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In 1994 Disney released The Lion King, a classic animated movie that is said to be loosely based on William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. There have been numerous theories and controversies surrounding the film, such as the idea that it was actually an unofficial copy or remake of Kimba the White Lion; a Japanese manga from the 1950’s that was made into an anime in the 60’s. The similarities are quite striking, but were not here to talk about the movie, oh no, we’re here to talk about the video game!
Lion King was developed by Virgin Interactive for the Sega Genesis and Mega Drive. Unlike Aladdin that came out the year before, they also got to release it on the Super Nintendo, as Capcom no longer had the exclusivity of developing Disney games for Nintendo consoles. This means that both versions are essentially the same, apart from a few minor visual and audio differences. The games aren’t completely different this time around!
“Everything the Light Touches Is Our Kingdom”
The first thing that hits you is the detail and quality of the game. The music, graphics and animation are absolutely superb. Each level and character feels authentic to the movie, thanks mostly to the digicel technology that was used in the previous Aladdin Mega Drive game. The second thing that hits you though is the frustrating difficulty. The first level is an absolute breeze to play through, but then we begin to hit a few problems…
The main issue here is the collision detection when making jumps. Often it can be hard to tell the exact point to latch on to. You make a jump that looks and feels right only to fall to your death. There’s also two parts in the second level where you have to time ducking and jumps on the back on an Ostrich. The double jump is hard to get the timing right, even with the help of arrows warning you. The next time you ride it removes these helpful arrows completely and it can be a REAL test of your patience. Most people seem to get stuck here or during the stampede level.
“…But What About That Shadowy Place?”
I strongly recommend you stick with this though as after a couple of playthroughs you do begin to get a feel for the games rhythm. Once you are more familiar with the level layouts, jumping distances and boss battle patterns, it becomes far less frustrating to play through.
When you start the game you are limited to jumps and a fairly ineffective roar which only really works on stunning smaller creatures. Later on you get to play as the adult Simba which opens up a new variety of moves where you can swipe and throw enemies. These can be a bit tricky to pull off at times, so make sure you’re using a 6 button pad to simplify things. You also take less damage from enemies as an adult which makes the game feel easier. This is another issue with the game; whereby the difficulty is a little inconsistent. Aladdin went from easy to hard, whereas this game takes a huge dip in the middle. I’d have preferred a much smoother and linear transition.
Throughout the game there are also a few bonus levels where you get to play as Timon and Pumba. These are short and sweet, and break up the gameplay nicely. I really loved these characters in the film, so it was nice to get a chance to play as them and earn some much needed extra lives.
I’m not sure if this review comes across as fairly negative, as it isn’t intended to be. The game can be difficult and frustrating, but it is worth the effort in my opinion. Overall, the Lion King is a great platformer and a shining example of how movie licensed games can be made. The graphics and music really capture the essence of the film and I can be quite happy just listening to all the midi renditions of the popular classic songs from the original soundtrack.
“I Laugh in the Face of Danger!”
The final stage is hard, especially without any checkpoints, but this is how games used to be; challenging! Even when I used to play this game as a kid and totally sucked, I still got a lot of enjoyment from it and have kept coming back for more over the years. As Rafiki once said; “Oh yes, the past can hurt. But from the way I see it, you can either run from it, or… learn from it.”
If you’re a fan of the movie or enjoy a challenge I’d say you need this game in your collection. Well, even if you’re not I think it’s still worth purchasing. The Lion King is a game that’s full of charm and would still be good in it’s own right, even without the movie license and characters. I would have to say that it’s one of the best Disney games on the Sega Mega Drive and Genesis.
Did you play this as a kid or have fond memories of the game? Let me know in the comments below.