Throwback Thursday: The Disney Afternoon Collection

I grew up at the start (and I’d say prime) of The Disney Afternoon animation block. Shows like DuckTales, Rescue Rangers, TaleSpin, and Darkwing Duck all premiered during the latter half of my grade school years. I was nine, when DuckTales debuted and I was immediately hooked. It had everything I desired, adventure, mysticism, kids getting in trouble, and of course the cranky but gold-hearted, Scrooge McDuck.

Rescue Rangers, Tale Spin, and Darkwing Duck all were excellent afternoon viewing as well and I looked forward to coming home from school and giving the block of cartoons a watch. As a latchkey kid, these shows were a means of combating the loneliness that came from being home alone for a few hours while waiting for your parents to get home from work. And they did a great job.

Besides afternoon cartoons though, another thing I’d often use to pass the time was video games. Early on it was games on my Atari 2600 but eventually I got a NES and would play it non-stop. Capitalizing on the success of their animation block, Disney licensed Capcom to make games based on those afternoon cartoons. All four series saw games released and DuckTales and Rescue Rangers both saw sequels to their respective games, albeit in very limited release.

As a kid, I didn’t have a ton of games and the only one of the afternoon animation games I ever owned was DuckTales. But, I did play Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, renting it from the super pharmacy, PharMor. PharMor had the biggest selection of movies and games out of any of the rental stores in the area (the other we would use on a regular basis was West Coast Video, which we could walk to). They also had a two night rental policy for movies and games, which was great because my Mom would always hit up the store on Friday nights and then again on Sunday afternoons. When we went on Friday nights she would allow me (and eventually my brother) to rent a movie or game. My brother always rented the film Gremlins (my parents could have bought him Gremlins for far cheaper than their rental bill for it probably was), while I almost always rented a new game.  One of the games I rented was Rescue Rangers. I beat it in that one rental period but have super fond memories of it in general.

Anyway, there were four other games that spawned from these afternoon cartoons. I never played them so when Capcom announced that they were releasing a retro collection with all six of their classic NES Disney Afternoon games, I was super stoked. And guess what? I had every right to be because this collection is amazing.

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Look, I’m 39 years old now. I play a lot of games and don’t often have the time to sink into certain titles like I once would. I don’t have the patience to sit down and play and ultimately memorize every aspect of a level to ultimately beat it. I’m not taking away anything from people that want that experience but most of the time, it doesn’t work for me anymore. If I have to sink too much time in to something I feel I am potentially missing out on trying other things and I get frustrated and move on. So when Capcom puts in a rewind button and save states, it allows me to play these games and experience them as I remember them when I was good at games. I like this feature quite a bit and Disney Afternoon Collection makes great use of it. And I made great use of it as well.

As mentioned The Disney Afternoon Collection has six games in it. DuckTales released in 1989, Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers released in 1990, TaleSpin released in 1991, Darkwing Duck released in 1992, DuckTales 2 released in 1993, and Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers 2 released in 1994. All of these games feature the original NES game plus an all new boss attack mode and a time attack mode. The original NES game allows for saving and rewinding making them easier to play for those not prepared or equipped to sink time in to them.

I think the easiest way to break this down is to look at each game individually. So we’re going to go in chronological order of release.

DuckTales – 1989

Many regard DuckTales as one of the greatest platformers every created and I’d fully agree with them. Out of all the games in The Disney Afternoon Collection, DuckTales is the clear classic as it features the tightest gameplay, best level design, and a fantastic and colorfully diverse art direction. The premise is simple, Scrooge is looking for treasure and he is tasked with making his way through five exotic locales searching for all manner of treasure while pogo jumping with his cane over obstacles and on enemies. The controls are super tight, the level design is challenging but not unfairly punishing, the music is great, the visuals are spot on, and most importantly it is a ton of fun to play. The remake/remaster that was done a couple years ago is still a fun game but it falters a bit in my eyes on a few of these items and I didn’t realize what my issue with that game was until I came back and played this one.

Play Note: I did not utilize the rewind function in this game at all, although I did use the save function as I played it over a couple of days.

Score: 5*

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers – 1990

So Rescue Rangers was that game I rented and beat in a weekend. Doing this wasn’t a common occurrence and I’d often have to rent games more than once or twice to finish them, even if I played them obsessively while I had them rented. Rescue Rangers on the other hand, while I more than likely did play it obsessively, is a relatively short and easy play. Compared to DuckTales, Rescue Rangers is super simplistic. Levels are often multi-tiered with enemies that walk in straight lines and are easy to avoid. The only challenge really comes from the boss fights. The  boss fights all play exactly the same way though with Chip and/or Dale avoiding the enemy attacks, picking up a red super ball, tossing it at the boss, and then redoing it again until the boss dies from their horrible super ball bruises.

Playing it now the game looks and sounds OK, although not as good as DuckTales. And more importantly it plays well, with the chipmunks having super responsive controls. But it’s just not very interesting as a game and while it is fun, it’s not super fun.

Play Note: I did utilize the rewind function with Rescue Rangers but very minimally and I probably could have beaten without doing so.

Score: 3*

TaleSpin – 1991

TaleSpin is the awkward entry to this collection as it takes the most notable aspect of the show, the fact that Baloo is a pilot, and runs with that to make this game a vehicle based shooter (Is it a shmup? Is it babies first shmup? I don’t know). Every other game in the collection draws its base from the platforming genre. This doesn’t make it bad game, although it does make it my least favorite in the collection. I’m just not big on vehicle shooters outside of Galaga. Nothing against the genre, its just not for me.

