If you’re a big fan of 1,001 Arabian Nights and video games, then the past forty years hasn’t really been that great of a time. Games based on the ancient folklore tales are few and far in-between. While some great titles like Prince of Persia and Magic of Scheherezade have an Arabian feel, they don’t actually follow the stories. And while Aladdin was an excellent platformer, it was about as authentic as you would expect from a Disney animated movie.
In 1992, Taito and Sega, hoping to capitalize on the popularity of Disney’s Aladdin movie, threw their turbans into the ring with Arabian Magic and Arabian Fight, respectively. Having not actually read the complete Arabian Nights saga, I can’t say for sure which, if either, is more accurate to the source material, but Arabian Magic, although the technical lesser of the two, feels slightly more “epic story” to me. The basic plot involves up to two players choosing from four characters (including Sinbad) with a quest to retrieve seven jewels required to restore the King, who has been turned into a monkey.
Arabian Magic isn’t afraid to get crazy with its atmosphere. Magic and the supernatural abound, from the many genies you’ll encounter to flying carpets, underwater hand-to-hand combat against the undead, and even a level which consists of being shrunk to ever smaller sizes and fighting inside a series of magic pots. This is probably the main advantage it has over Arabian Fight, which often comes across more as a straight beat-em-up wearing Arabian-flavored skins. The smaller sprites are less detailed, but this actually works well to make the combat easy to follow. Although it’s easy to get surrounded by enemies, the combat is actually more fair than usual for this genre.
Of course, discussion of which is the better game is a moot point now, since the likelihood of finding a cabinet for either of these is amazingly small, and if you’re going to emulate, it’s just as easy to pick up both ROM sets at the same time.