Hakuna Matata – it means no worries. The motto, introduced to the world in 1994 via the animated feature The Lion King, carries on to this day. Alongside one of the best Disney movies of all time, a platformer-style video game was released for the Sega Genesis and was also ported to other systems. Nonetheless, that whole “Hakuna Matata” motto doesn’t transmit too smoothly to the video game, because all you endure in the unforgiving platformer is an array of uncertainties and disappointment.
As Simba parades through Pride Rock in the first stage, anything is possible. Controls are elementary and the gameplay doesn’t appear complicated to the naked eye. The melodies mirror the original soundtrack, but in more of a tinny-Sega-sounding kind of way. Minor inconveniences, such as porcupines and lizards, confront our little lion, but aren’t a major threat. A simple pounce or baby roar typically rids of or stuns the trivial fiends. Everything seems good in the world. Not to mention, a good chunk of power-ups are attainable. These nifty collectables raise Simba’s overall health bar and replenishable roar meter. What could possibly go wrong in such a happy-go-lucky atmosphere?
Everything – literally everything.
Cue stage two. The environment is colorful and the instrumental up-beat jingle “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” renders in a loop. Be careful – deception lurks behind the catchy tune. Enemies aren’t present, but a jungle-like obstacle course takes their place. Tactical jumping techniques assist our little dude through a cluster of menaces. Apparently Simba can’t swim and automatically loses a life if his paws touch water. Yikes. The giraffes lead Simba to believe he can pounce on their heads, but deviously toss their long necks back and Simba to his death. So much for royalty. Are you sure you can’t wait to be king, Simba?
The environments just get more and more challenging as Simba progresses. Sprinting from a herd of antelope while instantaneously evading treacherous obstacles on the ground is anything but a cakewalk. The antelope will abolish any sense of pride you have with every life of Simba’s they take. It’s okay, though. The wacky Rafiki occasionally gifts us with accessible swirly ‘continues’ scattered across stages. This way when all of Simba’s lives have diminished, he can carry on with his journey to become king.
Granted, The Lion King isn’t always a nightmare. Bonus levels are accessed by finding hidden bugs. Starring Timon or Pumbaa, bonus stages present the opportunity to redeem extra lives or a continue trinket to use later one. Every little bit helps, you know? Sometimes, strategically navigating Simba from platform to platform reduces the chance of failure. Evil could very well be lurking around any corner, even if that evil is a homicidal lizard. Better to be safe than sorry.
Ah, but there is nothing quite as rewarding as watching Simba exit his awkward teenage years and blossom into a ravenous lion. His roar empowers a handful of wild animals, but his mighty claws are much more daunting. At one point, leopards and bothersome tiny monkeys ambush Simba on his way to embracing his destiny. Leopards can easily put Simba in a tizzy, for they slash back just as hard. The monkeys, however, fiercely toss pebbles. Many hazards lie in Simba’s path to reclaiming his place as king of Pride Rock, but with the right amount of determination and skill, he will prosper.
As the final battle commences, a large amount of repetition produces a tedious scuffle between two power-hungry lions. A combination of clawing and dodging just about sums up Simba’s confrontation with Scar, but boy does it feel fantastic to watch the end credits roll. Hell, even just reaching the last stage is an accomplishment all on its own. In this day and age, I personally find myself throwing in the towel early on in The Lion King. Do you know how embarrassing it is to lose to a porcupine? Do you?
Though The Lion King is a very challenging game, its nostalgia value is high. Totaling at ten very tedious levels, the gameplay throws a variety of trying situations at Simba. The colorful environments and lovable characters, on the other hand, embellish the journey fans have adored since the film debuted in 1994. Nonetheless, The Lion King for the Sega Genesis will always be a game I start, muster through a few levels, die a bunch, and then bitterly disregard. Long live the king.