Nostalgia has a habit of creating fond memories associated with some games that someone used to play growing up. It might be a title hailing all the way back to the early nineties or even one released in the age of online gaming. Regardless, it’s a powerful tool that many companies have been making efficient use of and the latest effort comes from Capcom in the form of The Disney Afternoon Collection.
The Disney Afternoon Collection isn’t just a random selection of titles put together due to their use of Disney characters. Back in the early nineties, Disney used a two hour programming block to run episodes for cartoons featuring the same characters found in the six titles included in the Disney Afternoon Collection. Back then, Capcom released all these titles roughly around the same time that the cartoons were on air.
With that in mind, it would seem easy to dismiss the titles on the basis that they would only really appeal to a younger audience. In fact, it’s the complete opposite considering that each of them is more than capable of offering a worthy challenge. What they all have in common is that they are traditional side scrolling platform titles. The game mechanics do change slightly depending on the title, like in DuckTales 1 and 2 where they revolve around hopping up and down on a stick to defeat enemies and hitting some objects with the stick or in both Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers titles which see the characters throwing objects at enemies.
Yet what makes each of these titles so unique is how the characters are used. In the case of both Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers titles, it’s how everything looks huge from the perspective of the two tiny characters. Darkwing Duck is a lighthearted take on Batman and results in some very amusing references, like the character making use of his trademark heroic phrase when starting a level. It seems that charisma goes a long way since it definitely helps to make most of these titles relevant more than a decade after they were released.
Despite the charming nature of the titles, some of them definitely bring down the overall quality of the collection. The odd way that the character is controlled in TaleSpin makes it rather difficult to move about whilst shooting enemies. This is due to the fact that it’s necessary to press a button to turn around and the way that the airplane moves is also somewhat awkward – even after purchasing some of upgrades found in a shop after completing each level. There is a similar issue with the way that Darkwing Duck is played in that it’s harder than it should be since it’s necessary to stay still to shoot.
It would feel unfair to criticise the titles given that video-games development was definitely different back then and only handled by a couple of people, but the fact is that controls for the other titles are much better. Even the level design itself in titles such as Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers is better which results in a fairer challenge.
As far as ports go, Digital Eclipse has done a remarkable job of ensuring that each title has been given the appropriate attention in order to make it look the same as the original. It even went as far as adding a rewind button feature to undo recent actions, which should make sure that those who are not used to the harsh early days of gaming where lives and continues really mattered, can still enjoy playing these titles.
Although the developer has also added the option to add filters and change the size of the screen, it still feels like the original options make for the best way to play each title. This is due to the fact that it makes it somewhat difficult to keep up with the action of a side scrolling platform title on a stretched screen. As usual with most ports, there is also the option to save at any point to continue at another time or just to make it less feasible to get a game over screen, if not making use of the rewind button feature.
Whilst adding options like the save and load system may make it seem like most titles don’t last particularly long, at least it will appeal to a wider audience. Also, purists can still try to complete each title without making use of these tools. That and there are the Time Attack and Boss Rush modes for each title, which will surely appeal to the speedrunners out there. Each of these modes comes complete with a stopwatch and it even tracks how long it takes to defeat each boss, when tackling the Boss Rush mode. Although it might make it slightly tricky to play with the screen placed so near the corner of the TV screen, it is still a nice touch for the developer to make use of a similar user interface to what speedrunners use for their videos. What might make these modes so addictive to competitive types is the inclusion of a leaderboard for each mode and its respective title. Digital Eclipse has even made it possible to view a video clip for each entry in a leaderboard to get tips on how to improve times.
What might make these speedruns more difficult is the very rare occasion where players may experience significant framerate drops for a couple of seconds. Whilst this may not seem significant, it could result in the character dying due to falling into a bottomless pit. It’s very difficult to pinpoint the origin of this issue given the random nature of when it was encountered. The title that seemed to suffer the least from it is Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers 2.
As a bonus for those those that purchase the collection, Digital Eclipse and Capcom have included a substantial amount of extras. These consist of different materials from the usual artwork to scans of original paper packaging for each title that has somehow managed to survive the harsh passage of time. It should be a delight to get a peak at the development of each title for those that played the originals and those who are experiencing them for the first time.
As humans, we strive to use the passage of time as a way to keep track of significant events. For some these titles are as meaningless as trying to delay the inevitable fate that awaits us all, but for others they are associated with fond memories created whilst playing them growing up. As someone that used to play Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers 2 and strive to get a bit further towards the goal of completing it with every play session, it’s easy to view it as the highlight of this collection. Still, this is a decent effort at bringing back a collection of titles that perfectly represent the heydays of the side scrolling platform genre that was so popular back then. The collection itself is not flawless, but it’s still capable of providing a couple of enjoyable hours or even a delightful afternoon spent rediscovering these classic titles or playing them for the very first time.