If you owned a Sega Mega Drive/Genesis or Super Nintendo in the 1990s, you most likely owned one or both of Disney Software’s 16-bit video games: Aladdin and The Lion King. Known for their addictive gameplay, beautiful animation and brutal difficulty, both Aladdin and The Lion King were platformers you just had to experience, but are they still worth playing 25+ years later?
You ain’t never had a friend like me!
Like every other kid I knew growing up, I was obsessed with Disney’s animated feature films; particularly Aladdin and The Lion King. So when The Lion King video game adaptation was advertised around the same time as the cinematic release, I began saving my pocket money until I had enough to buy it for the SNES. So many hours were sunk into The Lion King and yet I was never able to successfully complete it…
Soon afterwards I acquired the Sega Mega Drive and a copy of Aladdin, which is arguably one of the best platformers for that console. And with the assistance of a friend, I was able to defeat Jafar! But despite this victory, The Lion King still lingered in the back of my mind. I knew one day I would have to return to the Pride Lands of Africa; to defeat Scar!
Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance
Fast forward to 2019, and both Aladdin and The Lion King have been reimagined in as both a live-action film and stunning photorealistic 3D animation respectively for our cinematic pleasure. With both franchises now fresh in our minds, it makes sense that Disney would want to re-release these classic platformers. Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King is a comprehensive collection from Digital Eclipse and Nighthawk Interactive; featuring multiple emulated versions of both Aladdin and The Lion King, originally released across multiple platforms.
New features have also been introduced, including visual filters and customizable controls, but most importantly, features to assist with each video game’s unforgiving difficulties; from the ability to save at any time, to a rewind function that allows you to cheat death, to an invulnerability option and level select (although using invulnerability or skipping between levels will disable trophies). You even have the option to watch a recorded playthrough of each game and jump in at any point. These new features make Aladdin and The Lion King much more accessible for the younger audience they were originally intended for.
Know this. Only one may enter here. One whose worth lies far within. A diamond in the rough
Aladdin for the Sega Mega Drive is represented here as ‘Console S Version’ and is a solid emulation of the original cartridge. The Japanese and Game Boy (greyscale and color) versions are also included, but there is one glaring omission… Aladdin for the SNES. Whilst development of Aladdin for Sega’s 16-bit console was handled by Virgin Games, Nintendo’s counterpart was developed by Capcom, resulting in a very different but equally fun platformer.
Whilst disappointing, Digital Eclipse has made up for its exclusion with ‘The Final Cut;’ a new version based on the original Sega Mega Drive game. The differences are subtle but include adjustments to enemy damage, hit detection, difficulty tweaks, and newly developed level sections. And for us Disney nerds, the inclusion of a previously unreleased trade show demo from 1993 is also available.
And so we are all connected in the great Circle of Life
In comparison, both the SNES and Sega Mega Drive versions of The Lion King are available; represented here as ‘Console N Version’ and ‘Console S Version’ respectively. Both adaptations were developed by Westwood Studios and Disney Software, and only differentiate due to the limitations of the original hardware. For example, graphics (particularly shadows) flicker in ‘Console S Version,’ and the overall sound quality is lower than that of ‘Console N Version’. For this reason, I recommend playing the SNES version, but I admit to being biased; having owned the original cartridge.
Like Aladdin, the Japanese and Game Boy versions of The Lion King are also available to play. Both 8-bit ports are faithful to their console counterparts but provide little more than a distraction from their 16-bit brethren. Perhaps these handheld versions were your first introduction to Disney’s Aladdin and The Lion King? If so, you may find more enjoyment revisiting them than I did.
Hakuna Matata. It’s something I learned out here
Finally, there is a “museum,” which consists of video footage of each video game’s development, Q&As, concept art, and soundtracks. So, are Disney’s Aladdin and The Lion King still worth playing 25+ years later? The answer is absolutely! Digital Eclipse has added enough features to attract fans new and old, and to mitigate the previously uncompromising difficulty of each game; from an era when publishers didn’t want you to rent, complete, and return their latest release over a single weekend.
I had just as much fun playing through Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King in my thirties as I did 25 years ago as my eight-year-old self. And yes, I finally completed The Lion King; albeit with some assistance from the rewind function! Hakuna Matata. It means “no worries.”
Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.