Video games based on a licensed property have been more miss than hit over the years, but back in the Nintendo Entertainment System era the task of creating games based on popular Disney cartoons fell to Capcom. While a lesser developer/publisher would have cranked out poor quality games, Capcom went the extra mile to actually come up with material that was not only fun to play, but also respected the source material. A new article from Hardcore Gaming 101 explores the wonderful 8-bit world of Disney with special emphasis on DuckTales, Rescue Rangers, and Darkwing Duck along with other titles featuring Mickey Mouse, Baloo from TaleSpin, and Ariel of Little Mermaid fame.
Capcom's NES rendition of Darkwing Duck is pretty straightforward - it's basically Mega Man with some new graphics and some gameplay tweaks. You'll find similarities in the level design and even some enemies, like caped ducks who act almost exactly like Sniper Joe from the Mega Man games, hiding behind a shield and only lowering it to attack. You can even choose the order to tackle the levels, although there's only six versus the usual eight. You need to beat the first set of three before moving onto the second. The final level is also only a single stage. Many of the levels have hooks you can jump on, which also act as switches for certain platforms. You can also press Up to block certain projectiles, and, unlike Mega Man, Darkwing can actually duck! The end level bad guys, including Quackerjack, Megavolt, Bushroot, Moliarty, Liquidator, Wolfduck, and Steelbeak, are also a bit more involving than the usual Mega Man boss fights, usually mixing some platforming elements.
There are some annoying quirks though. For some reason, Darkwing can't move while firiing, resulting in situations where you're pinned down by multiple enemies, when you should just be able to blast through them. You can't fire when you use your cape, leading to many situations where you try to shoot but won't, usually when you're jumping. The controls just don't feel as precise as they should. Cheap enemy placement is also an issue. Many enemies will suddenly appear off screen after completing a tough jump and plow into you. Your life meter is also pretty limited, as you can only take four hits, but at least life power-ups are common.
The Capcom/Disney alliance was one of the brighter third-party highlights of the 8-bit era. As a kid I eagerly snatched up new games based on my favorite Disney Afternoon cartoons: DuckTales, Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers, and, of course, Darkwing Duck. I even rented the lackluster Adventures in the Magic Kingdom a time or two just to take another run through the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean levels. It wasn't until years later that I played the DuckTales and Rescue Rangers sequels which, while technically improved from the original games, seemed to be lacking personality, while the less said about the dismally disappointing Darkwing Duck for the TurboGrafx-16, the better.