Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King Review
Review By KostaAndreadis @ 01:18pm 12/11/19
With the recent live-action cinematic remakes of both Aladdin and The Lion King from the house that was built by an Irish mouse (ol’ Mick), the timing is all kinds of right for this compilation. Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King brings together the studio’s first steps into the realm of ‘90s 2D platformers, when it opened its doors to allow game developers to work directly with Disney animators and artists.
If you’re familiar with either title then the, err, title of this compilation will have no doubt piqued your interest and tickled your nostalgia bone.
Winding the clock back to 1993, up until this point Disney games – including many great ones from Capcom (including its own take on Aladdin for the Super Nintendo) - were license only affairs. In that developers were left to create their own art and music and other assets and put together the digital playgrounds we call videogames without any involvement (read: support) from Disney.
During the height of the console wars of the early 1990s, The Great War, Sega struck a deal with Disney to work with the studio and its own choice of developer – Virgin Interactive – in the creation of an Aladdin game. This partnership resulted in a lot of time spent working out how best to transpose traditional hand-drawn animation into the bits and bytes of a videogame, in a way that also emphasised engaging platform action. Based on the 1992 animated film, Disney's Aladdin debuted on the Sega Mega Drive in late 1993 and went on to become one the system’s best-sellers.
“Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King brings together the studio’s first steps into the realm of ‘90s 2D platformers, when it opened its doors to allow game developers to work directly with Disney animators and artists.”
Although sceptical throughout Aladdin’s development, after it found commercial and critical acclaim the higher ups at Disney finally began to take videogames seriously. Thanks to its stunning-for-the-time-and-still-impressive-today animation Aladdin was an instant classic, which then led the team to the creation of the next Disney tie-in – Disney’s The Lion King.
Full Play-Through of Aladdin Courtesy of Griz Gaming
Both Aladdin and The Lion King leveraged traditional cel-animation and background techniques with that of traditional platforming and sprite work in a way that made both stand out among a sea of competition. Much like Disney’s own films, audiences were drawn to the rich characters, inventive action, and catchy, memorable music.
As with anything from 16-bit era of gaming, Aladdin may not be as technically impressive today as it was back in late 1993 but the quality of the animation and art is still great. When you use your sword to hit an enemy which then causes their pants to fall, whereby they proceed to embarrassingly and emphatically pick them back up, the results are still delightful all these years later. Which is also, a good word as any to use when describing Disney’s Aladdin - delightful.
Here’s a few more. Bright, colourful, superbly animated, and a fun game to play through to the end.
Disney’s Aladdin even features digital and MIDI representations of all the great music from the film, and with stages based on the various key scenes, it has a sense of momentum that many games of this type usually forego completely. In terms of structure and mechanics it’s not exactly ground-breaking but the formula works quite well with only a few instances where the game falters. As seen in a few sections where the difficulty spikes feel almost completely random. Failing jumps because you can’t quite gauge where an edge really is, is never a good thing.
“With stages based on the various key scenes, Aladdin has a sense of momentum that many games of this type usually forego completely.”
These moments, although few and far between, do pad out what is a relatively short experience. Plus, they unfortunately date the overall design in ways that something like Super Mario World never did. But even so, that’s comparing a great game to one of the genre’s masterpieces. And on that note Disney’s Aladdin remains as great as it ever was.
Full Play-Through of The Lion King Courtesy of Griz Gaming
Similar sentiments apply to The Lion King, but on the level design front it feels like a step back. Even though it features moments and set pieces more adventurous than what was found in Aladdin – The Lion King is ultimately the weaker game of the two. And a lesser inclusion in this compilation too, with the behind the scenes videos and focus being heavily stacked towards the former. On that front it’s great to see Disney put in the effort with meaty behind the scenes love, and even go so far as to include a number of different versions of both Aladdin and The Lion King including a never-before-seen early demo-meets-prototype of Aladdin.
Very cool if you’re interested in how these games were made. Or how Aladdin came to be.
Which brings us to this package’s biggest omission as a historical compilation. 1994. The year that saw Disney’s Aladdin get ported over to the PC and Amiga, where it not only got improved visuals (the Mega Drive could only display 61-colours at a time) but, and this is a big one, a vastly improved MIDI soundtrack.
Yeah, the difference is huge. And if, like me, you played both Aladdin and The Lion King on PC in ‘90s then this release not including these versions of the game make it feel incomplete. And a bit of a slog to get through. The GameBoy versions are here, so what gives? Also, without any remastering or touching up done on the visuals, not including the best looking and best sounding versions of these games is baffling.
“... not including the best looking and best sounding versions of these games is baffling.”
Of course, there are millions who grew up playing and loving the Mega Drive and Super Nintendo originals, so this point (which has factored into the score) might seem a little moot or harsh, and for those this 16-bit trip to the past will feel like going home. But, knowing that the best versions of Aladdin and The Lion King are not here and were also de-listed from sites like GOG.com by Disney earlier in the year – it’s like Disney Classic Games by the way of Classic Disney Games. That is, jacking up prices and releasing things in limited quantities to create a false sense of scarcity.
What we liked
Two genuine classics
Aladdin still holds up and the animation is still impressive
Great behind the scenes stuff
Final Cut version of Aladdin that fixes some decades old issues
What we didn't like
Doesn't include the superior looking and sounding PC versions
Which makes this collection feel incomplete
Straight emulation with no touch ups or remastering