Disney has a vast and wildly inconsistent history with video games. Despite questionable quality from releases over the years, many gamers still consider lots of games based on classic Disney IP, well, classics. That holds especially true for games of the 16-bit era. But while these games are often lionized, efforts to keep them around haven’t been great.
But now, Digital Eclipse and Nighthawk Games are bringing two retro Disney hits to modern consoles. Aptly titled Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King , this collection brings those games back from the dark void of gaming history. And there are plenty of reasons for Disney nerds to be excited. Of course, there are a few reasons this set won’t be great as well.
While the number of classic game collections on modern platforms is only growing, not all of them get physical releases. And, surprisingly enough, Nighthawk Interactive has been able to secure a physical, retail version of Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King . It’s even going to be available on physical media for the Nintendo Switch! Having shelf access to this set will be great, especially for reasons we’ll get into later.
Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King is developed by Digital Eclipse. This is the same group of history dorks that brought us the recent SNK and Street Fighter collections, as well as brilliant sets like the Disney Afternoon and Mega Man Legacy collections from Capcom. These folks not only emulate the games well, but they also go all out with archival materials for each in-game museum. Having access to Disney materials again means this one will be awesome.
Yeah, obviously, we’re excited about cheats. A lot of these old games can be unneccessarily difficult, and these two games in particular ain’t easy. Digital Eclipse has been experimenting with accessibility features in its releases, and this one seems to be going the extra mile. Not only will be have the auto-play, rewind, and save state features, but the press release revealing Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King also mentions straight-up cheat codes. Seeing the credits won’t be as frustrating this time around.
Digital Eclipse has built its reputation in the games industry not just because of its cool bonus features, but also because the high quality of its emulation. The developer has its own engine tailor-made to get old games running on new hardware, and it gets closer than anyone else has to replicating the original. The bells and whistles in this category, such as the scanline filters and other visual options, are also generally top-notch.
For some, it may seem like a set with only two games is a bit of a raw deal, considering it’ll cost $29.99. But technically, it isn’t just two games. Both Aladdin and The Lion King were released on multiple platforms, and several versions of each game will be playable, including the Game Boy versions with Super Game Boy mode. There are even alternative, unreleased versions of each game, including a tradeshow demo and some sort of “Final Cut” for Aladdin . That’s pretty unusual for these sorts of compilations.
Only “Two” Games
While it’s pretty rad that Aladdin and The Lion King are comprehensively represented here, it’s also kind of disappointing that there aren’t more and different Disney games included. These are Virgin Games releases, and that developer had two other games, The Jungle Book and Pinocchio . While Aladdin and The Lion King have enough nostalgia behind them to power a release like this, it’s hard to imagine those other ones doing the same. It’s a shame they’re not included here, but there are plenty of possible reasons why.
Speaking of missing games, it’s certainly noticeable that Capcom isn’t involved with Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King . Capcom had its own relationship with Disney, and that resulted in a separate Aladdin game for the Super Nintendo, spearheaded by Resident Evil director Shinji Mikami. Capcom’s Aladdin versus Virgin’s Genesis alternative is a longstanding debate, and having them in the same collection (yes, this is clearly a licensing issue) would have been a great way to settle some arguments.
These Games Aren’t Great
This is a cool collection, a historically significant collection, and getting a retail version is just icing on the cake. But nostalgia is a hell of a drug, and frankly, neither of these games are as good as some of us think they were. The Lion King is especially janky and home to all kinds of frustrating mechanics and cheap deaths. Aladdin is much better, but still suffers from a lot of similar issues. As beautiful as these titles are in motion, I can assure you they aren’t as fun to play as you might remember.
Don’t Count on Disney for Support
While I mentioned Disney’s video game history being inconsistent at the top of the list, if nothing else, Disney is consistent at leaving its software trapped in time. Disney is notorious for letting licenses run out, shutting down games entirely, and not offering much in the way of long-term support. Just look at what happened to Marvel Heroes and many other superhero-adjacent titles. Other games, like DuckTales Remastered , have fallen victim to delisting, and if Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King launches with any problems, I hope (but won’t be counting on) update patches will be given the proper resources.
That Box Art Is… Okay?
Some of the art assets we’ve seen for Digital Eclipse’s work have been great, and tragically the best one ( Disney Afternoon ) never saw a retail release. Despite this one getting the full treatment, the box art is pretty underwhelming. It’s just a combination of Disney art assets smashed together, that are certainly nice enough in a vaccuum but don’t have anything to do with the original games. In fact, these are just the same pieces of art used for the recent home video re-releases for the movies. The logo just being title fonts on a clean, purple banner doesn’t scream “effort” either. Something from the actual games or even some new art would make the retail package way more appealing.