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Anyway knowing I don’t really like these types of games, TaleSpin is cute and fun I guess. I had to pilot Baloo through a series of levels as he is tasked with making a delivery. Some of these levels make no sense for instance, why am I flying my plane through a haunted house? Who does that? Baloo and Kit Cloudkicker do that is who.

Also I don’t remember the Sea Duck having guns but I haven’t watched the show in a while but the game version does have guns and they can be upgraded, along with the armor and the engine, making it a more formidable fighting force as it makes its DHL deliveries. I think the game is fine. I’ll never return to it (I did do the boss attack challenge though) but it is fine.

Play Note: I used the rewind feature a lot. Like a lot, a lot.

Score: 3*

Darkwing Duck – 1992

This was the game I was most interested in giving a go. I love Darkwing Duck, not as much as DuckTales but it is up there. I recently tracked down a physical copy of the NES game for my collection but having it here digitally and with the added comforts of save and rewind, I felt playing it in the collection made more sense.

If you read my weekly play recaps, you’ll know that I wasn’t planning on playing this collection but friends of mine were over and looking for something to play and we ended up here. We started Darkwing Duck together, maybe a little drunk. And we were struggling quite a bit but then we found the rewind button (which wasn’t hiding; it was literally on the screen the entire time) and while it didn’t make it any easier, we were able to learn some patterns and try and try and try again until we progressed.

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Darkwing Duck is very reminiscent of another Capcom classic. That being Mega Man. DW can shoot with his gun and he can also gain a secondary weapon that can be switched to. He does all this while traversing difficult platforming levels and facing off against some tough bosses. It is fun but some of my friends found it infuriatingly tough and I think if we had been in their home, they would have tossed the controller.

Aside from being notable for its difficulty, the game boasts some great visuals, particularly in regards to character design. DW is maybe the most detailed out of the original four games, which makes sense being as it is also the fourth release. It’s also maybe the deepest of the first four games but that might just come from the levels and boss fights taking me longer to beat than any of the other games. I’m not sure I can recommend you run out and play Darkwing Duck by itself but if you get it as part of this collection, it is a great and challenging time.

Play Note: This is the longest game in the collection, even with copious use of the rewind feature.

Score: 4*

DuckTales 2 – 1993

DuckTales 2 is a special game mostly due to its scarcity. As a kid, I’d heard of DuckTales 2 but I never played it or knew anyone who had, let alone owned it. It was this mythical creature in my gaming history. So aside from Darkwing Duck, this was one of the biggest reasons for me to get this collection. So it kind of pains me to say this but DuckTales 2 is more DuckTales. This isn’t a bad thing because DuckTales is one of the best games ever but it kind of is a bad thing because DuckTales 2 feels like the B-side levels of the first game.

DuckTales is a game that only featured five levels. That is relatively short but those levels are so well put together that it isn’t a problem for the game. DuckTales 2 also features five levels but none of them are as well designed as the first game and the end bosses are far less memorable. It also has this weird treasure map system that seems entirely random and although there is a secret level attached to it, the hoops to get to it are not laid out well and seem to be a super time sink.

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That isn’t to say the game isn’t fun to play or that it doesn’t have some smart ideas. I particularly enjoy having to rescue or track down Gizmo to get upgrades to Scrooge’s cane and having a shop where you can buy consumables and power-ups makes a lot of sense. But, the overall feel is one of been there done that. Which is a shame because more DuckTales should have been magical.

Play Note: I used rewind but minimally. DuckTales 2 is easier than the original and I could have beaten it without but you get in the habit of hitting it when you make a mistake and well… it saved me some time.

Score: 3*

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers 2 – 1994

So while I had heard of DuckTales 2 before, I had never heard of Rescue Rangers 2. Which makes sense because it received a limited release much like DuckTales 2 but another year later and well in to the 16-bit generation at that point. This game was like some magical being for me that appeared out of nowhere when this collection was announced. I mean its not everyday you get to play a classic game, in a franchise you love, that you never even knew existed.

Anyway, similar to DuckTales 2, Rescue Rangers 2 is more Rescue Rangers. But unlike DuckTales 2, Rescue Rangers 2 builds on what made the original game fun and expands on it in smart ways. The sequel introduces far more story to the game than any of the other Afternoon Collection games had. This has the power of making Rescue Rangers 2 feel the most like you are playing in an episode of the show.

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Level design is mostly similar to the first, although there are a few smart platforming sections that will test your skill a bit. Where Rescue Rangers 2 makes its biggest jump on the gameplay side though is with its boss battles. In the original they were the best part and RR2 is no different but now instead of a super ball that you have to use, each enemy has a different way of beating it. Granted it can all be distilled down to throwing something at the boss but what you throw and how you retrieve it are the the big changes, with it changing on each boss. It elevates the game so much.

Rescue Rangers 2 is a great realization of the promise that the first game had. And I wouldn’t be sad if we got remakes/remasters of these games with spiffy new visuals.

Play Note: A little bit of rewind.

Score: 5*

Capcom is killing it with their classic collections recently and this one is no exception. As mentioned with Rescue Ragers 2, I wouldn’t be sad if we got remakes/remasters of all these games (well maybe not TaleSpin but you get the idea). You can’t go wrong with a collection that sports an all-time great and two other excellent titles, along with three fun if flawed titles as well. I hope others see the success here and bring us more classic collections in this style. The original games are gold, the new bonus ways of playing it are great and Capcom even included artwork and history about the games in a wonderful gallery. It is a wonderful trip down memory lane and I fully recommend it to you.

 

 

 

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