“Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams a forever.”
I remember running in the house at full speed, throwing down my backpack, yelling for my grandma to make me a bowl of mac n’ cheese or fishsticks, turning on the tv and lounging around in nothing but a tank-top and briefs just as the Disney Afternoon block came on. Ah to be 35 again. Just kidding. I was 10.
The Disney Afternoon was two hours of cartoon gold, whether I doodled through it or was glued to the screen the whole time. It featured the likes of Goof Troop, Bonkers, Aladdin, Gargoyles, DuckTales, and Darkwing Duck, which was easily my favorite. Many a superhero and supervillain creation came out of my pencil while watching that show. I did not do homework during the Disney Afternoon block.
Today, Capcom released The Disney Afternoon Collection, which you can be sure I downloaded immediately. The game takes us back to those golden days of simpler times, better television, and classic gaming. This anthology features six games from the NES, each of them based off of the Disney cartoons which aired all those years ago, now become veritable icons. In order of original release they are: DuckTales, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, TaleSpin, Darkwing Duck, DuckTales 2, and Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers 2. Among these titles are some of the best-selling platformers on the NES, highly popular and sought after games. They represent a chunk of gaming history that exemplifies the evolution of the NES from 1989 to 1994 and the system’s propensity for solid licensed games, and for that this collection is a valuable piece of preservative goodness.
This retro collection is all that and a bag of chips.
I’ve played many a modern retro compendium, remake and rehash in my time. It’s actually surprising how many times developers miss instead of hit the target. Often there’s an ugly lag, a crappy UI, not enough special features, or graphics that are overly touched up and hence lose the original appeal.
Thankfully, there are some really bangin’ collections that really have it going on. I highly suggest DuckTales: Remastered (in which the original cast of the cartoon reprise their roles) and Digital Eclipse’s Mega Man Legacy Collection for pitch-perfect emulation and modern perks.
The overwhelming success of the Legacy Collection, in fact, helped influence Capcom to go ahead and release Disney Afternoon, so we have the Blue Bomber to thank for this great new compilation of classics, also developed by Digital Eclipse.
Disney Afternoon treats its six classics with respect and dignity. There’s little to nothing changed about them, though I’m glad to see they got rid of a lot of slow down, sprite flashing, and other quirks that plagued the NES because of its limitations. Still, playing these again I got the feeling that they weren’t much different than they were all those years ago on their original system.
The collection includes the usual fare for retro revisits: a museum of conceptual art with tidbits of info on development, a time attack mode, online leaderboards to measure how far behind the Koreans you are. A few unusual additions include an advertisements archive and a boss run mode. There are also save states, multiple screen sizing options and graphics filters.
The most unique innovation included in this vintage collection is the
cheating rewinding feature. This is set to the shoulder button and you can literally use it to rewind a game as far back as you like. Missed that tough jump and fell down a hole? Got hit by the boss just before you landed your killing blow? Didn’t see that enemy respawn? Well, now you can easily just rewind the action back to a safe spot and try all over again.
This feature was implemented because NES games are hard. We all know that. It’s handy but it can be abused very, very easily. On some of the harder games, like TaleSpin, I found myself using it every few seconds to grab up all the points and avoid taking any damage. The better choice for 8-bit vets is to shoot for the time attack mode, where rewinding is automatically disabled. Not only are you on the clock, but in that mode it’s all skill, baby. Oh and you won’t be able to get all the PlayStation trophies if you use the rewind. Still, for players unaccustomed to “the way things were”, namely the sheer difficulty of some of these games, rewinding is readily available. So be kind, rewind. Or be awesome and beat these games the way they were intended to be beaten!
What’s the dealio? The Disney Afternoon Collection is more than just nostalgia. The significant thing about many NES games is that the core gameplay has held up tremendously well where things like graphics and music have not. Responsiveness and timing were clearly at the forefront of the minds of the original developers, as well as those who handled these excellent ports. The fact that these games demand a lot from their players and aren’t hard merely because they’re unrefined or unpolished or “cheap” says a lot about how great the golden age of gaming really was.
