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The Disney Afternoon Collection

Score: 70%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Digital Eclipse
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 2 (Local Only)
Genre: Action/ Platformer (2D)/ Compilation

Graphics & Sound:

I am part of the target audience for The Disney Afternoon Collection, and Iíve known that since its recent announcement. Iíve got history with half of its six retro offerings, and itís a history that I look back on with no small amount of nostalgic fondness. Thereís no denying that Capcom had an exceptionally strong start to its storied career in game development; it handily made the 8-bit era its plaything, with fantastic games both licensed and original. And some of their best work was done under the auspices of the undisputed kings of Western animation, Disney. Capcom really did have the Midas Touch when it came to these games; itís for these reasons that theyíve decided to showcase a handful of them by repackaging them as The Disney Afternoon Collection. Between an unreasonable price point, some emulation problems, and the unfortunate effects of three decades worth of senescence, itís difficult to outright recommend.

I remember how sophisticated and imaginative Disney Channel idents were during the mid to late Eighties; the tonal shift that occurred in the Nineties was pure stylistic whiplash. This collection embraces the obnoxious garishness of the latter, as, I concede, it should. However, I wonít take the games of The Disney Afternoon Collection to task for their aesthetic sensibilities; calling out straight ports of NES games for lacking in technical power would redefine the word "asinine." No, these games are identical to the versions we played on the Nintendo Entertainment System, as they very well should. Players who have enjoyed DuckTales: Remastered will probably spend their time wondering what could have been, but for the most part, these games look exactly as they did back then. I say "for the most part," because for whatever reason, there are some inexplicable slowdown issues with the emulation. Audio/visual feedback goes into a stuttering frenzy, and the games become borderline unplayable. This has forced me to restart the game a handful of times; given the save feature, itís not a deal-breaker, but it is noticeable.

Capcom and sound design are like peanut butter and chocolate. They just go together. Granted, they were at their best during the 8-bit and 16-bit eras, but theyíve generally still got it. The games of The Disney Afternoon Collection contain some of Capcomís best music. Of course, youíve got lively, upbeat chiptune versions of each showís theme song, but itís the original stuff that these games are remembered for. Who can forget the Moon theme from DuckTales? Frankly, I remember a lot of the material from Chip Ďn Dale Rescue Rangers, but maybe thatís just me. From the music to the sound effects, itís... well, Capcom. Essentially Capcom.


Gameplay:

The Disney Afternoon Collection is basically the Mega Man Legacy Collection, but with six classic NES games based on popular Disney shows from the late Eighties and early Nineties. All but one of the games are 2D action platformers, and respected ones at that. The overall quality of each of the games is somewhat disparate, but if thereís one thing I can say about all six at once, itís that time hasnít been very kind to them. Theyíre functional, competent games, but revisiting them constitutes a sobering removal of the rose-tinted glasses through which weíve all been accustomed to viewing most remnants of the 8-bit era.

DuckTales is likely the one most people remember best, and rightly so for a number of reasons. Itís the first of this collection to have been developed, and easily the one with the most persistent legacy. WayForwardís 2013 remaster aside, everybody remembers this game as a classic, and in many ways, it is. This lighthearted globetrotting treasure hunt is charming and occasionally challenging; it also takes a cue from games like Metroid by incorporating branching paths and often mandatory subquests; while Scrooge McDuckís goal is always to reach the end of each level, defeat its boss, and claim the regionís treasure, there are often a handful of obstacles in his way. Heíll have to rely on his friends, from Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Webby to franchise favorites Launchpad McQuack, Gyro Gearloose, Mrs. Beakley, and even Gizmoduck.

Chip Ďn Dale: Rescue Rangers is far more mechanically simple; itís a straightforward platformer with minimalist combat elements. But it works very well at establishing a sense of scale and features some solid level design. What starts off as a quest to find a little girlís kitten suddenly becomes a quest to rescue Gadget from the clutches of the sinister Fat Cat and put the foul feline away for good. All of the major players show up: Monterey Jackís insatiable craving for cheese often results in collateral damage of the best kind, and Zipper periodically shows up to absolutely annihilate all onscreen enemies. Simple, but fun.

TaleSpin is where things start to get a bit bumpy, though itís easily the most unique of the six. Itís a side-scrolling shoot-em-up, albeit one that stars Baloo in his bizarre-but-intriguing Jungle Book spinoff role as a freight pilot. You fly, you shoot down the forces of Don Karnage, you collect loot, and ultimately make the deliveries. This gameís got some interesting ideas, which Iíll explain in detail later in the review. But its biggest problem is that it is mostly slow, dull, and frustrating. The gameís art style and a few novelties help it to stand out from the crowd, but Capcom arguably didnít really get this genre right until U.N. Squadron.

