Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King (PS4) Review

There have been a number of re-releases over the years, porting older games to modern consoles in an attempt to trigger nostalgia at the chance to replay a childhood gaming experience without remastering or altering the core game – a direct 1:1 port. SEGA do this all the time and even Konami and Capcom have jumped in on this with their Castlevania and Street Fighter collections. The latest blast from the past is the Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King collection, a delightful Disney duo which has most likely resurfaced thanks to the popularity of their latest live-action movie remakes. 

Whether you played these games as you were growing up, like me, or you’ve never had the opportunity to legally play these games before, Digital Eclipse, Nighthawk Interactive and Disney Interactive have done an amazing job at delivering a bundle of joy and excitement in one package. If you think Digital Eclipse sounds familiar, they’re the developers behind the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary collection, The Disney Afternoon Collection, and the Mega Man Legacy Collection – they have a track record for porting old classics to modern hardware. 

Disney Classic Games 1

Abu may look small but he’s a tough cookie!

The original Lion King and Aladdin 16-bit games were released on both the Super Nintendo and Mega Drive back in 1994 and 1993 respectively. Both versions of The Lion King and the Mega Drive version of Aladdin were developed by Virgin Interactive, with the Super Nintendo version of Aladdin being developed at the same time by Capcom. As such, this collection only contains the Virgin Interactive developed games and not the odd one out, which is a shame as it was quite different from the one we got from Virgin Interactive

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Both games are based entirely on their animated movie counterparts, delivering an almost scene for scene reenactment of the key plot points from their respective movies, all within glorious 16-bit. If you’ve seen the animated classics, or even the recent remakes (as the story is almost identical), you know the plot of the games. But, just in case you don’t know, here’s a brief overview:

• Aladdin is about a homeless boy, and his pet monkey, who gets sent into a cave of wonders to retrieve a lamp, a lamp which holds a genie who helps him try to achieve whatever his heart desires. However, the lamp ends up in the hands of an evil servant of the Sultan who uses it to create chaos and mayhem. It’s up to you to retrieve the lamp and save the day. 

• The Lion King is about a young cub who loses his father to a horrific ‘accident’ and is subsequently banished as he was the next in line to be king. However, once grown up, he returns to his kingdom to reclaim that which is rightfully his from the one who killed his father. 

If you’ve not seen these films, go and watch them – the animated versions are the best but the new remakes aren’t that bad. 

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Disney Classic Games 2

Was Goofy’s disembodied head always there (demo build)

What do you get (the games):
Okay, so the biggest question is, what do you actually get in this Disney Classic Games collection? Unlike Street Fighter, Megaman, and the massive SEGA Mega Drive collections, this is only two games, right? Well, yes and no.

Aladdin
• Mega Drive edition
• Final Cut edition
• Demo version
• Mega Drive – Japanese version
• Gameboy edition
• Gameboy edition which has a colour filter on it

As stated previously, there’s no Super Nintendo version here as that was developed by Capcom and this collection is all about the Virgin Interactive versions. To counter this, we have the original Demo version which was shown at a trade show in Chicago in 1993. This version is rather unique as it contains work-in-progress assets such as unpainted figures, characters which never appeared in the final build, the odd glitch, and some alterations to the actual levels on show. It’s only about ten minutes long but it’s great to be able to play a version which was never before released to the public.

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Similarly, to counter the omitted game, there’s a new ‘Final Cut’ edition. Now, this is very special, the developers have described this as Aladdin after the day-one patch (which we all know wasn’t possible on the Mega Drive). Thanks to the contact Digital Eclipse has with ex-Virgin developers, they were able to go into the original source code and make a few alterations and re-balance a few aspects to make the game a bit less frustrating and more acceptable for fans of the game. Things like bug fixes, camera adjustments and a touch of refinements to the overall experience have helped create the definitive/special edition of the classic Mega Drive game. 

Disney Classic Games 3

Ahhhh, the tragic memories are flooding back!

The Lion King
• Super Nintendo edition
• Mega Drive edition
• Super Nintendo – Japanese edition
• Gameboy edition
• Gameboy edition which has a colour filter on it

As you can see, unlike Aladdin, The Lion King doesn’t actually have any special bonuses like a demo or a ‘special edition’ of the game, only the original versions. However, you do have both of the 16-bit versions to play through based on your own preference.

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This is where I’m a little upset if I’m being honest. I like the fact that you get to play whichever version you want but in the case of The Lion King, both games are identical bar a few graphical and audio differences. With Aladdin, the two versions were completely different, due to being developed by two developers, so it’s a shame the only choice we get is such a minimal one.

Also, as a side note, the trophies relating to both franchises clearly offers more for the Aladdin games, rewarding you via progression as well as completing the various versions on offer – The Lion King only rewards you three trophies, one for completing each difficulty. Now, this may be because the team had more exposure with the code for Aladdin, but it does feel a little bit like The Lion King was an afterthought for the collection – as if it was originally an Aladdin only mini-collection but they felt like it wasn’t enough, so they packaged The Lion King with it as well, late into development. 

Disney Classic Games 4

Thanks to L1, I was able to finally get past this stage with little frustration!

Accessibility options
Although the games are over 25 years old now, they can still be rather challenging if you’re trying to complete them on the hardest difficulty (required for a trophy). However, if you press ‘Options’ before loading up a game, you can actually enable invincibility and a stage select, should you wish to do so. This will disable trophies but it will give you a massive advantage if you maybe want your younger kid or family member to experience the Disney Classic Games collection without fear of dying.