Six games in one package for $20 is pretty slammin’ but I won’t be getting too much into the details of the individual games right now. As if! I plan on reviewing each game separately eventually, so for now let’s just take a wacked out overview.
“Life is like a hurricane!”
Of course we’re starting with DuckTales. It was Capcom’s best-selling game on the NES. Yeah, it outsold every Mega Man game. That’s undoubtedly due to the insane fever pitch popularity of the cartoon. Further, it’s regarded as one of the greatest NES games and it’s probably the best game here in terms of presentation, level design, personality, handling, brevity and challenge. Wash out your mouth after the bland flavor of that newfangled DuckTales cartoon remake Disney is churning out of its cloning labs.
DuckTales is also the oldest game in this collection and the only title out of the six to be released in the 80’s. It’s renown for its tight, responsive controls and non-linear gameplay. If you’ve played Shovel Knight, you’re looking at its obvious progenitor in DuckTales, which followed the escapades of Scrooge McDuck, the world’s richest feathered fowl, as he embarks on his search for treasure across the Himalayas, the Amazon, and the Moon, of course. Hilarious factoid: in Japan, the title is literally “Naughty Ducks Dream Adventures”.
DuckTales 2 was a new one on me. I never had the chance to play it back in the day and now that it’s one of the rarer NES games, it’s no wonder why. Coming in four years after the first game also meant that a lot of us had already moved over to the Super NES and ditched our old 8-bit consoles.
This plucky sequel is similar to the first game in all respects but it streamlines the cane-jumping mechanic and allows players to purchase upgrades and items for Scrooge. In other words, you can actually do something with all his cheddar now.
Other than that, there’s little more that DuckTales 2 offers over the first game. It’s just as short, though, and the difficulty isn’t too dramatic, so it’s a good opportunity to play this game via the collection. For many gamers, this may be their first time with this sequel, but Scrooge needs your help to be the best capitalist he can be.
“Better watch out, you bad boys!”
My favorite game in the collection, Darkwing Duck leapt off the comic book page to the tv screen and then again off the tv to the NES for the most Mega Man-esque, Batman-ish hybrid game ever. At this point in history, the SNES was already out on the market, so this action platformer has the pleasure of being one of the late NES games which looks flat out amazing and plays like a then next-gen game.
Darkwing is tasked with hunting down the superstitious and cowardly criminals skulking in St. Canard. The terror that flaps in the night faces off against a whole slew of his foes in a non-linear plot. See how many comic book parody references you can name!
Given DW’s wider range of crime-fighting skills than the other protagonists in this collection, his game has more gameplay variation and a more complex control scheme than any of the others, hands down. He can hang from platforms, fire his gun, access an array of extra sub-weapons, block bullets with his cape, and look frickin’ awesome in his purple suit. Because of the complicated nature of the gameplay, as well as smart level design, Darkwing Duck seems a tad harder than DuckTales.
If you’re interested in more analytical details for this game, be sure to check out our review on Darkwing Duck from April of last year!
“Ch-ch-ch-Chip and Dale, Rescue Rangers!”
The Chip ‘n Dale games (not to be confused with the Chris Farley SNL skit) were also new ones on me, so I’m more than happy to be able to play them now. This was a show I didn’t spend too much time watching so we’re definitely headed into non-nostalgic territory for me here. What I discovered in the first Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers was a fast-paced and addicting platformer with a unique gimmick: two-player simultaneous play!
I always thought it’d be awesome to have both Mario and Luigi on the screen at the same time in Super Mario Bros. 3, but here I get that wish fulfillment through the Indiana Jones lookalike, Chip, and his Aloha shirt-wearing goofball partner, Dale. The remarkable thing is just how fluid and natural two-player mode feels.
