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The Jungle Book – Super Nintendo

The Jungle Book – Super Nintendo

the jungle bookPlatform: Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)

Developer: Eurocom

Publisher: Virgin Games

Release Date (NA): 1994

Genre: Platformer

Reviewed by StarSpangledEggs

Disney’s The Jungle Book Super Nintendo movie-license game, boy does it bring back memories.  Even though it has been quite some time, I still hold fond memories of my jungle man Mowgli.  Swinging on vines like a lifeless ragdoll, flipping through the treetops like an Olympic gymnast, and chucking bananas with the pitching arm of Randy Johnson…good times!

Virgin GamesThe Jungle Book was published by Virgin Games before Capcom was given the Disney license.  Yes, you know that nearly-obsolete cellular service provider?  They used to make Disney movie-based video games (among a few rare others), mostly for the Super Nintendo and  the Sega Genesis, fun fact!  You may be wondering by now though…why did they ever stop making games and switch to doing cell phones?  Well, I haven’t an answer for the second part, but I have a pretty good guess as for the first part.

Along with The Jungle Book, Virgin Games also published Super Nintendo’s The Lion King and Sega’s Aladdin:

 

Sega AladdinSNES Lion KingJungle Book - Mowgli Comparison

Ironic that this game’s source film has a memorable song about the pursuit of being alike…

If you cannot tell from the images above, each of them use a very similar basic visual interface.  In fact, Virgin Games used a very similar basic overall game design in making all of their games.  I would not be surprised if they used the same game engine build on each game because of how similar these games are to one another.  In essence, if you have played one of these games, you have played all 3.

While some gaming franchises can manage to put out multiple games with little change in between (-cough- CALL OF DUTY –cough-) and still gain respect for gameplay design, this is not the case with most Virgin games.  In Virgin’s case, it seems like simple laziness.  Then again, why put forth major effort in designing a movie-license game?  The game is destined to sell with good source material; therefore there is no need to waste time or money making stellar movie-license games.  This is a practice that is pervasive even in today’s gaming culture (The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, Thor, Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters, I could go on for days), and will likely support the stigma for years to come.  Clueless parents and grandparents will buy these lackluster games for their naïve children just because of the title.

This trend has always bothered me, especially when I worked at a game retailer where there was a dense conflict of interest surrounding this subject.  As a retail employee, my job was to promote sales.  But, when customers were going to buy a game that I knew was an awful game, I would want to let them know what they were getting into.  Returns on opened disc-based electronics are practically impossible nowadays, so returning the game based on it being “bad” is not a viable option once they realize their mistake.  Besides, doing so is against a game retailer’s corporate interest, as a sale is a sale whether or not the game is good.  In fact, in that particular business setting, if we are able to let less-informed people clear our shelves of the games that would not sell well to the majority market group, then it was considered a “victory!”   This is because we would score a sale that we would likely have not otherwise received from an informed gamer.  Informed gamers are not going to buy awful games, so letting uninformed consumers take them off our hands was ideal for a business in theory.  That’s like working at a grocery store and seeing people buy rotten bananas, but choosing not to say anything because the buyer does not seem to notice to still get the sale.  Basically, by NOT helping the less-informed party consider better game options, we could hang on to the better games (to sell to other review-reading customers who would avoid bad games) instead of recommending better games to the less-informed customers like decent human beings.

Back on traceable track however, I say these things to set the stage for (what I consider) Virgin’s best movie-based game iteration, The Jungle Book.  Rather than simply looking to satiate “The Bare Necessities,” this Virgin game attempts to create a unique and worthwhile fast-paced platforming experience with Disney’s licensing.  I can honestly say that they put forth some semblance of effort and innovative thinking into this movie-license game, and that effort is something that should be given its fair credit!  We live in a world where it seems many developers would rather simply take a free ride on a franchise’s success without adding anything of value to it themselves.  So let’s flip to the first page of this Jungle Book, shall we?

SNES Jungle BookLike one would expect, the main character of play is the protagonist of the film: Mowgli.  Mowgli is a boy who was raised by wolves (who for some reason, despite being his family, have absolutely no involvement in his life after he reaches his pre-teen years) deep in the uninhabited jungle.  As such, his senses of nature are highly keen.  Much like Tarzan, he is well-versed in all skills pertaining to surviving in his hazard-filled home.

One of these skills is the essential ability to run, as I would imagine any “Man-cub” should learn quickly because there are so many things which he should need to run from.  After all, it’s a jungle out there!  And man oh man can our wolf-raised jungle boy run!  Mowgli’s little bare (bear?) feet can even outrun collapsing bridges like Indiana Jones, but many of the other threats have grown in the same environment and have adapted to threaten him regardless of his pace.

Complementing the usual arsenal of lions and tigers and bears (oh my!), Mowgli also fend off spiraling serpents, billows of bees, mad-as-hell monkeys, and many other vicious vermin in his quest to…well, travel through the major events of the movie.  While he is such a friendly and playful child whom the main animal characters Bagheera the Panther and Baloo the Bear adore, it seems that every other creature in the jungle has a deeply-rooted vendetta against the poor child!  Even Dragonflies want to harm our hero, and I would be highly surprised if they can even mentally comprehend the idea of an attack!  But this does not deter them, as they will zip blindingly about the screen to cut away at Mowgli’s lowly 3 hearts of health until he is good and dead.  Being that he resembles his movie counterpart, he does not have much in the field of self-protection, as he wears nothing but man-thong red underwear…much like another perilous platforming protagonist who faces annoyingly aggressive flying enemies…

Arthur

Unlike that main character though, Mowgli has a respectable jump.  The wolves had no evident hand in teaching him how to jump; instead I am led to believe that he learned how to leap from the flying squirrel.  He seems to give no sense of thought or worry to his bounds, as he will careen himself carelessly over nearly fatal fall distances without a moment’s hesitation.  His confidence is reassuring, as the game’s close camera angle often forces you to make leaps of faith that can often frustrate you with unseen pitfalls or hazards that can kill him.  I always hate when the game’s own design is a major contributing factor to my failures in a game, especially when an easy tweak would fix half your health losses and deaths.

