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The Week of Disney: You’re soaking in it! Go ahead and pretend these characters mean nothing to you. Once you’re done lying to yourself, pretending you don’t have no connection with the likes of Mickey, Donald and Goofy, let’s marvel at just how astounding it is that almost every person in the world born in the last century shares some familiarity with these characters of unrivaled legacy.
Above: By all means, click to enlarge and save as your wallpaper
When it comes to how well Disney has preserved the relevance of its IP, game developers could learn a thing or two. Adapt to everything! There’s virtually no form of digital or physical matter Disney hasn’t adorned with a Mouse at some point over the last 80 years… Yet, for a brand that’s been hip to games since the medium’s inception, it’s surprisingly easy to nail down the pick of the litter. Seriously, when it comes to games based on Walt’s menagerie of classic characters, there’s a helluva lot a shit better left to rot in the Disney vault.
Above: More often than not, our wishes fall upon deaf and dumb stars
Luckily, few properties other than comics and The Bible have shown the longevity of the Disney brand, thus there’s bound to be some diamonds in the rough. So, if that reference carried any emotional resonance, put on those mouse ears and get ready to squeal with childish delight at our salute to the best of the House of Mouse. C’mon… it’s 100 percent Miley Cyrus Free!
At this point in the 16-bit era, licensed games were starting to reveal themselves as little more than happy meal toys in $50 clothing. We were all getting wise to the formula: Slap Johnny Toon-tagonist into a hum-drum sidescroller, add repetitive battles featuring tertiary characters with six seconds worth of screen time, then let the box art do the talking and call it a million dollar day. Bleh.
Above: Dark times, those mid '90s
Luckily, Virgin Interactive (of rebellious aeronautical billionaire fame) swooped in and elevated The Lion King above and beyond every other digital cliche.
Above: Pastel liberties when stylizing levels after the film’s musical numbers
Not only were the sprites drawn by actual Disney’s animators, the game even contained impressive (for the time) character voiceovers. We can only speculate as to whether or not Elton John was involved in the accurate conversion of the movie’s award-winning soundtrack, complete with a human choir of able African crooners that sounded so delightful it probably had Paul Simon wanting to retroactively punch his producers in the face.
Every intricate level was designed with all the grace and detail of a classic Disney background, plus they managed to make a coherent game that stuck to the plot of the film. Sure, you start out as a young Simba jumping and meowing at bugs, but once your mane drops you’ll be slingin’ claws and mauling enemies like they’re femmy magicians.
Above: The game is probably most famous for its Wildebeest Stampede level
Digital Disney Trivia: The Amiga version of The Lion King came on four discs and still had to remove three levels due to size restrictions.
Oh, this won’t be the only forgotten relic of Disney Afternoon’s past that’ll confuse the hell out of our readers born after the first Bush administration. But that’s a testament to Capcom and the way it worked its balls off to create a meaningful game based on an ephemeral television property that’s still worth playing damn near twenty years later.
“Who the hell is Monterey Jack?” and “Why the hell are Chip and Dale dressed up like John Lasseter and Carmen San Diego?” are certainly valid questions, but irrelevant when it comes to what makes this game a true classic.
The chipmunks’ diminutive stature turned the mundanity of suburbia into more than ten charming levels of lightning fast proportions. Better still, you could pick up and throw damn near any object in the game that wasn’t nailed down, up to and including the person you’re playing with. You could even use projectiles defensively… oh, would you look at that:
Above: Gaming’s first cover system?!
It seems Gears of War owes Disney’s most sensational corporation a debt of gratitude, and not just for the blazin’ two player co-op. Now, before we run this tenuous connection into the ground, we’d like to ask that the Rescue Rangers borrow a page from Marcus Fenix and say to Capcom:
Above: I mean, since you’re already remaking your entire catalog…
Digital Disney Trivia: Rescue Rangers was originally meant to star Bernard and Bianca from The Rescuers.