Both chipmunk rangers can grab boxes and toss them forward or upward, or even hide in them to dispatch enemies, yeah, years before Solid Snake made that trendy. Even though the gameplay is quick, keeping you on your toes, there are enough extra lives and crates lying around to chuck that the game is unusually easy. It may even be the easiest game in the collection, if not for its sequel.
The crime-stopping chipmunks return for a sequel which, like DuckTales 2, doesn’t dramatically shift the paradigm of the first game. There’s still the great two-player co-op and this sequel adds the ability to use the other chipmunk as a weapon by picking up and throwing him, but it plays much like the first. Visually, it may be the most articulate and animated out of the entire collection but that’s to be expected since it’s also the newest game of the bunch, originally released in 1994 in NA.
Hahahahaha… spin it!
TaleSpin is the only game in this collection that isn’t a platformer. Instead, it’s a scrolling shooter with the unique mechanic of being able to turn Baloo’s ship upside-down and fly backwards over ground he’s already covered. That makes it handy to gather up all the collectibles but it also enabled the developers to create some truly gruesome levels. Labyrinthine passageways full of enemies and bosses with tons of ammunition make TaleSpin definitely one of the harder games here, plus there’s having to master the unusual firing lines of Baloo’s freight plane. However, you may find TaleSpin to be a change of pace from the other platformers.
I downright disliked the original TaleSpin cartoon. I might channel surf or go outside when it came on years ago. Something about Baloo suddenly wearing clothes and flying a plane seemed off considering his brazen nudity and realistic bearishness in Disney’s Jungle Book. That being said, I do remember playing this game on my NES and it’s no easier than I remember it. It’s one to spam that rewind button on!
So there you have them. There are six classic games: DuckTales the best-selling one, Chip ‘n Dale the easy one, TaleSpin the only non-platformer, Darkwing Duck the complicated one, DuckTales 2 the rare one, and Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers 2 the latest and newest one. Believe the buzz hype, because these truly are wicked sick games that have survived the test of time, immortalized here in their purest forms. Want “better graphics”? Eat my shorts!
The 8-bit Review
The best thing Capcom and Digital Eclipse could do was preserve the look of the original games. I am so glad that that heavy smoothing filter is falling out of fashion for retro collections. Playing 8-bit games in crisp high definition seems like swatting a fly with MOAB, but seeing these games larger than they ever could be on a big, modern screen in such pixel-perfect detail without sprite flicker is a treat unlike anything else. It’s distilled nostalgia.
Of course we’re not giving this collection such a high score because of the modernity of its graphics. Obviously they’re out of date but we have to recognize and applaud the developers integrity with presenting the original graphics as cleanly as possible. Besides, some of these are among the best looking games from the NES. The art gallery doesn’t hesitate to inform you that the game designers took the greatest of care to replicate that quirky, bouncy Disney animation in their in-game sprites.
It should be noted that there are a few visual options to tweak. I’m playing without the borders, on full screen with all filters off and it’s the spectacle. Below are examples of the two filters (tv and monitor) with the filters off for comparison first. Clearly, they’re there to emulate the look of those old tvs.
A lot of gamers will recognize the music in these games, especially those iconic tracks from DuckTales. Yes, of course those old theme songs are going to get stuck in your head after listening to their 8-bit counterparts. Heck, they’ll probably make you want to go watch these shows any way you can. Luckily, I’ve got a Darkwing Duck DVD collection at hand so I don’t have to resort to fuzzy YouTube videos. I know what I’m doing tomorrow.
Like the visuals, The Disney Afternoon Collection does nothing to “update” the music. It’s as chiptuney as ever. However, a new track that plays when selecting a game wasn’t included in the original releases. These are renditions of the theme songs done in the style of 8-bit chiptunes, and there is a difference. It sounds splendid.
