However the movie sees the transition from young Simba to Adult Simba quite late in the narrative. Directly translating this to the game would mean the more enjoyable character would only be playable for the final few stages. “Because we chose to tell the story in the same order as the movie we really couldn't bring adult Simba in sooner" recalls designer Louis Castle. To solve the problem the team at Westwood actually turned to deleted scenes from the film. According to Castle the extra levels featuring adult Simba were “actually inspired by [...] things from the movie that never got made “The Disney Corporation were initially reluctant to allow the inclusion of cut content in the game. However they were convinced after the promise that any game exclusive material would be sympathetic to the film on which it was based. "The videogame team did not create any of the characters, all the extra stuff came from Disney material" confirms Castle.
Thankfully despite Simba strolling about on all fours. "Virgin has done a great job making a great game with a four-legged character, something I'm sure most developers wouldn't even want to attempt" Game Fan magazine observed in a review. Simba really behaves just like Aladdin and you quickly forget that you're playing with a wider sprite.
There's also a number of Mini games peppered through the game, where a player can gain lives and continues with the aid of Timone and Pumba. Though the route through the branching level paths is usually obvious, straying off the beaten path is encouraged as there is a lot to find off the beaten track. Greg Rice is the publishing manager at Double Fine Production but he is also self confessed 'Lion King' addict. “I probably had to play you know dozens and dozens of times before I was able to finish it and every time. There’s always one new secret for you find". “As you progress through the game you increase the length of your health meter through secret stuff" reiterates Castle. “You can't obviously complete the game if you've never done anyone we tested that!" However for Greg Rice the challenge may have been too much. "I feel like a lot of people might have only seen the first couple levels of [this] game because it's so challenging ". With no in-game save function 'Lion King' needs to be replayed from the beginning every time; a truly monumental challenge.
In this section Simba must navigate across tress full of monkeys negotiating tricky jumps by timing leaps to and from Rhino tails. If Simba roars at a monkey it will change the direction it throws him in and there's is only one path through the trees. Mis-time a jump, Change the direction of the wrong monkeys and its instant death: You're returned to the start of the stage with the puzzle reset. Obviously on a first attempt there's no way of knowing the correct route, so there's a great deal of trial and error. Disney may have wanted to stop rental players progressing too quickly, but they end result is an early stage that's so difficult it may have been too demanding for some players to ever finish. “So that's why this levels so hard apologies to all the people who ever pulled out their hair" says Castle. "But the reason we had to do it was because the rental market. We really couldn't let you pass level two too fast."
After reducing his energy down to a point where he is panting you must throw him from the top of a mountain beautifully mirroring the climatic ending of the film. It all sounds very poetic and with pixelated lighting crashing and loud music it's certainly dramatic. The problem is that this throwing move is never taught to the player within and this is the first time you have to do it. I spent literally an hour fighting Scar, without realising all I had to do with one rolling throw. Thankfully I had an artificial save state before the end or I can't imagine I would have the patience to stick with it. The throw isn't even something you'll accidentally do as it involves pressing three buttons in sequence while standing within range. Of course on the Super Nintendo version you have a desiccate throw button so this should be fairly obvious, and this is just one of the reasons why the game is superior on Nintendo hardware. "Though the two games are structurally identical, the Super NES 'Lion King’ is far superior to its Genesis counterpart — better graphics, music, and sound effects" noted Entertainment Weekly. Even the design team admit the Snes version of 'Lion King' is the one you should spend your money on. "It was the same codebase, Westwood were a multi-platform developer" recalls Castle. "But I have to say on the Genesis ['The Lion King'] is not nearly as good visually as it is on the Super Nintendo". Of course that's not to say the game looks bad on the Mega Drive. Mean Machines magazine said it was "incredible to look at". Electronic Gaming Monthly thought it had "knock-out" graphics and GoodOldGames recently said the "animation brought the characters to life with a level of vibrancy that was unparalleled at the time and remains impressive today.” As with other Virgin games, 'The Lion King' was made in association with Disney using the DigiCel technology that was developed for 'Aladdin'. "Part of our deal with Disney was we had to use the Disney animation studios" Castle confirms. "Disney would animate it as if it was a linear short and then the artists on the art team would scan them. They'd go through pixel by pixel and hand fine-tunes the character to try to capture the nuance of the curves and stuff that were in the characters".
While working so closely with Disney meant access to some of the greatest artists in the world, it was a relationship that posed problems for Westwood. "They were so passionate about the animation but we constantly had to educate them [about] what made good gameplay. We had to have many many debates about the fact that it just wouldn't be playable if you didn't let us do certain things." One of these things was reducing the number of frames of animation. While more frames means smother cinematic movement, they slow down gameplay and make a playable character harder to control. According to Castle, cartridge Space also had to be carefully managed. "Disney really don't want to approve animation that doesn't have a lot of frames. So we're constantly compromising saying 'well we simply have to cut some of the frames from the enemies because we need some more for this'". Disney also demanded that the film be suitably reflected in the game. "There were certain signature items we had to have in the game and I remember going 'alright well we got to figure out how to use Pride Rock'".