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Ah, The Lion King. One of the greatest animated movies of all time, a magnificent stage musical... and a video game so hard it needs to be yeeted into the fiery heart of the sun, never to be seen again.
Released on the SEGA Mega Drive way back in 1994, the video game version of The Lion King is now 26 years old. Being just one at the time of its original release I didn't feel its keen sting until a few years later, when I learned first-hand what true pain is. Ironically enough for a game based on a beloved family-friendly movie, The Lion King is a notoriously difficult platformer that I remain convinced was designed by somebody who hated kids, because I don't think anyone who played this movie tie-in at the time actually enjoyed themselves. They can't have.
Take the Elephant Graveyard. This was quite easily one of the scariest moments in the movie, and it was turned into one of the most traumatising levels in the game. A tiny Simba is forced to dodge scores of vultures and hyenas, all while trying not to plummet to an early death or impale himself on the spiky traps that were all over the place.
Then there's the Waterfall level which, despite boasting a particularly upbeat piece of music and some gorgeous colours, is in fact a hellish experience from start to finish. Minimal checkpoints and tiny platforms with zero margin for error made climbing to the top of that damn waterfall my own personal Everest. I honestly can't remember if I did it in the end or if I just gave up and asked my dad to have a go... And even then I'm not sure if he, as a grown man, could do it.
I've gone back to The Lion King recently on Nintendo Switch and it's still ridiculously difficult. The ability to create your own save points does make it considerably smoother, I'll admit, but that doesn't make up for the years in which this game flat out scarred me - no pun intended.
Anyone who dares to suggest this game was for kids is straight up wrong. It was evil. The Lion King game took the concept of Hakuna Matata out to the back alley and shot in the head. In front of its crying wife and kids.
I tell you this: I had a pretty sweet childhood right up until the moment the game based on my favourite movie turned out to have been designed specifically to ruin my entire life. I would thank The Lion King for teaching me what it feels like to fail, but I can't help but feel you can only teach a child the same lesson so many times before it starts to become tantamount to bullying.
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