I think it’s fair to say that a lot of people my age can vividly recall the magic that was The Disney Afternoon, a block of cartoons conveniently scheduled when kids got home from school. In its original form, The Disney Afternoon featured DuckTales, Chip ‘N Dale’s Rescue Rangers, and TaleSpin while adding nearly a dozen of cartoons - Darkwing Duck, Goof Troop, and Gargoyles, for example - before it was sadly taken off the air.
Around the time these shows premiered, Disney licensed them out to be merchandised (because that’s what the House of Mouse does), which included a series of video games by Capcom. Before today, these games could only be played on original hardware or ROMs. The Disney Afternoon Collection is an enjoyable, and legal, way to replay these classic games. Not all of them are winners, especially by today’s standards, but the existence of this product fills me with the right kind of warm, nostalgic fuzzies.
Here’s a breakdown of each game:
DuckTales: Like the Disney Afternoon itself, this is the game that started it all. A classic action adventure featuring non-linear gameplay, players led Scrooge McDuck on a journey around the world in search of fortune and glory. Locations and enemies were all derived from the show’s first season. This is my favorite games of the set, and on the Nintendo console in general, making it worth the price of admission.
DuckTales 2: A simple case of “more of the same” being a good thing, DuckTales 2 sent Scrooge and the gang on another adventure for treasure. The game adds new features from its predecessor including player upgrades, hidden treasure maps that lead to a secret level, more functionality to Scrooge’s cane (allowing him to push blocks around), and the ability to purchase helpful items before each level.
Chip ‘N Dale’s Rescue Rangers: Fat Cat is on the loose and only the Rescue Rangers can stop him! Play as either Chip or Dale (the game can accommodate two players) as they explore a world scaled around them, meaning levels are designed around kitchen counters, office desks, and back alleys. Chip and Dale can make use of boxes to use as a projectile or a defensive shield that kill most enemies when they come in contact. Rescue Rangers is the easiest game of the lot because the levels are short and the bosses are quite plain.
Chip ‘N Dale’s Rescue Rangers 2: Right from the beginning, you can tell that Capcom learned some lessons from the first game when designing the sequel (“squeakquel”?) because Rescue Rangers 2 has more meat on its bones. Instead of allowing the player to choose their own path, they’ll run through longer, more perilous stages. The bosses are a major improvement because they require strategy and a few nimble fingers instead of casually tossing balls around. The visuals are a surprising mixed bag. The character sprites are a big improvement but all of the colors look washed out.
TaleSpin: The high flying antics of Baloo and Kit Cloudkicker are recreated in a side scrolling shmup game, which makes a lot more sense than the version Sega developed in 1992. This is actually my least favorite game because it’s much harder than it needs to be. The problem lies in its upgrade system. By collecting cargo and other pickups in a stage, you’ll earn cash to make Baloo’s airplane more viable and useful in combat. In the first level, Baloo’s inefficiency in a fight is off putting, turning the stage into an arduous slog. The plane can’t manuver very well and the rate of fire is obnoxiously slow. Pre-stage shopping trips can make things better but moving around the intricate (and somewhat non-sequitur levels) makes this less fun than a hangover at Louie’s.
Darkwing Duck: He is the terror who flaps in the night! A loving homage to The Shadow, Darkwing Duck protected the city of St. Canard from evil doers. An earnest crimefighter, the gag was the earnest Darkwing Duck’s frequent bumbling and screw-ups. Darkwing Duck shares the closest relationship with Capcom’s Mega Man, as it was developed using the same engine and its difficulty level feels on par with the often sadistic robot platformer. Darkwing Duck’s climbing mechanic, however, is pretty clunky and lacks finesse.
Games like DuckTales, Chip ‘N Dales Rescue Rangers, and Talespin weren’t the first Disney properties to be turned into video games but they were certainly the most memorable at the time. Much of their recognition can be attributed to Capcom who had won gamers over with the Mega Man franchise. By playing through these games all at once, it is easy to spot how Capcom evolved as a studio and refined their platforming formula. The first DuckTales and Rescue Rangers games, for example, are easy enough to finish by players of any skill level. The bosses in Rescue Rangers, for example, are laughably simplistic compared to those in Mega Man. However, their sequels, and the release of Darkwing Duck, made them more accessible and challenging to the enthusiast audience.
The Disney Afternoon Collection does more than make old games playable. Digital Eclipse is an old hat with projects like this and have added some familiar/expected features. Beyond Steam achievements, each game comes with a simple, one slot save system that make the harder games more manageable. They also have a rewind feature which allows to repeat difficult sections without losing a life. I found that I used this feature more than I initially planned, and it allowed to me beat DuckTales in one playthrough with eight extra lives. Nine year old Allen would have called 36 year old Allen a dirty cheater for this, but that little punk had more time on his hands than I did. To squeeze more life out of the games, each come with a Boss Rush and Time Attack Mode that feel designed to satisfy the speedrun community. For the historian, a Gallery offers a fantastic assortment of assets cataloging development and marketing of each game. There are even rich, high quality scans of magazine ads and original NES packaging.
This product sets out to do one thing: repackage and sell my childhood. In that department, it is a smashing success. I remember playing most of these titles at a friend’s house, thrilled that I could enjoy the continuing adventures of the characters I grew to love. Nostalgia is a powerful drug and simply hearing the music from the Moon level of DuckTales was enough to trigger all sorts of feels. 30-somethings with an affinity for early 1990s Disney TV entertainment are likely going to approach this game with open arms. Everyone else might feel a little lost or maybe even left out - not that I’d blame there. They were not particularly groundbreaking the same way Castlevania or Super Mario Bros. had been at the time. The Disney Afternoon Collection reaches out to a very specific audience. They were fun to me nonetheless and as someone who misses The Disney Afternoon a great deal, this was certainly a well spent time warp trip to the past.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.