Disney's Darkwing Duck review
Let's get dangerous!
I'm sure that everybody who claims to be a retro gamer knows about Capcom and Disney's relationship during the 8-bit and 16-bit days. If not, it's time to educate yourself. Go look up a bunch of games made by Capcom and Disney, and play the hell out of them! I'd recommend Duck Tales and Chip N Dale. But what about this game... Darkwing Duck, or DW for short! You can't go wrong with this one, right? I mean, the show was absolutely amazing! And you know what, so is the game! It's no Rescue Rangers or Duck Tales, but it's quite a well constructed Mega Man clone that needs a little more recognition.
Story: St Canard is under a crime wave by a criminal organization known as F.O.W.L, and their valued operative Steelbeak. They have six of DW's greatest foes to wreak havoc in St Canard, so it's up to DW to stop them all before the city ends up in chaos. It definitely sticks to the license material, involving its villains and even including DW's main man, Launchpad McQuack. Overall, while a basic plot, it captures a typical episode of the TV show, so no need to complain. The lack of Negaduck disappointed me, but that's about it.
Gameplay: If you've ever played Mega Man, this will feel instantly familiar to you. Just think sidescrolling through levels, jumping a fair bit, while blasting bad guys. Level designs are at least consistent with the quality that Mega Man manages to pull off, resulting in some nice platforming sections and some pretty cool tricks and traps through the game's seven levels.
During the levels, you're able to switch weapons. Instead of pausing and navigating the arrow up or down, you just hit select. But just so you know, you collect the weapons during the levels, and you can only have one at a time. From shockwave guns to stronger bullets to arrows, you have a bit of an arsenal going on, and in keeping with the license, they're all gas guns. But again, only one at a time. Just think; do you really need the arrow gun in the daytime downtown level? Well, it can lead to a couple of extra lives, and it can do a fair bit of damage, but what if your timing against the turtles is well off? Despite being powerful, it fires slowly, so... I don't know, it might lead to some lost lives or something... Might need something with a little extra speed... because those two lives aren't worth it if you're losing that many fighting turtles.
Although now that I think about it, the enemies are a bit unbalanced, requiring a fair amount of hits to actually finish them off, while DW only has four hit points throughout the entire game. Just a little problem I've always had, especially when I was a kid, but it's manageable - some other games really screw this one up, though.
Never fear, though, for the game is never too hard, or at least at the level Contra is. Even though you have only four hit points, health packs are never in short supply. Actually, if you're a competent gamer, you shouldn't really see the game over screen too many times, despite the enemies having just a little too many hit points. It's not something you play, expecting a huge challenge; it's something to play because it's fun!
There are a few notable differences between Darkwing Duck and Mega Man. DW can duck, allowing him to shoot lower. He can also block most ranged attacks with his cape if you press up. He can also hang onto ledges if he manages to jump up to the bottom of them, and trust me when I say - you'll have a fair few sequences where you have to just hang in there while shooting down enemies. These differences don't completely differentiate it from Mega Man, but it manages to at least help you a bit more on your quest here... this is stuff Mega Man should've had (possibly sans the guard, that'd just make things a little too easy).
His cape can be a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing in the sense that it defends most attacks, but a curse since you can't fire and block. Makes sense, but when you're in midair and you accidentally use your cape, you're kind of screwed if the enemy is rushing towards you in midair. Midair usage is always by accident, since you wouldn't want to really use it in midair in the first place...
At the end of each level, you have a boss. As you'd probably expect, they follow a formula, so study it a bit while avoiding attacks, then pounce and attack them. It's become a standard sort of thing for NES games because real AI wasn't a thought back then, and the boss battles themselves aren't bad. Actually, they're good battles. Nothing too easy at first, that's for sure. They're fairly fun to beat up, but overall, they're just like every Mega Man boss you would've fought over the years.
Controls: The scheme is an easy one. A for jump, and B for shoot. You can't really move and shoot at the same time, though.. nor can you block and shoot. As I've said, you can accidentally use the cape in midair, and this is a real control flaw, since you can't stop blocking until you've landed on the ground. I don't know why they didn't fix this here... but the Game Boy version has it fixed! I just don't understand it! But other than that, the controls are pretty competently done.
Graphics: The graphics are some of the better on the NES. There's a nice and fairly colorful background of the city (shadowy buildings with half of their lights on, the river and stars all over) on the San Frans- er- St. Canard Bridge (seriously, they look quite similar when you think about it). It's quite a beautiful sight for an NES game. I always thought that DW looked interesting - the purple shirt, brown hat and (like most Disney characters) no pants. His poses on the actual game looks pretty badass, like when he folds his cape to block and when he ducks. The game captures the essence that the cartoon had - a (mostly) dark setting with (mostly) light characters.
Audio: No matter how many times Mega Man is remade, the soundtracks always manage to keep my interest. They're the only reasons I even kept on playing through the Mega Man games; because they're always of high quality! Catchy AND awesome to listen to. Darkwing Duck, thankfully, keeps this up... mostly. There are some weak tunes throughout, but for the most part, the soundtrack just kicks ass! Sound effects are pretty pedestrian, though, but hey, the soundtrack can vouch for it.
Replay Value: What much is there to do in the game after finishing it? I mean it's fun to play through, but not multiple times in a short period of time! This is basically just to see if you can do better than before.
Overall: Darkwing Duck is a fairly good NES game, but by no means one of the best that Disney and Capcom had to offer. This is certainly no Duck Tales, or even as good as the first three Mega Man games. There are some hiccups in the licensing, and a bit of a control issue, but for the most part, Darkwing Duck is a fun game to go through. Nothing that will set the world on fire (that's reserved for Duck Tales and Goldeneye), but definitely glues your eyes to the TV for a little while.
Replay Value: 4/10