The Lion King is one of the games everybody tells you to buy when you say you’re getting a Megadrive.
It makes me wonder how many of these people actually remember it, or played past the 1st level. So let us take off the nostalgia glasses and see how The Lion King holds up today.
I’ll address this first. The Lion King is hard. If you’re expecting a fun 30 minutes like Aladdin you have come to the wrong place. I would put the Lion King on a par with Mega Man for difficulty. And sadly, this isn’t a good thing.
Some of the platforming sections are annoying, the level of precision that is required for ledge jumping is simply unfair. It feels a little broken, like it is in games such as Bart vs the Space Mutants (on NES), and you will find yourself needlessly dying when the ledge/rope/rock you jump for fails to connect. As this usually results in Instadeath, frustration will quickly set in.
The below image shows where you nedd to land for a ledge grab to connect. It is frustrating as the hitbox is wrong.
The checkpointing is also slightly off.
Particularly on “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” and the “Hakuna Matata” level, the checkpoint is before a fiddly bit. It means you have a bit of a schlep to get back to the point where you died. And chances are you’ll die again.
Both of those levels have broken sections, and even now after nearly 20 years of trying to play this game, I still ragequit on the 2nd level!
The double jumps on level 2 simply don’t work, you can’t see the obstacle, and you have to do a pixel perfect double jump. I hate it.
I have to pause the game at the double jump section, and then try to figure out the obstacles. If you jump too early you hit an invisible wall, too late and you hit the nest.
I have included the screenshot as I STILL can’t really tell what I am avoiding. I know the image is blurry, but that is because I used a low quality codec. But playing live you get around 5 frames to take all this information in, and make the jump.
It is simply bad game design.
That, in conjunction with the ledge jumping make the platforming pretty poor. They are hard because they are poorly designed, or badly signposted. Since this is a platform game, it is pretty unforgivable.
Graphics and Animation
The animation is a thing of beauty. Just like in Aladdin a lot of attention has been paid, this results in very fluid animation, and makes Lion King one of the best animation-wise games on the Megadrive.
In terms of graphics, it still looks good. The backgrounds are lush, the locations are easily identifiable to the scenes they represent – though some artistic licence has been taken.
I love the Lion King, and the game follows the story closely. All key scenes are included (except Can you Feel the Love Tonight/Lions porking scene), and there is a lack of Timon and Pumba (mini-games aside), but you won’t feel let down.
The final boss is a little annoying, especially when after 30 minutes of punching Scar in the face that you realise you are supposed to use a move you didn’t know existed (I had to GameFAQs it). I got through the whole game, and didn’t know there was a throw button. It isn’t as annoying as the dodge in Resident Evil: Dead Aim; but it comes out of nowhere, and it feels cheap.
Lion King is an alright game, the fiddly platforming lets the game down a fair bit and the difficulty curve is all over the place meaning the game isn’t that fun to play.
Unlike hard games such as Earthworm Jim, I just don’t enjoy the Lion King.
I honestly don’t understand why it remains so popular. Having said that, it isn’t a “bad” game.
Pros: 16bit renditions of all the best songs, animations are top notch
Cons: Hard as hell because the platformimg is a little off.