’90’-s nostalgia was palpable at cinemas this past summer. Two Disney animated classics of the era, Aladdin and The Lion King, reemerged in new forms, each collecting over one billion dollars a piece in box-office revenue. The cinema it seems could not contain the flood of warm, familiar memories the two films generated as it has spilled over into the video game medium with the latest compilation from Digital Eclipse, Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King. A collection of two Disney 16-bit juggernauts, both games have never looked or played better, but it’s the volume of bonus material that will keep you engaged with what could almost be considered a digital museum that just happens to have some games in it.
As the title suggests, Disney Classic Games primarily houses two games: Disney’s Aladdin for the Sega Genesis and The Lion King. You don’t just get two games though, but rather multiple versions of each. In the case of both games, you get the Japanese version, as well as the companion handheld title for the Game Boy in both a black-and-white and color variant.
The Lion King, unlike Disney’s Aladdin, gets the Super Nintendo game, but it’s largely the same as what appears on the Sega Genesis. The Game Boy games are a nice feature, as it can be assumed that a lot of people missed out on them, but they’re a curiosity you’ll probably play for a level or two before bouncing back to the home console games.
Of the pair, Disney’s Aladdin is the most interesting for a number of reasons. Though you’re only getting the Genesis game and not the Capcom developed Super Nintendo game, you’re treated with some never before seen material for the game, including a demo that was used to show off the game that features never before seen enemies that didn’t make it into the final build, and a director’s cut of sorts that includes bug fixes that the original team simply didn’t have time to fix. The changes in this build of the game may seem hard to detect, but if you jump from the original version to this final cut, you’ll notice that your sword swings seem to connect better, a few annoying obstacles appear to be gone in the tricky Cave of Wonders escape level, and overall the game just feels tighter.
Like all of the products that Digital Eclipse have put their stamp on like the Mega Man Legacy Collection, both games look and feel exactly is if you were sliding them into a cartridge slot. You can customize your experience to get things exactly as you want them to with numerous aspect ratio options, borders and filters you can overlay on the gameplay screen. You’re also given the ability to map your buttons exactly where you want them to be. Getting these games to feel as tight as possible is very important, as while the games are based on films that can be enjoyed by the whole family, they can be brutally difficult at times, especially The Lion King where no amount of singing “Hakuna Matata” can hide your frustration at times.
Luckily Digital Eclipse has equipped the player with tools that will make sure you rescue princess Jasmine and reclaim the Pride Lands from the treacherous Scar. As is pretty standard for these types of compilations now, you have the ability to rewind and fix your mistakes, which when combined with Disney’s Aladdin, makes is uncannily similar to Ubisoft’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Returning from Digital Eclipse’s own SNK 40th Anniversary Collection, you also have the ability to watch a full playthrough of select versions – you can do this with The Lion King on SNES for example but not the Genesis – and jump in and resume playing at any time. This is a feature that needs to make its way into other compilations, and it works brilliantly here when faced with specific sections like one in Disney’s Aladdin that feels straight out of the Turbo Tunnel from Battletoads.
More so than having easy ways to play two 16-bit era games, what truly makes the Disney Classic Games package so special is its plethora of bonus features. On top of the full soundtracks for each included game, concept art and Disney style guides, you get access to a lot of archived behind the scenes development material for The Lion King, including highlights from when the game and the film were announced.
Disney’s Aladdin gets a similar treatment, in the form of new interviews filmed with the aid of The Electric Playground’s Victor Lucas. Staff who worked on Disney’s Aladdin like Dave Perry, Tommy Tallarico and Mike Dietz talk about how they went about crating the game and their experience working with Disney’s animation studios, a first of its kind collaboration between the film and video game industry. If you’re wondering why Disney’s Aladdin has felt a little rough, it’s because you find out that the game was turned around in an astonishing ninety-nine days because advertisements were already being printed for VHS copies of the film.
Digital Eclipse have raised the bar on how classic video games should be collected and Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King is no exception. While the included games don’t quite have the prestige of franchises like Mega Man and Street Fighter – or even Capcom Disney games like DuckTales – Disney’s Aladdin as well as The Lion King were trailblazing games that started a new era of licensed video game production and are more than deserving of being preserved for a new generation. Even if you’re lukewarm on the games themselves, the extras are more than worth the budget price, especially if you’re someone who’s fascinated by how video games are made.
Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King
- Multiple versions of two beloved Disney games
- New ways to play Disney's Aladdin
- Helpful rewind and jump in at any time features
- The included games are good, but not great
- The Game Boy games are welcome, but they won't hold your attention for very long