Review: Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King (Switch)

The king has returned.

By Marc Deschamps. Posted 10/29/2019 08:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Tons of content; great price; terrific sound; documentary material is well worth watching
Poison Mushroom for...
Lack of SNES Aladdin; old school difficulty; you'll have the music stuck in your head for months

Despite the popularity of retro gaming, old school licensed titles remain difficult to come by on modern consoles. Thanks to the cost of licensing fees and other hurdles, some of the most popular video games of all-time remain stranded on their original consoles. Enter Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King. No doubt spurred by the recent live action theatrical remakes of Aladdin and The Lion King, this new compilation resurrects the games based on the original films, with some modern-day improvements.

Developed by Disney Interactive and published by Nighthawk Interactive, Disney Classic Games is an interesting compilation. Retailing for $29.99, the package offers a number of different versions of both games at a bargain price point. Fans of Aladdin can play the Sega Genesis version, the Japanese version, the CES Demo version and a new “Final” version. As far as The Lion King is concerned, players can check out the Super Nintendo version, the Sega Genesis version and the Japanese version. For the uninitiated, it’s important to note that none of these variations are all that different from one another. Each offering has some minor differences, but these are all fairly similar in the gameplay department.

No matter which version you choose, Aladdin and The Lion King are both 2D platformers. Both titles take certain artistic license with the events of the films to pad things out, but are otherwise fairly faithful. In Aladdin, you’ll take on the role of the titular hero as you battle Jafar alongside the magical Genie. In The Lion King, players will control Simba on his journey to take his rightful place as the king of the Pridelands. While the gameplay is enjoyable in both games, one thing that younger players will no doubt find jarring is the level of difficulty. The games may have been initially targeted at children, but they also come from an era where titles tended to be less forgiving. Thankfully, both games include the ability to save, rewind at any time and even alter button mapping to best suit your personal preferences, allowing them to be enjoyed by both the hardcore and casual crowds.

Visually speaking, both titles hold up incredibly well. Of the two, however, Aladdin is the better looking option. The Lion King has some impressively vibrant colors, but Aladdin truly captures the look of the movie. Virgin Interactive set out to make an experience that felt like playing the film, and Aladdin delivers on that promise in a way few other games of that era could. Both games also sound terrific. The chiptune renditions of songs from the films are incredibly faithful and every bit as catchy as the original versions. The Lion King also boasts some limited voice acting, a rarity in most games of the time.

In addition to the 16-bit offerings, Disney Classic Games also includes the Game Boy versions of Aladdin and The Lion King. Players can choose to play in the traditional black and white (no green and black, sadly), or they can choose to play with the Super Game Boy colors enabled. To be clear, neither handheld offering holds up anywhere near as well as their console counterparts, but their inclusion is neat from a historical perspective. For younger gamers, it shows the compromises that were once commonplace with handheld games. That’s not to say that the Game Boy games are all bad; despite some floatier controls and rougher visuals, both are shockingly faithful to their console brethren.

The elephant in the room, of course, is the fact that the Super Nintendo version of Aladdin is not included in this compilation. Fans have been arguing whether Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo received the superior version of the game for nearly 25 years now, so it would have been nice to see the two games stacked side-by-side to finally settle the debate (or perhaps reignite it for a new generation). Alas, Disney Classic Games exclusively covers games developed by Virgin Interactive and the Capcom-developed SNES version likely would have caused some dicey legal headaches. It’s unfortunate, but also understandable.

Thankfully, Disney Classic Games remains stuffed with plenty of other options, including behind-the-scenes extras. In Museum mode, players can check out concept art from the films, and even watch a number of small documentaries dedicated to both games. These include both older footage as well as new retrospectives. In other compilations, these extras often feel superfluous, but the material in Disney Classic Games is well worth watching, both for Disney fanatics and fans of video game history.

For an industry notoriously bad at preserving its history, it’s shocking to see a compilation like Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King. After all, how often do we see Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis and Game Boy versions of the same game all together on a single cartridge? Though the omission of Capcom’s Aladdin is certainly a bummer, it can be easily overlooked in a package this robust. While I can already think of other Disney titles I’d like to see receive a similar treatment (Toy Story!), I would love to see other publishers offer similar packages for classic games. This is a model the entire video game industry should get behind. Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King is the new gold standard for compilations. Long live the king.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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