Darkwing Duck is probably the strongest of the six in terms of its art style, but in the ways that matter most, itís also the weakest of them. Structurally, itís somewhere between the other two platformer series; while you can choose from a handful of levels at a time, the game is strictly a linear affair. As the alter ego of Drake Mallard, you set out to defend the good people of St. Canard from the likes of the Fearsome Five, F.O.W.L., and other classic Darkwing Duck villains. All the pieces are here for a great platform shooter, but this game suffers from poor pacing and an inconsistent difficulty level.

DuckTales 2 doesnít try to fix anything that was originally broken, but it makes the attempt to expand upon its foundation in a handful of ways. It doles out a handful of optional upgrades and a bit of resource management for good measure, but doesnít dwell on anything that takes the focus away from its solid gameplay mechanics and smart level design. Is it better than the original? Eh, maybe. But it isnít as memorable.

Chip Ďn Dale: Rescue Rangers 2 almost goes the same route, but it doesnít make any additions to its core formula at all. Itís literally more of the same, which, depending on your expectations, may be a good or bad thing. For my part, I would say that itís inoffensive, harmless entertainment.

The Disney Afternoon Collection attempts the same kind of content injection that we saw in the Mega Man Legacy Collection, but your mileage may vary, depending on how you want to play these games. But Time Attack and Boss Rush are fun ways to stock up on nerd cred, even if their inclusion comes across as an artificial way to inflate the package and jack up the price.


Difficulty:

The Disney Afternoon Collection features Capcom at perhaps its mildest when it comes to challenge. I played several of these games as a child and had no trouble finishing the likes of DuckTales and Chip Ďn Dale: Rescue Rangers. I would have struggled with TaleSpin and Darkwing Duck as a kid, and I might have even struggled with them as the thirtysomething I now am.

Anyone with reasonable dominion over their controller will have no trouble finishing all six of these games, and thatís thanks to the handy Rewind mechanics. If you mess something up and want to turn back the gameís time, you can. It works exactly as it should, too. This mechanic was cribbed straight from Rare Replay, though its existence in that game is far more easily justified; the ZX Spectrum and NES games in that collection are unreasonably, obscenely difficult. These games arenít hard enough to warrant this mechanic, but the option is nice.


Game Mechanics:

This is gonna be quick; games with two-button control schemes generally tend to skew on the simpler side of things, and nothing in The Disney Afternoon Collection breaks from that convention.

DuckTales and DuckTales 2 control identically to one another, and their shared signature mechanics deal with Scrooge McDuckís cane. For starters, he can use it as a pogo stick; the stored potential energy that propels the resourceful old Scottish waterfowl skyward makes you wonder why he even needs the thing for support. But itís a core mechanic; you canít complete the game without it. Less important is Scroogeís ability to use the cane as a sort of golf club. Certain situations (most of them optional) require its use, but itís nowhere near on the same level as the pogo jump.

Chip Ďn Dale: Rescue Rangers and Chip Ďn Dale: Rescue Rangers 2 arenít terribly creative with the property; both games could pass as anything else, if it wasnít for the character models. Chip and Dale may be tiny, but theyíre strong, spry little rodents. Their vertical leap is impressive, and theyíre capable of picking up and throwing most random objects in any given area. Most enemies can simply be avoided, but in other cases, you can either throw things at them or use the "hide" mechanic. The chipmunks can take cover beneath carried boxes; while this renders them immobile, most enemies that run into them will be insta-killed.

TaleSpin has you controlling the Sea Duck, Baloo von Bruinwald XIIIís signature cargo plane. Youíre initially outfitted with two main abilities: firing an incredibly slow, hard-to-aim weapon and inverting the Sea Duck, which in turn reverses the direction of both your flight and the moving screen. But as you earn money by completing levels and going after special items, you can purchase upgrades. None of these upgrades save the game from being punishingly difficult and often boring, but itís better than what you start with.

Darkwing Duck gives you a handful of options, but none of them resolve the core problems with the game. Darkwing can hang from most ledges and random protrusions in the environment, but the controls for climbing and dropping are finicky to a fault, and in most cases, the seconds you spend fighting the controls are the difference between life and death. Offensive capabilities are where Darkwing should have the edge, and while his gas gun generally gets the job done, the secondary weapons are bizarre and occasionally very difficult to use with any degree of success.

Nostalgia can be a dangerous force, supplanting the real with the ideal. And so it is with The Disney Afternoon Collection, a well-meaning but problematic bundle. Itíll appeal to the hardcore first and foremost, but there will be those who are interested on the sole basis of its historical significance. $19.99 is far too much to ask for The Disney Afternoon Collection, but with the runaway success of releases like the NES Classic, Capcom might have found a good way to crack into that market. And if that's the case, it might even springboard into bigger and better collections. After all, their 16-bit Disney games are the stuff of legendÖ


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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