Blast from the Past: Disney’s The Lion King (SEGA Mega Drive)

8.5

Great

Disney has created some classic productions over the years and thankfully the world of games have mostly obliged by producing unforgettable classics. Think of just about any Disney character and you’ll find Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, Kingdom Hearts, DuckTales, Darkwing Duck, Talespin, Hercules and many more top quality video games that span decades. There is however one game that somehow lived up to the hype surrounding the movie at the time and that’s The Lion King.

And so it begins

In Simba’s world the stars aligned to bring him closer to his father that passed away early in the movie, but when it comes to movie tie-in games it aligned with a game that has stood the test of time incredibly well. As with most games of that era, it’s the platformer genre that brought the interactive adaptation of the movie to life. Events kick off with Simba as a young cub in the Pridelands. It’s here that you’ll get the learn the basic move list which involves Simba jumping on foes and the ability to roar. Everything ties in very closely to what you would have watched in the movie as Simba’s roar isn’t all the terrifying in his ‘cub stage’… unless you’re a porcupine, apparently. Throughout his journey, you’re presented with some iconic threats. Simba will come face-to-face with a Hyena at the end of the first stage, but you’ll also get to experience and relive his most tragic moment in the movie.

The stampede level was a Crash Bandicoot level before Crash Bandicoot was a thing.

The Lion King hit home with many moviegoers at the time thanks to the sorrow represented by Mufasa’s death and instead of just seeing that moment come to life, due to Simba’s recklessness, you get to play the stampede Wildebeest scene. At the time it was way ahead of the Mega Drive’s technical capabilities and had Simba running towards the player with events unfolding behind him. The stampede level was a Crash Bandicoot level before Crash Bandicoot was a thing. Dodging these Wildebeest and jumping to avoid rocks in the road was tough back in 1994 and it’s just as demanding in 2019. There is a lot of variety in the game. One moment you’re taking care of traditional platforming sections and the next you’re being carried on the top of an Ostrich and Rhinos are ‘horning’ you to other areas on the stage in what feels like an interactive musical.

Once Simba grows up he receives new moves that include a proper roar that’ll have monkeys literally falling to their death by just hearing it and the ability to claw his opponents or obstacles out of the way. It’s a nice change of pace as the basic platforming with the odd mid-air swing gets replaced with those moves just before it becomes a bit repetitive.

Westwood studios commanded and conquered

Every scene in the game looks spectacular, even by standards you would see in Indie games in modern times. It might then come as a surprise that it’s the Command and Conquer crew (Westwood Studios) that worked closely with the official Disney Animation Studio to produce this game. The animation in the game is far ahead of most games of its time. Every frame is filled with detail. Whether it’s the beautiful backdrops or accurate character models, it still impresses in 2019. There is however something that stands head and shoulders above any feature and that is the music. Thanks to the exceptional soundtrack in the movie, it’s been tied in with the memorable scenes in the game. Catching yourself humming to each tune is something you simply can’t help but do.

The Lion King is a timeless classic.

Unfortunately, The Lion King does not have much replay value. There is a bonus stage where you’ll be catching insects that are being dropped from the heavens thanks to Simba’s best buds, Pumba and Timone, which is great for filling up your health bar, but little else. Once you’ve finished the game you’ve played all it has to offer. Throughout your experience, you’ll be on the lookout for icon-like insects. Some will replenish your health bar, while some will increase your health meter for the remainder of the game. If you would really like to challenge yourself then finding each insect won’t be an easy task, but you’re doing it for yourself and not for some sort of achievement or trophy. It’s the old school way.

The Lion King is a timeless classic. It took everything that made the movie so spectacular and put it in video game form. It’s unfortunate we’ve never seen this game re-released for a new generation, but you can play this game on just about any console of that era. If you do have a Mega Drive then I can’t recommend this game highly enough.

Good

  • The music is so, so good
  • Great platforming challenges
  • It's not often you see a good movie tie-in

Bad

  • That stampede level is tough
  • Little replay value

Summary

The Lion King is a game that successfully ties in with the popular movie of 1994. The soundtrack will take you on a ride like no other with levels filled with variety from beginning to end. It's a Disney Classic both in movie and video game form.
8.5

Great

Married to a gamer and she kicks my ass at most shooters. If the game is enjoyable I'll play it, no matter the format.

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