In 2019, the Sega Genesis version of Aladdin and both the SNES and Genesis versions of The Lion King debuted on modern devices, and with them came some low-key fantastic features for accessibility in 2D platformers. It’s a genre that traditionally can be tough for all players, let alone those with disabilities having the ability to watch a video of the game and hop in at any point is something that has been absent from far too many modern-day games. Nintendo popularized the feature with the Super Guide in the Wii era and beyond, but it hasn’t been present in every release. The 2019 release was good, but felt incomplete without Capcom’s SNES Aladdin game. Fans also missed both 16-bit versions of The Jungle Book as well, making the Disney Classic Games Collection a far more complete experience, even if there are still some missing titles.
Each of the games included in the collection show off their respective hardware in impressive ways. The Genesis/Mega Drive version of Aladdin is largely considered the definitive Disney game by many since it had the most hands-on approach from Disney upon its creation. The Disney team was used for its animation and the overall look of the adventure used the same model sheets, creating an experience that looked more authentic than anything else on the market before or since. It was so influential, it was used as the basis for both the authorized Game Boy and Game Boy Color port alongside a bootleg NES port, despite the Capcom offering being available. It would seem that Capcom kept ownership of the game to some degree, as it never got a re-release, despite taking advantage of the SNES hardware well itself.
The Genesis version was more of an action-platformer while the SNES game had more color and a faster overall pace because it focused on acrobatic platforming and feels like a very natural game to play in the more modern parkour-influenced era. Even then, there aren’t a lot of 2D side-scrolling games that use the environment quite as well as the SNES Aladdin game does and it features a lush color palette that rivals the best-looking games on the platform. However, with it being a very timing-sensitive platformer, it can be quite unwieldy for someone with fine-motor impairments to play. It isn’t a hop-and-bop Mario-style platformer where trial and error can win the day; it requires a mix of speed and precision and that’s where being able to jump in and out of a video to play it can come in so handy.
No game in the collection benefits from this more than The Lion King, which was notoriously frustrating due to a second stage that featured a bizarre and confusing layout. Legend has it that this was done to discourage people from renting the game for a weekend and beating it, thus negating the point in buying it. Either way, it’s an area that wasn’t good at the time and hasn’t aged anywhere near as gracefully as the game itself has. It’s a gorgeous-looking game that plays like a dream and unlike Aladdin, both versions were the same core game but with each system’s strengths and weaknesses on the display. The Genesis version lacked the vibrant color of the SNES game, which is the best overall version of it. Being able to rewind gameplay in real time for every game helps players make trickier jumps and can be a nice confidence booster too. Sometimes, it’s easy to get discouraged after a missed jump, but rewinding lets the player take on the task and complete it themselves, which can be truly rewarding.
One area the collection has missed the boat on in terms of being a truly definitive account for all three licenses is in regards to the portable versions. While Aladdin being tied up on the SNES made some sense with Capcom being involved, the Game Gear and later Sega Master System version was a top-shelf game that was successful, but wasn’t put in the collection despite Sega seemingly being the rights-holder for that one. The Lion King featured the Game Boy and Super Game Boy-enhanced version, but not the Game Gear version. The Jungle Book sadly gets no portable versions included here. Neither the Game Boy nor Game Gear versions are available to play, while the other games feature at least one portable iteration.
While the portable versions of the other games weren’t on par with Aladdin on the Game Gear, it does hurt to not have all of the present for completionist purposes and being able to play the few portable games here shows how much they benefit from a modern device. The bump in resolution makes them much easier to see and in the case of the Game Boy’s black and white palette, it’s clear that some platforming challenges are a bit easier due to the miniscule palette making backgrounds and foregrounds stand out more. It’s great to be able to play the portable games on a larger display and makes them so much easier to see than the original portables. Hopefully, like the addition of both 16-bit Jungle Book games and the SNES Aladdin, we’ll see them get added in later on down the line.
Between having the ability to remap all buttons and being able to rewind gameplay in real time or just jump into video playback at any point makes these some of the most accessible platformers on the market and the best retro-themed collection for them in that regard as well. The bright graphics for the 16-bit titles are easy to see and text is clear and large across the board for both the original games and newer menus. It’s impressive to see how much care went into making the games feel as natural to modern players as possible and with that came making them more accessible without really needing to brag about it. They’re fantastic from a fine-motor perspective and other than a colorblind option, are fantastic for the visually impaired too.
There is room for improvement when it comes to deaf and hard-of-hearing players across the board. The games themselves would benefit from having a visual description of the soundtrack, although it is nice that if someone can still hear to a degree, the soundtracks are available to listen to in full in or outside of the games. The fatal flaw with the collection’s audio accessibility comes in the form of it being so heavy on behind-the-scenes video content and yet not having any closed captioning for it. Given that this has been an issue in the prior release and hasn’t been fixed up for the re-release is a bit disappointing, but it could just be something that wasn’t thought of and with a light shining on it, maybe we’ll see that patched up in time.
Overall, the Disney Classic Games Collection is a surprisingly accessible package as a whole. ’90s platformers have a rep for being tough to play, but the high level of care put into these winds up making them more approachable for everyone and making them some of the few accessible side-scrolling platformers from a fine-motor perspective. The games featuring large, bold text already helps make them enjoy to enjoy for the visually impaired, although it would be nice to have some colorblind options. The only area that needs massive improvement is in regards to deaf and hard-of-hearing players, who have to deal with not only a lack of text description for music, but a lack of closed captioning for the behind-the-scenes videos as well. Still, it’s a shockingly accessible collection of games from both a genre and era that aren’t thought of as having many of them and a fine blueprint to show other developers how to make older games better and more accessible.