Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King Review: Banking on Nostalgia

Aladdin and The Lion King are two games from the '90s that most people probably haven’t thought about in years up until the Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King collection was announced. Said collection combines not just both those games but multiple versions of each one into one reasonably priced bundle that many might look at and be met with a rush of nostalgia as they recall images of collecting bugs and swinging through the air. The only catch with the bundle is that its nostalgia is the primary selling point – it’s a rerelease with all the fixings, but if you don’t remember the original games fondly or never played them, there won’t be nearly as much for you there.

Included in the Disney Classic Games are several versions of the video game adaptations of the beloved Disney properties. Systems such as the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo find representation in the collection and are denoted by descriptions like “Console S Version.” There’s also bonuses like the Japanese versions of the game and a black-and-white “handheld” version, and if you’re in it for Aladdin, there’s a “Final Cut” game which features a few improvements made on the base version. All of this is to say that if there’s a version of the games you were familiar with, you’ll be able to experience it again.

No matter which game or version you pick, you’ll have access to a host of different features like behind-the-scenes looks and tools to assist you during play. Soundtracks and artwork shine a spotlight on the parts of the games you remember so fondly, and there are a bunch of filters used to recreate different experiences like using an old TV or a monitor. It’s a lot like watching one of your favorite old VHS-era movies that’s been rereleased on Blu-ray with a bunch of extra features designed to improve what you already loved, and in that regard, the collection pretty much succeeds in every way.

You may choose to ignore many of these features though – I still preferred playing the games on a no-filter, stretched-screen when playing a Nintendo Switch in handheld mode – but I’d trade all those features away if that meant getting to keep the rewind feature. Never did I think I’d recall the Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice “easy mode” debate when playing The Lion King, but there I was, eternally grateful that the developers, Digital Eclipse, had the foresight to include the mode.

Disney Classic Games Aladdin
(Photo: Disney)

If you didn’t play the original games, you might be surprised by how challenging and frustrating they can be at times. Hitboxes were and still are a bit out of whack to where Simba’s paw will swipe the air while registering a hit on a hyena, and you have to grab any protruding pole just right to make contact with it. When the slightest miss results in a lost life or some other inconvenience, redoing things with a press of the rewind button is far too tempting to pass up. When you’re crawling through caves on your way up to face Scar and pass through the wrong one only to have your location reset, it’s quite the challenge to avoid using it.

Both games surprisingly experienced a bit of lag when there was a lot happening at once, but those moments were rare enough to overlook. The Lion King was by far the favorable game, but the reason for that is also part of Disney Classic Games’ faults. The Super Nintendo version of Aladdin that’s not part of the package is one many people grew up with, me included. Even with multiple versions of Aladdin made available in the collection, it couldn’t recreate the magic by tapping into those memories generated by the first playthrough.

It’d be easy to pass up on a remastered game if you never played it, but having a two-part collection where you’re really familiar with one game and not with the other is a vivid portrayal of how heavily nostalgia influences your experience with remastered games. More development time seems to have been given to Aladdin what with the Final Cut version and the previously unplayable trade demo, but personally, much more of my time was spent with The Lion King over Aladdin. In the end, it was nostalgia that won out over features.

That’s essentially what Disney Classic Games boils down to: nostalgia over the features. The same is true for the multiple versions of the game which, while appreciated, are almost overkill. It’d be a hard sell to have someone play the black-and-white Game Boy version right after they beat a console edition. The bells and whistles are attractive for anyone who’s already planning on picking up the game, but if you didn’t relish the originals, don’t expect to suddenly become hooked on retro Aladdin or The Lion King.

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Rating: 3 out of 5

Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King is now available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC platforms. A Nintendo Switch code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.