Jungle Book - BananaUndeterred by his short-sightedness, Mowgli has fashioned a vast set of makeshift weapons with which to blaze his trail.  With months of off-screen practice, Mowgli has garnered himself a mean Fastball pitch with his endless cache of bananas.  Now, these are not bananas wrapped in their skin, where the top point causes the brunt of the damage, oh no!  Mowgli is such a monster that he even peels the bananas!  The inside of a banana is as soft as a ball of rose petals, but when Mowgli hits a foe with one of these potassium-packed fruits, they explode into a cloud of sparkles!  Chuck Norris had better watch out, this kid is only like 11 years old and he is this hardcore!  When he turns 21, he will be able to blow apart mountains with an unbridled sigh!

The Man-cub is also a bowling prodigy, as he can roll mangoes along the ground with even more force than he can throw the banana!  This would usually seem highly overpowered, but he has to collect these special weapons throughout the stage so that it does not become an exploitable asset.  And if all else fails, Mowgli can simply apply Mario logic and jump on some of his foes for fatal damage.  I always loved this attack most because after he bounces off of his opponent, he is sent flipping wildly in the air like a trapeze artist and always miraculously lands on his feet with a feline’s flawless balance.  It simply boggles the physical mind to watch him flail about on the screen in the air to land completely unharmed and unaffected. He must be the luckiest little jungle man in history, or perhaps he has a guardian angel keeping VERY attentive watch, or maybe he has simply mastered the math of momentum to the point where he simply doesn’t need to pay any bit of mind to his aerial travels.  Whatever the case may be, Tarzan may have that tree-surfing swag…but Mowgli’s carefree “Y.O.L.O.” treetop travel is much more astounding (who do you think would win in a fight between them if they were the same age?)!

Jungle Book - Jump

Look at that face…no fear.

Besides, if he does fall too far, the back of his underwear will catch the wind and parachute him until he safely reaches the  ground (yeah, let’s see you do that with your cloth and maintain modesty, Tarzan!).  Mowgli must be one lightweight,  malnourished youth if his sleeveless underpants are enough to  make him glide…come to think of it, that would explain his insane ability to clear aerial distances quite fittingly!

Each stage he traverses takes place in a popular setpieces of the movie, and every 3 or so level increments leads Mowgli to fight a recognizable boss character from the movie.  Most of these boss battles are ridiculously simple though, even the final boss battle against the tenacious tiger Sheer Kahn is a joke!  Instead of fighting this beast Man-cub to Man-eater, Mowgli is given a lengthy safety branch to stand on, where he is completely clear of Sheer Kahn’s threats. It sort of removes the foreboding of a boss’s stature if you have a wimpy little safety zone you can always go to.  And with no time limit or anything urging you to come down at any time other than perfectly ideal, you can simply sit up there and watch the dreaded foe from above. I never used it because I always felt that Sheer Kahn would look up at me like “…really?  You’re one of THOSE players?  What a spineless little coward.”

There is not much more to say before closing the book on this one.  If Mowgli dies, he is carried away on a stretcher by two nurse-dressed monkeys (whom I doubt have graduated medical school and therefore would not trust them with any medical procedures, but I suppose he has little alternative options).  If Mowgli wins, he will put up his scrawny dukes and enter a fighting stance…which always confused me since he would enter this aggressive stance after every battle in the game WAS OVER.  In the stage recap, he will show off his epic clubbing dance skills that he must have picked up from Will Smith’s character from the movie Hitch.  Oh, and Mowgli can collect hidden gems throughout the game…that in the end do nothing but add to his score.  His score is a useless form of measure, like many other score counters in nearly every Super Nintendo game.  Beating a game like this outranks getting a high score.  I mean, do you ever hear people talk about their high scores in famous games like Contra or Battletoads?  Of course not, instead they talk about the fact that they beat the games, because that is what is usually the most rewarding and commendable.  If getting high scores were heavily rewarded, then more people would likely focus on doing so, like in today’s world where online leaderboards and scorecards are a testament to one’s skill in a game.

275762-disney-s-the-jungle-book-snes-screenshot-game-overs

While this game does not warrant a high amount of skill and precision, nor is it the platforming experience of the century, The Jungle Book is the finest Disney platformer that Virgin Games has to offer.  The nostalgia of hearing that SNES instrumental version of the Disney classic song, “The Bare Necessities” will never fade from my mind; and so far it has been the most pleasant and effective tune in mentally replacing that God-forsaken “Haunted Graveyard” theme from Ghosts ‘N’ Goblins when it comes to haunt me!  I would not rate this game as a must-play like I would for the Capcom Disney games, but if you are bored and dateless on a weekend, you might get a baby-kick out of it.  As for me when I’m bored and dateless on a weekend, I will now daydream about Tarzan vs Mowgli in a jungle smackdown!

Written by Nerd Bacon

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  1. Great review StarSpangledEggs! I actually remember this game, but I just can’t remember too much about how it actually played or the specific elements. So I think I’ll need to add this one to my video game arsenal!

    Thanks for the great review!

     

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