The platformer is a dying breed these days, aside from a fertile indie scene, so it’s wonderful to take this trip back in time to top notch, well-designed games like these. And TaleSpin, too. They are just as sharp as ever and I felt they fit perfectly on the PS4 controller, though I cannot comment on the Xbox One controller. The NES controller had a simple input layout, of course, but since the PS4 lifted a lot of influence from Nintendo’s designs, like their d-pad and SNES button diamond, it feels natural playing these.
I also like that they gave the games their original pause with the start button but included an extra “collection” pause with R1. This lets you access your save states and special options and modes.
Switching between the games is easy and the interface is also well-done, an important element in any gaming anthology. It should also be noted that there is a trophy list (achievements) for the six games. It’s actually not much and it merely amounts to beating each of the games once normally and on the time attack and boss rush modes, and finishing any one of the games without rewinding. Jerks. None of these trophies are even silver and there’s no platinum, plus with little variety there isn’t much replay value to be gained from trophy hunting, if that’s your thing or not. At least trophies are a somewhat external perk. The games themselves are worth playing for themselves.
Because they hail from simpler times, there’s inherent accessibility in these games. At the same time, they aren’t games which hold your hand like so many of the over-tutorialized, chatty-protagonist, on-screen manual, quick time event hackjobs of our time. Does that sound a little too harsh? Well, with these games you’re going to be put to the test looking for all those secrets and figuring out what to do next and how to use your very limited palette of skills for the best. But platformers seem innately accessible. What do adults ask when they pick up a game after admitting they haven’t played a “computer game” for ages? They ask which button is shoot and which one is jump. Exactly.
This could’ve been a 9 or even a 10. A few of these games were really quite difficult but the point was they had value in the fact that they challenged you. They forced you to memorize level layouts and boss attack patterns. They demanded that you hone your reflexes to ninja-like level. The rewind feature strips all of that away in one fell swoop. These games are still hard but if you rely on rewinding you can push through pretty much any situation and then it just turns into a long-winded back and forth of gameplay. This is the collection’s greatest innovation but also its Achilles heel.
Yeah, there’s still the time attack mode. That’s true. But can you really resist the temptation to rewind? Back in my day we call that cheating *grumble grumble* Well… at least I could still feel my buttcheeks clench when making those really hard jumps, even if I knew subconsciously that modern magic could save my character’s life.
As a collection of games, what sort of extra features does Disney Afternoon offer? There are the trophies/achievements, the online leaderboards, the art gallery, the time attack and boss rush modes, the music sampler. But there are no new difficulty modes or must-have collectibles for completing in-game tasks. Interviews with devs or cartoon cast members would’ve been spectacular, something to show your friends when they come over.
Ultimately it’s the clean presentation and the nostalgic interface which brandish these six gems like diamonds in front of black velvet, ensuring they take center stage and impress on their own merits. Could we ask for more? Well, yes. But at least we got what really mattered most: perfect emulation.
These six games have never ever appeared together like they have in this collection before. It’s a pleasure to be able to play them in such a pure way, especially those titles which passed me over during the era of the NES. Licensed games based on movies and cartoons are something of a joke these days with hardly anyone expecting much from them, but these six are testaments to the fact that Capcom new what they were doing when they applied their basic Mega Man gameplay structure to adapt Disney’s works. And as a collection, Disney Afternoon ranks among some of the best.
My Personal Grade: 8/10
The Disney Afternoon Collection is a joy of nostalgia and gaming history, out now on Steam, PS4, and Xbox One. But why no Nintendo Switch, Capcom? These were all originally Nintendo games! Because the most nostalgic thing ever is being reminded that life isn’t fair. The Switch’s portability would’ve been perfect for these. It’s just astounding that it was the NES which featured these games and here all these decades later, Nintendo’s newest console won’t feature this collection. All there is left is to wait a few more months for the Disney Afternoon Collection 2 for the SNES games Bonkers, Aladdin, Goof Troop, Quack Pack, and Gargoyles… psyche! Ah well. In the meantime, here’s a nostalgia overdose. Thanks for reading!
Aggregated Score: 8.1