The Lion King – SNES
Platform: Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Developer: Virgin Interactive, Westwood Studios INC
Publisher: Virgin Interactive, Walt Disney Computer Software
Release Date: December 8, 1994
Nerd Rating: 7
Reviewed by Flagostomos
There are three things that are certain in life: death, taxes, and video games being made out of other popular media. It seems like a no-brainer: take a popular book or movie title and give it the video game treatment. Most of the time, the games that come out are known to be bad, and they were really just trying to make a quick buck on an IP that is already saturated.
However back in the 16-Bit era, many games would come out based on already existing IPs that were actually decent. The Lion King for the Super Nintendo being one of them.
The Lion King is really just a platformer, with The Lion King (TLK) themed characters and environments. As I have said before, platformers aren’t anything special at their core. They have to do something unique to make it exciting, a game that we want to play. TLK is able to take many elements from various platformers and turn it into a great experience.
The game starts pretty straight forward. You control Simba, and being a lion, he walks on 4 feet instead of 2. You would think that this isn’t that hard of a thing to animate or code, but trust me it’s a lot more complex than simply giving the sprite the image of a quadruped. The jumping and running are especially where this is reflected. Simba uses his back feet to propel him forward, while using his front feet to grab onto ledges and pounce on enemies. The game animates this very well, and it feels like you are actually controlling a four-legged creature. For the most part everything is solid. The only gripe I have is that there is a lot of hanging and swinging off ledge gameplay and there are times Simba doesn’t grab the ledge when he was very clearly lined up to do so.
The biggest gimic this game has is that just like in the movie, Simba grows up halfway through the game. Young Simba plays a more “Mario sans any powerups” type of game. He relies purely on jumping on enemies to vanquish them, and tight platforming. He does have a roar, but it is used mainly for flipping the porcupines and the mechanic of the second level. However big Simba actually has slashes he can execute to take down his enemies. The focus of the game goes from almost entirely platforming and jumping to a more subdued hack-and-slash when you acquire grown Simba. It’s a subtle change but it’s there nonetheless, and it is actually executed quite well.
The story follows the story of the movie almost to the letter. Most levels take inspiration from the different acts of the movie, so there’s no surprise here. I will give props where they are due simply because the developers were able to use the almost identical story without having the gameplay suffer.
Spider-Man games should take note.
Like I mentioned in gameplay, the game doesn’t suffer from having to control a four-legged creature instead of two. Jumping is smooth, hit boxes on enemies are where they should be, Simba’s jump takes no time to master and the mechanics are never thrown at you without adequate explanation. The only gripe I have is that sometimes when you want to execute a vertical leap and not a running leap, the game doesn’t differentiate well how much momentum you had built up. This will cause a death or two.
Also the smaller enemies like bats are almost smaller than Simba’s hit box. Grrrr.
All of the sound draws inspiration from the original score used in the movie. From the opening title to the ending credits, the 16-bit renditions of “Circle of Life” and “I Can’t Wait to be King” make you feel like you’re part of the experience.
Other big points go to some decent voice work. I’m not sure if it’s ripped straight from the movie but boy does it sound good for a SNES game.
The graphics are also really good. Simba is well animated, also the hyenas, but the more generic enemies aren’t really memorable at all. Except the bats, those darn bats.
Unfortunately, I think this game suffers from Nostalgia being a motivator to play it. I still have the SNES cartridge and will play it from time to time, but the game doesn’t hold up in comparison to platformers of today, or even it’s competitors on the system. If I want a good 16-bit platformer, I will always go to Super Mario World or DKC first.
While no means a great game, The Lion King for the Super Nintendo is also by no means a bad game. It’s average, which isn’t much more than you would expect from a third party developer working on a movie-to-videogame adaptation. If you can find this I’d suggest giving it a try, other than that it will mostly likely slip past everyone’s radar.
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