Genre: Platformer Developer: Westood/Disney Publisher: Virgin Games Players: 1 Released: 1994
Was it just another tie-in? you wonder as you look at the box. Should I even give it a chance? You’ve already seen the movie and know that it was great. You consider picking up the game because of this, but you’re still weary. Some of Disney’s earlier games weren’t that spectacular, and this could be just more licensed hash designed to earn a quick buck. You then check the back of the box. That familiar Virgin logo jumps out at you. Your doubt slowly disappears.
Virgin games are some of the Genesis’s brightest, not only in quality but in selling power, and they had already built this reputation with games like Aladdin and Cool Spot. You decide to buy the game, and after taking it home and playing it, you realize you were right. Virgin and Disney have struck gold again!
The Lion King is simply a well-made game that could still hold up on its own even if it wasn’t for the movie. The graphics, the music, the gameplay, the menus, everything put together made one of the best games available for the Genesis at the time. So good was it, that it was even sold with the Genesis itself for a while, along with its own special jungle-themed box. How many games can claim THAT?
You should know the story by now. Simba is the prince of the jungle while his father Mufasa and mother Nala are the rulers. You’ve got your evil uncle Scar, and your comic relief hyenas. Scar kills Mufasa and becomes king of the jungle. One creative Hamlet knock-off if I’ve ever seen one. (By the way, I’ve seen Kimba the White Lion, and I know The Lion King was originally planned to be the Disney version of it.)
You start of as a young cub Simba, who only has the simple worries of jumping on chameleons and porcupines. You’ll soon fighting meaner and meaner enemies, until you’re eventually chased away and come back full adult, which is where the game gets REALLY fun. Adult Simba can not only jump on his enemies, but he can now slash anything in site, making the game easier than earlier, which sort of goes against the tradition of higher levels being harder (although that last level can be brutal whether you get to slash hyenas or not). The roar is actually made more useful now and using it to scare enemies makes them easier to throw across the screen. The controls are simple, with just roar, slash, and jump.
The games sounds are awesome. Everything sounds like it came out of the film, even if the music isn’t done as well as it could be. It still does its job though, and really helps with the feel of the levels. Compared too the SNES version, the Genesis’ music and FX sound near Playstation-like. Roars, smacks, and grunts sound like they should.
The actual gameplay flows smoothly through most of the adventure. More advanced players should eventually be able to play the entire game hit free and make it seem like almost watching a demo. Notice that I said advanced players. That creates a little problem that I considered while thinking of a final score. See, as in with any Disney game, little kids are expected to want to play it. Most are made specifically for this and can be completed easily by younger children. However, The Lion King isn’t like this. Although older kids should eventually be able to beat it, it’s hard for a younger children to just pick it up and play, especially the second level which I’m convinced was created to just piss people off. I know that’s what it did to me!
This was probably done just to make it a better game, and not just one for kids. Virgin knew what they were doing. That day you finally throw Scar off the ledge and the sun comes out and clears the giant fire burning underfoot (Oh like you didn’t already know the ending!), and it just feels like one awesome achievement. It was so worth growing up those couple of years to fully understand what pink monkeys you had to roar at and to be able to do the ostrich running part without losing six lives.
Overall, this is just one great game. One of the best Disney games, and probably one of the system’s best overall!
SCORE: 9 out of 10