|The Lion King|
Packaging for the Genesis version
|Publisher(s)||Virgin Interactive Entertainment|
NES, Game Boy
|Series||The Lion King|
|Platform(s)||Super NES, Sega Genesis, NES, Game Boy, Microsoft Windows, Amiga, Game Gear, Master System|
Nintendo Entertainment System
The Lion King is a platformer video game based on Disney's animated film of the same name. The title was developed by Westwood Studios and published by Virgin Interactive Entertainment for the Super NES and Genesis in 1994, and was also ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy, Microsoft Windows, Amiga, Master System, and Game Gear. The NES, Master System and Amiga versions were only released in the PAL region, with the NES version in particular being the last game released for the platform in the region in addition to being the final licensed game for the platform worldwide. The game follows Simba's journey from a young 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 cub, 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. 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, other more rare bugs can increase these meters for the remainder of the game, while 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 play as either Timon or Pumbaa to earn extra lives and continues. Pumbaa's stages have him collecting falling bugs and items until either one hits the bottom of the screen or he eats a bad bug, while Timon's stages have him hunting for bugs within a time limit while 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 Amiga 1200 version of the game was developed in two months from scratch in assembly language by Dave Semmons, who was willing to take on the conversion if he received the Genesis source code. He assumed the game to be programmed in 68000 assembly, since the Amiga and Genesis shared the same CPU family developed by Motorola, but turned out to be written in C, a language he was unfamiliar with.
The versions of the game for Genesis, SNES, and Game Boy are included alongside Aladdin in Disney Classics: Aladdin and The Lion King, which released on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows on October 29, 2019.
The SNES version of The Lion King sold well, with 1.27 million units sold in the United States alone. The Windows version sold over 200,000 copies. In 2002, Westwood's Louis Castle remarked that The Lion King "sold 4.5 million copies or something ridiculous like that--the best-selling Westwood title to-date."
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 gameplay. 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 controls that are 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".
The Windows version was a subject of controversy due to it requiring technical specifications and setup beyond what most of the game's target audience had experience with, which resulted in many people who bought the game finding that they could not make it run.
Entertainment Weekly gave the Super NES version an A and the Genesis version a B+ and wrote that "Controlling Simba when he's a playful bundle of fur is one thing; putting him through his paces as a full-maned adult is quite another. When the grown-up Simba gives a blood-curdling roar and mauls snarling hyenas, the interaction is so well observed that it's like watching a PBS nature documentary. The sense of power it gives you is exhilarating, and by the time Simba takes his climactic heavyweight stand against his evil uncle Scar, this Lion King has turned into a wild-kingdom variant of Street Fighter II."