained. Aladdin was carrying the sword in the Mega Drive (or Genesis, as it was known in the US) port, but it wasn't present in the SNES version of the game. You could reflect some objects with the sword, making the game a fraction easier. It ran a touch faster, too.
The cast of Aladdin (Fiorentino, Melham, Tripolino and Abella left to right) getting into Snipperclips
"You should see how hideous I am at that game, I was actually pretty bad, I couldn't get past the Cave of Wonders," Fiorentino said. He was the oldest out of the assembled cast, and the longest serving gamer: he started with a Commodore Vic-20, has Civilization 6 as his go-to game for relaxation, and recently was playing Stardew Valley.
Disney is at its best when it abandons pretense. Every great Disney animated film has that moment when the wheels come a bit loose. A big burst of creative energy threatens to derail the whole production with its absurdity. Aladdin's go-for-broke moment is "Friend Like Me," the musical sequence where Genie introduces himself to Aladdin in the Cave of Wonders. In Capcom's 1993 Disney's Aladdin for the SNES, this moment comes to life in a video game, and in one level in particular.
"The system in the SNES ... was better quality - but the Genesis had the original music," Fiorentino added. Looking back at videos between the two, the Mega Drive/Genesis had the sharper image, but the SNES had superior audio hardware. The SNES had limitations of its own though, and there were quite a few Mega Drive/Genesis ports that were vastly superior.
The general consensus of the internet is that the Mega Drive wins out; even though the SNES has a nicer quality picture, the Mega Drive's music adds more to the experience. And for people for whom singing forms part of their livelihoods, the Mega Drive is a logical winner.
Music is often evocative, and replaying Aladdin was enough to stir up some harsh gaming memories. "[Games] were brutal," Fiorentino remembered, thinking back to the original Ducktales. "There was no saves. I played Ducktales so much originally ... that moon level, right at the fucking end, and then you die ... I have vivid memories, man."
"I can't smell that Carpet Power stuff, you know that stuff people used to put on their carpet? I smell that stuff, I am taken back to sitting on my bedroom floor, playing on my little TV while my Mum vacuums around me, playing Ducktales."
It's a fun time for platformers, especially for the crew who were all big Nintendo handheld fans. It makes sense: when you're on the road, moving interstate and sometimes internationally, it's difficult to take a full-sized console or PC with you. During the interview, Tripolino was patching a brand new Nintendo Switch, and the four spent swapped controllers to play Snipperclips while we chatted.
So the verdict at the end: if you're playing Aladdin, make sure you try and play the Mega Drive/Genesis build. You can play it on the phone, but you'll end up throwing apples all the time thanks to the controls.
A DOS version of Aladdin is available for $13 from Good Old Games, although you can find sites that let you play the SNES and Genesis ports in a browser. Aladdin's theatrical equivalent leaves Sydney this weekend, taking up residency in Melbourne on April 20. It's an excellent show, but unlike the game, the magic carpet is a highlight this time around.