The Disney Afternoon Collection from Digital Eclipse seemingly came out of nowhere, but it turned out to be a nice surprise. Most of the games contained in the collection – DuckTales, Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, Darkwing Duck, DuckTales 2, Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers 2, and TaleSpin – are as fun to play now as they were in your childhood.
The games aren't exactly on equal footing, though. Some are a little better than others, and some are significantly better than others. While the Disney Afternoon Collection is worth purchasing as-is (none of the games contained therein are otherwise easy to secure in a legal manner), you might be interested in knowing which games have aged well, and which ones go better with a tankard of nostalgic drink (we recommend Ecto Cooler).
Here's where the fun begins:
1: DuckTales (1989)
Awoo-oo. Scrooge McDuck's initial NES romp sells the Disney Afternoon Collection on its own. Though I played through the game with my clumsy adult reflexes and peered at it with my failing adult eyes, I found little wrong with how it's constructed. It looks good, it sounds great, and bouncing off enemies' heads with McDuck's cane just fees nice. There's treasure around every corner, and hidden passages everywhere. It's the kind of game that makes you happy to backtrack and sniff out secrets you missed the first time around.
It's not a perfect game, of course. The boss fights are dull, and returning to Transylvania for the final confrontation feels like a cop-out. The levels are large and encourage exploration, but they also have a totally unnecessary time limit. Nevertheless, it's easy to see why WayForward picked DuckTales for the remaster treatment, and even though said remaster is flawed, I'm glad it exists.
2: Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers (1990)
Rescue Rangers lacks DuckTales' large levels and myriad secrets, but it's still a rock-solid platformer. The eponymous Chip and Dale make up for their diminutive size by picking up and hurling objects at their tormenters. Nothing is off-limits: Apples, crates, metal boxes – it's all fodder for beaning menacing robotic bulldogs and rats. The reflexive "pick-up-and-throw" action the game offers is uniquely satisfying, especially since many crates hold bonus items. There's even an overworld map that lets you control your fate (well, a little).
Rescue Rangers' bosses don't pack much of a challenge, but they're huge and well-drawn. You can even engage in simultaneous two-player action, though you'll probably wind up getting in each others' way more than anything. Just picture Chip and Dale screaming swear words at each other in their shrill little voices.
3: Darkwing Duck (1992)
Darkwing Duck is one of the most ambitious titles on The Disney Afternoon Collection. It shares roots with Mega Man: Darkwing has some choice in which order he can tackle stages in, plus he can pick up powerful energy-scarfing weapons that interchange with his pea-shooter.
Challenge-wise, Darkwing Duck is arguably less forgiving than any of the Blue Bombers' outings, barring the very first title. Darkwing can withstand fewer hits than Mega Man, he can't shoot through walls, and he can't run and shoot. He can, however, deflect certain projectiles, hang off certain background objects, and duck – a trick Mega Man didn't learn until he was well into his PlayStation career.
I appreciate Darkwing Duck for its deep gameplay, but man, it's unforgiving. Enemies suck up a lot of bullets, and they respawn at the drop of Darkwing's stylish hat. There are some clever boss fights, though. Except for the fight with Professor Moliarty. That dirt-eating rodent can go to hell.
4: Ducktales 2 (1993)
The SNES was a hot ticket by 1993, so Capcom can be forgiven for scribbling "MILPOOL" on the NES's cast before running away. Not to suggest DuckTales 2 feels phoned-in. On the contrary, it's very good. It lacks the same level of engagement its predecessor offers, however, and it's hard to pinpoint why.
McDuck's cane is more versatile in DuckTales 2 (he can use it to pull objects as well as bounce), and there are still lots of fun areas to explore. But the simple sense of accomplishment the original DuckTales has in spades just isn't here. It might be because the levels aren't teeming with treasure anymore, or because the music doesn't get your blood pumping in the same way.
DuckTales 2 is still worth your time, though. Chances are excellent you never got a chance to experience it before now, so this is your time to get 'er done and brag to all the neighborhood kids about how cool you are. Try not to act surprised when they tell you "My mom says I'm not supposed to talk to you."
5: Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers 2 (1994)
The second of Capcom's NES Milpool games. Like DuckTales 2, you won't regret running through it, but neither will it enthrall you. It looks fantastic; these are some of the best sprites you'll see on the NES, and kudos to Capcom for re-drawing every character. My only complaint about Rescue Rangers 2's graphics is that they're strangely dull. Capcom seemed to favor browns over reds.
The boss fights are much more intense this time around, but the regular levels and enemies aren't as fun to tussle with. Still, it's nice to get an idea of what the NES was up to during the SNES' heyday.
6: TaleSpin (1992)
TaleSpin is the only game in my Disney Afternoon Collection review that got my stamp of disapproval, but I admit my hand hesitated for a moment. There are people who love this game, and I understand why. Like Darkwing Duck, TaleSpin is ambitious: It takes guts to cross a side-scrolling shoot-em-up with platforming action. Unlike Darkwing Duck, I think it's a touch too ambitious for its own good. NES-era shmups and platforming go together like nuts and gum.
At the very least, TaleSpin is poorly balanced. Baloo's plane, the Sea Duck, is purposefully weaksauce at the start of the game. The idea is to build her up into a war machine, but enemies aren't exactly willing to give you a breather before you get the goods equipped.
I see what TaleSpin was trying to do. I just think it didn't do that particular thing very well. Honestly, if TaleSpin was simplified and turned into a traditional shooter in the vein of 1942, I'd play the heck out of that.
If you're still determined to help Baloo keep Higher for Hire afloat, I doubt anyone will give you so much as a sideways glance for spamming the collection's "Rewind" button. Be not ashamed.