When I was younger, my sisters and I had to decide on a video game we could all enjoy, and we mutually agreed for our father to purchase The Little Mermaid for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Now, this game was one of the easiest games I had played on the Nintendo, but that didn’t make it less exciting to play; in fact, it was fun. The same cannot be said of The Little Mermaid on Sega Genesis.
Noticing it at a store a few years ago, I remembered the Nintendo game, and thought that for $5.00, the Genesis game might be worth a look. Sadly, it was not.
When the game starts, “Under The Sea” plays, and sounds very good on the Genesis (I normally don’t find Genesis soundtracks interesting). It was nice to actually get the music for the show it’s based on, as this doesn’t normally happen on a licensed game.
In addition, the title’s text flows along as if it’s inside the ocean; this looked promising.
Once you select Start, you can choose to play as Ariel, or her father, King Triton. Not sure who wanted to play as King Triton; but they don’t play any differently. However, if you wait at the intro briefly, you will see a demo where Ariel shoots some stars out of her hands then runs into an eel and dies. Not a very impressive demo.
If you are so inclined, you can chose to play through the entire game without music.
Ariel starts out able to shoot stars from her hand that make a noise as if they are saying something, while another shoots a music note. The music note works like the stars in that it makes creatures run away (Disney characters can’t kill, of course), but the music note only works at very, very close range. It doesn’t help that it travels slightly up, slightly down, or directly ahead of you at random. In addition, she can call forth animals to help her.
King Triton operates the same, using fireballs as a long range weapon (but he can use them indefinitely for some reason), and poke with his Triton as a short range weapon.
You start out with 5 keys on Easy, but must find them scattered in the levels if you play Hard. You have a health meter, and an indicator telling you how many stars/lasers you can shoot . The lower right-hand corner is a flash of light; that is how many lives you have (not very intuitive). Eventually, you will find Scuttle the seagull, who is a shopkeeper that can sell you items, and even your fish friends. You need to know what everything does before buying. I bought a one time weapon for King Triton and used it at what I thought might blow up a rock (this is what Flounder is for) so I could save a merman, but instead, the weapon went through the rock and saved the merman by hitting him. Not sure on the logic on that one.
You summon Flounder the fish to push rocks (even if you play the muscular King Triton), Sebastian the crab to chase away enemies, and grey fish (he’s not from the movie) to scoop up sand to look for hidden items (which usually there aren’t so you just wasted money).
The worst thing about this game is the movement. Occasionally, your character moves at a decent pacey, but moves very, very slowly ¾ time, even with no enemies on screen. And when enemies are there, they do not move slow. The game feels slow, and it’s very frustrating wanting to simply move forward, only for Ariel/Triton to move slightly fast, then come to a crawl for 5 seconds without explanation. Ecco the Dolphin was already out on the Genesis and moves better than this. In fact, Ariel is similar to Ecco in that you have a large underwater world with multiple pathways to explore and can shoot things at enemies. Ecco couldn’t use items from a shop, though (being a dolphin and all).
The attacking is also not well designed. When you move, your character sprite is so big, and he/she makes such a huge turn that the attack is suddenly in a new direction far away from the enemy
Also, enemies constantly respawn and are very numerous. They are hard to hit, due to the above mentioned control issues, and due to mediocre hit detection. The sharks are the worst; not only do your weapons not hurt them, but they will follow you, often in pairs, for 10 seconds. Luckily, they were programmed to lose interested after that time. The enemies get worse on Level 2; living skeletons that jump around in very small areas. You will find that it’s easier to run through them and take damage, as just trying to attack them will get you hit multiple times. Not only that, but if you do defeat them, they become a pile of skeletons that can still hurt you if you touch it. And for a bonus, do all this while cannonballs bounce around the small areas.
brick I am stuck against, meaning I have to swim downward and take damage.
What is surprising is that secrets respawn, too. I used Flounder to push a rock, but I didn’t have the key to open the chest inside. When I came back with the key, the rock was magically back, and I had no Flunders left to move the rock again.
Surprisingly, the bosses are very easy. Even on the Hard mode they aren’t as hard as swimming through the skeletons. For the final boss, you can stand directly next to Ursula’s face and spam the attack button to win.
The most helpful thing of all is the map. When you hit pauses, you access a large, widescreen map of the entire area which flashes to indicate where you are. This feature is very useful. In addition, there are flashing dots all over the place. These are little creatures that Ursula had in the movie. When you touch them, they turn into Mermen who swim away to freedom. Once you save all of them, you are magically transported to the boss.
Story: 1 out of 10
No story, at all. At least most license games try to have a patchwork story, or put some pictures together. At least it knows to add characters: Flounder, King Triton, Ariel, Eels, Sebastion, Scuttle, & Ursula.
I do find it ironic that a game under the sea was created by a company called Blue Sky.
Music: 6 out of 10
The music is fun to listen to, and makes me appreciate the music of the genesis more than I normally do.
Challenge: 5 out of 10]
The challenge to this game is average. If the controls were polished and the slowdown removed, I would give it a 10 out of 10, even if the game was easy, as the challenge would be more of what the game was targeted toward.
Fun: 0 out of 20
There was nothing here for me to enjoy.
Control: 3 out of 10
I already mentioned this, but the way Ariel/Triton controls is slow, way to slow to be enjoyable. Way to slow to avoid all enemy attacks. Way to slow to attack enemies before they continue to plow through you.
Graphics: 8 out of 10
The sea is very bright and colorful, and there are many animations done for Ariel and the creatures in her world. Each of the levels also has a different color palette of the world it is in.
Replay Value: None
Bonus Points: None
Total Points: 23 out of 90
Ariel – The Little Mermaid, is a very short game, and can be beaten in 20 minutes. It looks like it was made quickly and shipped out without much testing to be released before the movie, which is a shame, as it holds so much nice graphical detail and possible good ideas that it had the potential to be a good game. It was not rushed for the movie’s release, by the way, as the movie was made in 1989, the Nintendo game in 1991, and the Genesis game was released in 1992. So, it was not rushed, but it sure feels that way. Hopefully this will teach me to stop buying games that remind me other ones.