The Lion King (video game)
|The Lion King
|Developer(s)||Westwood Studios, Inc. (SNES, GEN, AMI)
Sega (Genesis and Game Gear Co-Publisher)
|Distributor(s)||Walt Disney Computer Software|
|Composer(s)||Matt Furniss (Genesis)
Patrick Collins (SNES)
|Release date(s)||Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis
The Lion King is a platformer video game based on Disney's popular animated film of the same name. The title was developed by Westwood Studios and published by Virgin Interactive for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis/Mega Drive in 1994, and was also ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy, PC, Amiga, Master System, and Game Gear. The NES and Master System and Amiga versions of the game were never released in North America. The Lion King was the final game released for the NES in Europe. The game follows Simba's journey from a young carefree cub to the battle with his evil uncle Scar as an adult.
The Lion King is a side-scrolling platform game in which players control the protagonist, Simba, through the events of the film, going through both child and adult forms as the game progresses. In the first half of the game, players control Simba as a child, who primarily defeats enemies by jumping on them. Simba also has the ability to roar, using up a replenishable meter, which can be used to stun enemies, make them vulnerable, or solve puzzles. Midway through the game, players play through a unique stampede level in which they must avoid wildebeest and rocks. In the second half of the game, Simba becomes an adult and gains access to various combat moves such as scratching, mauling, and throws. In either form, Simba will lose a life if he runs out of health or encounters an instant-death obstacle, such as a bottomless pit or a rolling boulder.
Throughout the game, the player can collect various types of bugs to help them through the game. Some bugs restore Simba's health and roar meters, while other more rare bugs can increase these meters for the remainder of the game, but black spiders will cause Simba to lose health. By finding certain bugs hidden in certain levels, the player can participate in bonus levels in which they player as either Timon or Pumbaa to earn extra lives and continues. Pumbaa's stages has him collect falling bugs and items until one hits the bottom of the screen, while Timon's stages has him hunt for bugs within a time limit whilst avoiding spiders.
The sprites and backgrounds were drawn by Disney animators themselves at Walt Disney Feature Animation, and the music was adapted from songs and orchestrations in the soundtrack. In a "Devs Play" session with Double Fine, game designer Louis Castle revealed that two of the game's levels, Hakuna Matata and Be Prepared, were adapted from scenes that were scrapped from the final movie.
The Sega Genesis version of the game does not have background vocals unlike the Super Nintendo version, but the Super Nintendo version has fewer background particles than the Genesis version. This is evident in the Elephant Graveyard and Stampede levels, as well as on the title screen. The MS-DOS version contains background vocals when the game is played with a SoundBlaster sound card. The vocals are missing when the game is using an AdLib sound card due to AdLib's inability to play digital sound.
The Windows 3.1 version relied on the WinG graphics engine, but a series of Compaq Presarios were not tested with WinG, which caused the game to crash while loading. The crashes caused game developers to be suspicious of Windows as a viable platform and instead many stuck with MS-DOS. To prevent further hardware/software compatibility issues, Direct X was created. This also led to the Windows 95 port of Doom to try to regain developers' faith in Windows.
The SNES version of The Lion King sold well, with 1.27 million units sold in the United States alone.
GamePro gave the SNES version a generally negative review, commenting that the game has outstanding graphics and voices but "repetitive, tedious game play that's too daunting for beginning players and too annoying for experienced ones." They particularly noted the imprecise controls and highly uneven difficulty, though they felt the "movie-quality graphics, animations, and sounds" were good enough to make the game worth playing regardless of the game play. They similarly remarked of the Genesis version, "The Lion King looks good and sounds great, but the game play needs a little more fine-tuning ..."
The four reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly praised the Game Gear version as having graphics equal to the SNES and Genesis versions and control that is vastly improved over those versions. They scored the game a 7.75 out of 10 average. GamePro wrote that the graphics are not as good as those of the SNES and Genesis versions, but agreed that they are exceptional by Game Gear standards, and praised the Game Gear version for having a much more gradual difficulty slope than the earlier versions. Gameplayers wrote in their November 1994 issue that "even on the easy setting, the game is hard for an experienced player".
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