“Do not be fooled by its commonplace appearance. Like so many things, it is not what is outside, but what is inside that counts.”
This collection of ‘90s Disney video games might not be filled with stone-cold classics as the war rages on as to which Aladdin video game is better and The Lion King is a preposterously hard platformer, but the love and care that went into bringing over Aladdin and The Lion King in their various permutations makes this an absolute must-have for anyone with an adoration for these properties and video game history.
The centerpiece is the games themselves. Aladdin, even without the Capcom-made SNES version, is the standout. I do have a nostalgic pull to the Sega Genesis version, for its general gameplay variety and magnificent visuals and sound design. The original game is recreated expertly, in addition to two other versions. There’s the rough-around-the-edges trade show version that features rough draft versions of a few levels. Most notable is the “Final Cut” version, which takes into account some developer-intended tweaks as well as adjusting the difficulty, fixing some bugs, and making the camera better. The Final Cut version of Aladdin isn’t quite a brand new game, but going back to the original version after playing it is noticeable. As someone who played the heck out of Aladdin on Genesis as a kid, the Final Cut version is akin to playing it how I remembered, not how it actually was. The Game Boy versions of Aladdin are both included and well, they’re not great games but I appreciate their inclusion, especially since the ports here are soundly excellent.
I have a lot of affinity to Genesis Aladdin, but I only ever rented The Lion King video game, present here in its SNES, Sega Genesis, and handheld forms. It’s still a stupidly hard game, but thanks to the inclusion of an easily accessible rewinding feature (available in every included game), I was able to make it further than I ever have before. The Lion King is still a punitively difficult platformer, but the charm of the playful animation and enjoyable soundtrack make it worth journeying through even if its through gritted teeth and liberal rewinding. Of course, you can also just watch The Lion King being played, as the feature developer Digital Eclipse introduced in their SNK 40th Anniversary Collection returns here. You can do that here with any of the games and with how excellent the animation is in the console versions, it’s relatively enjoyable to just watch.
Even with the excellence of the brand-new version of Genesis Aladdin, the games here are mostly known commodities presented with some modern flourishes. What makes this collection special is the array of extraneous museum features. Both games have a variety of videos with the original developers that are fascinating, diving into the process of translating these animated movies into video game form while having access to Disney’s animators. Hearing the story behind these games is important from a historical perspective and they are a vivid snapshot in time of a long-gone era of Disney and game development. Image galleries here are also filled to the brim with concept art and marketing materials. The soundtracks for both games can be played separate from the games as well.
While it’s a bummer that the SNES version of Aladdin didn’t make it in, the Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King package features multiple versions of two games emulated very well. The Final Cut of Genesis Aladdin is the game-playing standout, featuring an array of refinements and improvements for a 25+ year old game. But the actual best part of this package is the Criterion Collection-like additions, specifically the bountiful interviews with the original developers. This is an essential entry into the greater view of video game history and I’m so happy that a collection like this exists.