Alternatively, seeing as the games are ports from the original editions, you can actually input the original cheat codes from the Super Nintendo and Mega Drive versions and they work perfectly! Doing it this way doesn’t disable trophies.

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There’s also another useful and welcomed addition, you can rewind time by holding the L1 button at any point. The rewind feature is limited to around a minute, but it allows you to quickly undo any silly mistakes and miss-timed jumps. This feature was the reason I was finally able to complete both of these classic games after all these years – the magic carpet escape ride was always the reason I gave up on Aladdin back in the day!

Finally, just to ensure you can stop playing and return at any time, each game allows you to create save states at any moment and reload later on. I know this isn’t exactly a new feature as pretty much every emulator has it these days, but there are some out there which don’t, so it’s best to know.

The game quality
Emulating older video games isn’t new, there’s a lot of devices out there which can perform this – both legally and ‘legally’ – but there are sometimes a few hiccups when attempting to play an older game which is being emulated on a modern closed-off system. So, how do the games run on the PS4? To be honest, I initially thought I had an issue with the Gameboy versions of both games, as they run incredibly slow and the controls are rather clunky. However, I booted up an emulator on my pc and loaded up the game on there in order to compare them and guess what – it played identically to the PS4 edition. Basically, the Gameboy versions, albeit a great addition to the collection, run like ass wherever you play them! 

On the flip side, the Super Nintendo and Mega Drive versions ran great from what I could tell. I played through them both entirely (for the first time ever) and didn’t experience any issues or apparent slowdown outside of what I remember back on the original hardware when I was younger. Sure, it’s a shame the games weren’t fully remastered or remade, but for the majority of people who will be picking up this collection, keeping things as they were 26 years ago is how they’d want to re-experience these classic titles.

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If you want to fiddle with the visual quality, there are a few options. You can choose from a ‘sharp’ screen, full screen or stretch mode – offering pixel-perfect with a border, the same but only side borders, or a full screen stretched 16:9 image. There are also filters for a TV, Monitor, or LCD (see slideshow above). Thankfully, you can turn this off if none of them tickles your fancy. Personally, although there are a few options, I feel there’s a number of missing choices. SEGA did a good job with their latest Mega Drive collection, offering monitor bend, various levels of scanlines, different filters and screen modes etc… For this game, I ended up just leaving it on ‘sharp’ and with no filers in place. You can also enable or disable the border-image if it’s distracting you, I just left it on.

Disney Classic Games 6

Paint-by-numbers…

Watch and play
Every game, including the Gameboy, demo and special editions, all have a rather unique and super interesting feature – you can watch a no-commentary let’s play of the game! Seriously, this is such a great feature. Not only can you sit back, grab a drink, and let the CPU basically play out a perfect run of whatever game you pick as you watch on and possibly learn how to get past something you’ve been stuck on, but you can press ‘Options’ at any point and take over. That’s right, it’s like an interactive let’s play, watch as far as you want to (or skip through the video timeline) and then take over and continue playing yourself. 

I personally couldn’t bring myself to play the Gameboy games all the way through, as the clunky controls and slowness of the original game was annoying me, so I simply watched the developers play it all the way through for me instead. I’ve actually got on The Lion King whilst I write this review.

Bonus Content

Just like their previous releases, Digital Eclipse has provided us with a nice selection of bonus features to wade through within the Disney Classic Games collection. For those who are interested, there’s a collection of videos around the making of both games and movies, as well as a bunch of concept art, colour guides, size comparisons, and even information on how the games were brought to life with the Disney magic. I found these short videos and images rather fascinating as I imagine a lot of them have either never been seen before or are hard to find these days. 

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Music to my ears
Both franchises also have their respective soundtracks available to listen to from the main menu. Aladdin has the Mega Drive version and The Lion King has both the Super Nintendo and Mega Drive versions. However, as of writing this review (6th November), there’s an issue with the soundtrack on the PS4 Pro if you have a 4k TV or a 1080p TV with Supersampling enabled. Basically, the Aladdin soundtrack plays far too slow. This is a bug which is being addressed in the next patch though, so if you want to listen to the music, ensure you update the game.

Official Trailer:

Final Conclusion:
Despite the issues with the soundtrack in the main menu (which is going to be fixed in the next update), Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King is a rather nice collection for both older gamers looking for a bit of nostalgia and new gamers wanting to play some decent movie-based games of yesteryear. Although a remaster or remake would have been great, simply allowing us to replay the original versions of the games on multiple platforms, and even some never-before-released editions, is a nice treat to those who grew up with these games. All of the bonus features were interesting and the ‘watch and play’ mode is very unique and something all these older games should support.

This right here is why Disney shouldn’t stop making games, even if it’s only as a collaborator to another developer.

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Whether you pick up the digital edition of Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King, or you’re waiting for the limited physical edition of the colourful re-prints on original Super Nintendo and Mega Drive cartridges (yes, that’s a real thing), you’re bound to have a blast from the past with these 16-bit classics. 

A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King

£24.99
8

Final Score

8.0/10

The Good:

  • - Lots of variations of the classic games, including an updated version of Aladdin and the original demo from 1993
  • - Lots of bonus features including the soundtracks, videos and images
  • - Two classic franchises which are still timeless after 25 years
  • - Helpful mechanics such as rewinding time and the ability to input the original cheats
  • - The 'Watch and Play' mode is brilliant

The Bad:

  • - Simply a 1:1 port, no enhancements or remastering outside of the 'final cut' of aladdin
  • - Technical issues with the soundtracks in the main menu option (will be fixed in the next patch)
  • - No Capcom developed Aladdin on the Super Nintendo
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