Like many kids of my age, I was a fan of The Disney Afternoon -- a syndicated block of programming dedicated to new animated shows from Walt Disney Television Animation. What began with DuckTales grew with Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, and eventually ballooned out into a two-hour block bookended by Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears and TaleSpin. And with the exception of Gummi Bears (which I didn't dislike, it just never quite hooked me), these shows were must-see television.
But in the fall of 1991, everything changed as Darkwing Duck took to the airwaves, bringing a sense of superheroicness to the proceedings that the other shows lacked. Where the other shows had a certain quaint quality about them, from the cobblestone streets of Duckberg to the small-scale shenanigans of a group of rodent rescuers and the late-1930's setting of TaleSpin, Darkwing Duck offered something different. It felt sleeker and more modern -- which is kind of ironic, since it drew heavily on pulp and Golden Age comic adventures for its inspiration.
In short, it just managed to click with me in a way that none of the other Disney Afternoon shows before or since managed to do. So I suppose it's only fitting that the Capcom game based on my favorite Disney series would have a feeling that many have described as being reminiscent of my favorite Capcom series, Mega Man.
It's easy enough to see where one might draw that conclusion. Darkwing runs and jumps, shooting enemies with up to three bursts at a time from his trademark Gas Gun, avoiding perilous pits and sinister spikes, though the latter won't kill you in one hit. You can even equip different weapons!
While the way DW moves feels pretty close to the Blue Bomber's own running and jumping, however, so much else is different. For one, this duck can duck, allowing him to dispose of dwelling denizens of darkness who are simply too low for a standing shot. In exchange, however, he forfeits his ability to shoot while running, but further compensates by pulling his crime-resistant cape up over his fearsome face when you press up, deftly deflecting some shots from numerous ne'er do-wells.
Darkwing is also capable of hanging with the best of them. Quite literally, actually, as if there is one signature gameplay element that sets Darkwing apart from the rest of his Capcom platforming peers of the day, it's his ability to grab on to the many various hooks, platforms, lamps, and other handy holds scattered throughout St. Canard. It's not only useful, but essential to master in order to complete the game -- and a good enough move that Scrooge uses it himself in DuckTales 2, also featured in this collection (and you can bet McDuck didn't send him a single cent for it, either).
Further differentiating the two is that Darkwing has a very limited life bar, consisting of a single heart which has four quadrants to it, and no upgrading available.
One similarity that Darkwing Duck has to Mega Man is that you're able to select which vile villain you want to fearlessly face down first. Of course, while Mega Man might have helped to innovate this gaming feature, it had become commonplace in a lot of Capcom games by this point: DuckTales, Strider, and others to varying degrees (often incorporating maps).
This similarity also serves to highlight another difference, though. Unlike our favorite Super Fighting Robot, this masked mallard doesn't acquire new powers from defeating a boss. Rather, he can equip one of three different types of Gas canisters found throughout the stages: Thunder, which fires a pair of lightning bolts at 45 and 135 degree angles; Heavy, which drops a projectile to the floor which splits and travels along the ground in both directions; and Arrow, which is the most powerful and basically the precursor to the Super Arrow in Mega Man 5, albeit too fast for Darkwing to ride.
For all the differences Darkwing Duck has from a Mega Man game, it's kind of a wonder why anyone would call it Mega Man-esque at all. And still, when you play it, you just kind of get it. So many of the qualities Capcom brought to each Mega Man title for the Nintendo Entertainment System are here, from the graphics to the music to the controls. There are differences, to be sure, but they still manage to feel like a part of the same family.
As for the rest of the collection and how it comes together, if you played Digital Eclipse's Mega Man Legacy Collection, then you have a pretty good idea of what you're getting here, though it's worth adding that while the games in that collection have been available in a number of ways, this is the first time these six games have ever been re-released (barring DuckTales Remastered and the Game Boy versions).
This group of DuckTales, Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, TaleSpin, Darkwing Duck, DuckTales 2, and Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers 2 feature everything from the ability to save anywhere (handy, as none of these games had save or password features when they were originally released), different filters for your viewing preference (none, television, and monitor), and even an ability that Mega Man Legacy Collection didn't have -- much like many of the titles featured in Rare Replay, you can rewind the game a bit in case you've made a careless move, or simply can't be bothered with things like lives and continues.
There is also a nice museum of various odds and ends, including production art for the various titles. In fact, there was one particular piece of art I had to share here, and you'll see why:
Seems a little familiar, doesn't it?
Unfortunately, the museum isn't quite perfect. While rather thorough in featuring all kinds of art, there is no sort of zoom function, leaving the finer print on the various scanned boxes and comic/magazine advertisements difficult if not impossible to read. (As an aside, it's interesting to note that this content has also been completely scrubbed of references to the systems these games originally appeared on.)
Each game also has a full soundtrack available for you to listen to. While the quality and quantity of these tunes is great, they ironically left one piece out: This collection's own soundtrack! While you can listen to the great remixes and original chiptune-styled version of the Disney Afternoon theme across all the various menus, there is sadly no single place to listen to them all together.
Sadly, one area in which the bonus content falls short is that the numerous NES Remix-styled Challenges from Mega Man Legacy Collection aren't here. Instead, this compilation tries to make up for it with a Time Attack mode, where there are no saves or rewinds, and your goal is to basically speedrun each game and get the best time.
There is also a Boss Rush available, for those interested in testing their mettle in a gauntlet of each game's strongest. I tried the Darkwing Duck one and enjoyed it, but to my sadness, it didn't record my time for some reason (and I'd beaten some of the times displayed on the Leaderboards, too). Whether the servers weren't running at the time (I hope they are now, if that's the case) or it was just a glitch on my part, I'm not certain.
All in all, this is a great collection of great games (and also TaleSpin) that is an easy recommendation. Darkwing Duck is great for a Mega Man fan to check out, and most of the rest are worth sticking around for, especially if you have fond memories of the cartoons, or even just playing the original games. Plus, given how late they were released into the NES's lifespan (the Super NES was well into its own run by this point), DuckTales 2 and Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers 2 are a pair of rarely-seen titles that usually command a pretty penny (or maybe even a Lucky Dime) on their own.
The Disney Afternoon Collection is available now on PlayStation 4 (version played for this review), Xbox One, and Steam for $19.99/£15.99/€19.99.
With that out of the way, we can now wonder what might be next for the Digital Eclipse/Capcom partnership, or even the Disney/Capcom partnership (besides Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite, that is). I don't suppose finally getting a Darkwing Duck 2 or Darkwing Duck Remastered would be too much to ask for?
Oh, and since this has gotten me in the mood, how about the first appearance of Darkwing Duck?