It's been about a week since Nintendo disappointed millions of fans by announcing that they have already discontinued production on the impossible to get NES Classic, the $60 mini-NES preloaded with 30 classic 8-bit games. Those feeling the sting can relive some of their childhood nostalgia for a fraction of the price with Disney and Capcom's Disney Afternoon Collection, now available digitally on Playstation 4 and X-Box One. This collection of six games that originally debuted on the Nintendo Entertainment System between 1989 and 1993 are once again available for an entire generation of gamers to recapture their youth and bask in the 1990's-ness of it all.
From the title screen alone, I was very impressed with the effort that Disney and Capcom have put into this collection. Not only do they have a fun retro menu with a digi version of the Disney Afternoon theme song, but they've also included some bonus features in the form of music and image galleries. Ever song played in all six games is available for you to listen to individually. The gallery features concept art, promotional materials, and scans of the original release boxes with all Nintendo branding digitally removed. My expectations were merely a download with all the games, but these bonus features are a really nice touch.
While these games are 8-bit, it's amazing to look back at the high quality visuals Capcom was able to achieve out of these remedial tools. The visuals have also received a slight upgrade to not look horrific on HD displays. Disney demanded the highest quality and Capcom certainly delivered with rich color schemes that closely mirror the animated series these games are based on. The character designs were painstakingly reproduced in 8-bit style and there's no question who these characters are while playing the games. Scrooge McDuck, Chip, Dale, Baloo, and Darkwing Duck all look as close to their animated counterparts as possible.
Diving into the game play, you quickly start to miss auto-saves and respawn points. While some of the games do place you near where you last perished, you only have so many lives before it completely resets the game for you. However, only a handful of these games has a solid story from start to finish. Most are merely a collection of levels and you can quickly get back to where you left off. The Disney Afternoon lyric "There's so much to do" has never rang more true then right now, so let's dive in to each game.
This side-scrolling adventure gives you the power to control Scrooge McDuck on five different adventures. The game's main menu lets you select which one you would like to start with. They are the Amazon, Himalayas, African Mines, Transylvania, and the Moon. Scrooge can jump, club items with his cane, and bounce on a pogo stick (which I believe he used in one episode of the animated series). You have to traverse these tricky terrains and find hard-to-reach treasures to add to McDuck's net-worth. Each level ends with a boss battle, one of which includes Magica De Spell. Throughout the levels, you acquire some special items, including keys that work in other levels, so you may need to repeat some if your goal is to collect every piece of treasure.
Chip & Dale: Rescue Rangers (1990)
While Ducktales only offers a single-player mode, Chip & Dale offers fun for 2-players. This game also has a plot from start to finish. You can play as Chip or Dale on your way to help rescue a lost kitten, but you soon discover robot dogs are running wild in the streets. You have to battle your way through them by throwing crates and fruit left, right, and up to defeat them. But their cat rescue mission soon becomes a heroic quest to save Gadget from the evil Fat Cat, who will be your final boss to beat.
Tale Spin (1991)
Tale Spin allows you to take to the skies in this flying adventure. You are Baloo on a quest to pick up and deliver cargo, but air pirates are trying to stop you at every turn as you travel across land and sea. You'll have to be pretty fast and good at shooting if you want to get to the Don Karnage boss battle at the end. I found Tale Spin to be the most difficult and frustrating of the games in this pack.
Darkwing Duck (1992)
Be the "Terror that flaps in the night" in this side-scrolling adventure. St. Canard has been overrun by criminals, lead by the evil Steelbeak. You'll have to fight through six areas of the city to face each of these baddies before finally confronting Steelbeak. You'll jump, slide, shoot, and block attacks with your cape in this single-player adventure.
Ducktales 2 (1993)
While the series was no longer in production by 1993, the first game was so successful that it warranted a follow up. Gameplay is almost identical to the original classic, but this time there is a connecting story. Scrooge is racing against Flintheart Glomgold to get treasures from five new destinations: Niagra Falls, Bermuda Triangle, Mu, Egypt and Scotland. Along the way there are opportunities to upgrade Scrooge's cane courtesy of Gyro Gearloose. After finding all the treasure, there's an exciting race to rescue Webby from a Duckburg version of Terminator 2. And if you find all of the pieces of the treasure map, there's a bonus sixth level.
Chip & Dale: Rescue Rangers 2 (1993)
The only other 2-player game in the bunch is the sequel to Chip & Dale: Rescue Rangers. Once again, you can only play as Chip and/or Dale, but this follow-up features a little more plot than the first. When Fat Cat breaks out of prison and sets up bombs all over town, it's up to the Rescue Rangers to diffuse them. While the other rangers came to assist in the first game, they are much more present in the sequel and it features a fun theme park ending.
All of the games are window-boxed by themed artwork in an effort to not zoom in too closely on these old 8-bit graphics. There's also two new play modes that never existed on the old system. Time Attack sets the clock and tries to see how quickly you can beat each game. Your progress is recorded and if you do well enough, you can end up on the leader board. A nice bonus is that you can watch the leaders to get some tips and advice if you feel stuck at any point in the game (or just really enjoy watching strangers play games). The other new play mode is Boss Rush, where you battle all of the bosses in quick succession and also includes the ability to watch leaders to see how they defeated them. And lastly, there is a rewind feature where you can literally go back in time and make a better choice if you get stuck or got defeated too quickly.
I'm so glad that Disney and Capcom worked to bring these classic games back to life with the Disney Afternoon Collection. Fans who grew up with these games should be thrilled to access them again for just $19.99 (far less than what any of them originally cost!), along with the new bonus content and game modes. It brought back a lot of memories for me and I hope to see other classic licensed games debut on digital retail, since a lot of these types of games never get a re-release opportunity. Now that the Disney Afternoon games are all available again, I would love to see some of the other great Disney games from the 1990's receive a similar digital bundle.