The following sentence may well be my last words before retro game fans hunt me down and bludgeon me with first-gen Game Boys, but here goes: some of the '90s' best-looking games, including Aladdin for the Genesis, the Lion King, and Earthworm Jim, aren't much fun to play. They put graphics and sound ahead of good level design and tight controls and going back to them now is agony.
Earthworm Jim is a cartoon come to life and it still has one of my favorite 16-bit soundtracks, but it also has controller-throwing levels like Tube Race. Aladdin's remarkable animation probably sold as many Genesis consoles as Sonic the Hedgehog, but its hit detection is not good. Lion King—sigh. Out of the other games I listed here, Lion King is the one that breaks my heart. I want to love it. I should be allowed to love it. But Lion King still pushes me away with slow controls and level design that's hair-pullingly bad. I don't know who designed the "Just Can't Wait to be King" level and stuffed it full of terrible puzzles and worse quick-time events, but surely there's still a warrant for their arrest out, right? They need to do the right thing and turn themselves in.
My complicated relationship with Aladdin, and especially with The Lion King, makes me glad Digital Eclipse assembled Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King. Despite its clumsy name, this two-in-one collection takes much of the awkwardness out of playing these would-be classics. They're still not great games, but their visuals and soundtracks make them worthy of being appreciated—and that's so much easier to do when you can just blow past a level that's giving you grief.
The Disney Afternoon Collection and the Mega Man Legacy Collection helped cement Digital Eclipse as the name you want to see next to retro game compilations. Digital Eclipse did a similarly great job with Disney Classic Games, which is stuffed with both expected and unexpected features. Among "expected," you have a rewind feature, save states, different screen settings, and the option to watch gameplay footage and then jump in yourself at any time. As for "unexpected," I was surprised and happy to see Disney Classic Games includes both the Genesis and SNES versions of The Lion King. Unfortunately, we don't get the SNES version of Aladdin, but that might be due to it being a totally different title developed by Capcom.
If you're a retro game nerd, you'll have a great time poring over the two main console iterations of The Lion King. (The Game Boy game is also included, but it's rougher than Sarabi's tongue.) I have a vivid memory of fighting with some school friend over whether the SNES version is better (it is) or the Genesis version (it isn't). With Disney Classic Games, it's easy to switch between the two and observe how expertly Virgin Games pushed the Genesis' soundchip to its limits. I'd also never really realized just how heavily the Genesis version relies on dithering for certain graphic effects.
I still say the SNES version of The Lion King is superior to the Genesis version, but when both versions are a huge pain in the butt to play because of unfair difficulty spikes and unresponsive controls, that's kind of like saying it's better to be mauled by a lion than trampled by ten thousands wildebeests. I'm glad Disney Classic Games let me skip straight to the best parts of The Lion King by letting me watch someone else solve that ridiculous monkey puzzle in level two—and I swear the person who solved the puzzle for that footage had no idea what they were doing, either.
After level two comes The Elephant Graveyard, which I still like playing through because I can sing along to "Be Prepared." The hyenas in that level are still way too powerful, and there are too many of them. The geysers of hot water are hard to flee from because Simba's response time is a touch too slow when climbing walls. There are vultures everywhere that stay just out of reach before giving you a split-second chance to pounce on them. It's still terrible. But that's why Disney Classic Games has a rewind button.
You hate-loved The Lion King and Aladdin as a kid. Now it's time for you to renew your hate-love with the help of Disney Classic Games. Be prepared…to never let up on the rewind button.