Be Prepared

HIGH The museum section offers significant historical value.

LOW The collection is missing Aladdin’s Capcom-made SNES version.

WTF Lion King is still stupidly hard.

When I saw that Disney 16-bit classics The Lion King and Aladdin were coming to modern platforms, I was ecstatic… and scared. Mostly scared.

The Lion King is my favorite Disney story of all time, and despite surviving major disappointment with this year’s CG remake, I was eager to give the collection a try. Feelings bubbled inside me when I launched the collection and for a few precious hours, I became a kid again. But, before I let nostalgia get the better of me, let’s talk about what this collection offers.

In this package, players can enjoy multiple versions of Aladdin and The Lion King games, explore a rich Museum section, and listen to the soundtrack separately. Both titles also feature Sega Genesis and Japanese versions. Aladdin also boasts an exclusive trade show demo version that features cut enemies, a totally unique Genie level and a brand new ‘final cut’ version that has several bug fixes and improvements. 

Having played both the Console S and final cut versions of Aladdin, I can say that the improvements of the latter, although subtle, were masterfully done. Digital Eclipse fixed the wonky camera, included new sections, and refined the combat after consulting with the original development team. In a way, the final cut is exactly how I remember Aladdin as a child.

The Lion King, on the other hand,only features an extra Super Nintendo version, which plays similarly to the Genesis. Both games also have bonus Game Boy and Game Boy Color ports. Also worth mentioning is that the Capcom-developed SNES version of Aladdin didn’t make it into the Disney Classic Games collection — disappointing, since it would have been a great addition.

Both titles play well, even decades later. Aladdin was never particularly difficult, but the controls took some getting used to on the PS4. The Lion King, on the other hand, is still outrageously hard. I vaguely remember crying over the waterfall and gorilla boss stage years ago but I brushed it off, thinking I was an incompetent child, but as it turns out, I am also an incompetent adult.

25 years ago these games didn’t even have save options, so losing meant players had to restart from scratch. Luckily for my sanity, Disney introduced two quality-of-life features: a Save/Load option and a Rewind feature that allows players to go back in time and correct their mistakes. Although the rewind feature is abusable (and feels like cheating) it was extremely welcome. Another feature worth mentioning is Watch mode,which allows players to sit back and enjoy a pre-recorded version of each game that also lets them jump in at any time. 

Graphically, the titles hold up beautifully. They were hand-drawn in collaboration with Disney’s artists using source material, official color palettes, and traditional techniques. Furthermore, Aladdin and The Lion King introduced a revolutionary technology, Digicel, that could produce cartoon-quality animations in a way that no competitor could emulate. This multi-step process allowed devs to digitize frame-by-frame animation cels and compress them to preserve the fluidity and spirit of the character.

Players can also choose from three screen sizes and toggle the screen border on and off. There are also monitor filters like vintage tube TV filter or LCD filter for the full nostalgia trip. 

Still, despite being faithful reproductions I did notice a few minor differences between the originals and these re-releases. For example, the logs in the Hakuna Matata stage are missing their overgrown vines, and the health bar in Aladdin looks completely different from the MS-DOS version. However, the minor details and optimizations aside, both games are almost perfect replicas of the originals. 

The soundtrack contains adaptations of the movie songs and new arrangements of the 16-bit classics. Overall, I find them better than the originals with the exception of The Stampede in Lion King, which was more dramatic in the 1994 version. Some sound effects, like the lightning strikes in Lion King and boulder sounds in The Escape stage of Aladdin, sound pretty bad. The lightning strikes also caused performance issues, particularly frame drops, on my PS4. 

As much as I love these games, they are quite short. Players can, maybe, squeeze about three hours from each playthrough. If the collection only featured the games it would have been a hard sell, but the Museum mode really ups its value. It’s a perfect example of videogame history that will undoubtedly fascinate fans. 

Again, Aladdin received special treatment. Its Museum section contains never-before-seen interviews with the game’s creators and offers fascinating insights about a long-gone era in videogame development. There’s also a section of official artwork and information about characters, mechanics, and ideas that didn’t make it into the game. The Lion King’s museum section is less extensive but still offers fantastic artwork and original footage. 

Should this collection exist? I’m not sure. Am I glad it exists? Absolutely. Disney Classic Games did a great job of bringing two past greats to modern platforms. Although I wouldn’t recommend it to those with no nostalgia for the originals, I’m confident that those who remember them will appreciate this trip to the past. Now excuse me as I blast the volume to Be Prepared and start a fresh no-rewind playthrough of Lion King — I’m a masochist.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Digital Eclipse and published by Nighthawk Interactive. It is currently available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and Windows PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4 using a controller. Approximately 8 hours of play were devoted to the titles, and the games were completed. An additional 5 hours were spent in Watch mode and the Museum sections.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E10+. The official description reads as follows: This is a collection of side-scrolling platformer games based on Disney’s Aladdin and The Lion King. As Aladdin, players traverse 2D platforms on a quest to rescue Jasmine. Players run and jump through levels and use swords to strike enemy guards, birds, and skeletons; enemies cry out and disappear amid puffs of smoke when defeated. In the Lion King, players control Simba as he attempts to regain his kingdom. Players traverse jungles and use a swipe-and-pounce attack against other animals (e.g., jaguars, monkeys, hyenas); enemies cry out when hit and disappear when defeated.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: I have played the games without sound and found them not fully accessible. The story screens of Aladdin don’t have voice-over and are fully subtitled. Although not essential to the story, the enemies will call out Aladdin, and there is no way to add subtitles to them. There are also some hidden objects that prompt with an audio cue when picked up, so it’s easy to miss them without sound. In Lion King, there are several important story scenes that contain voice-acting but aren’t subtitled. There were no subtitle options in that game’s menu. 

Remappable Controls: This game offers fully remappable controls.

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