tiistai 17. toukokuuta 2011

REVIEW - Darkwing Duck (1992)

GENRE(S): Platform
RELEASED: June 1992

Darkwing Duck was very possibly my second favourite afternoon/Sunday morning Disney cartoon right after DuckTales when I was a child - who am I kidding? I'd probably still enjoy the hell out of it. Darkwing Duck first aired in late 1991, and it was the only direct spin-off of DuckTales, which had already been cancelled for about a year. It was a heartfelt parody of comic book superheroes, something that was missing from Disney's repertoire, and it worked like a charm. In the summer of 1992, this seemingly overlooked show spawned its first video game. It was made by Capcom for the NES and the Game Boy, and it was supposed to repeat DuckTales' success. The sales were far from those of DuckTales, but the Nintendo Entertainment System's closing life cycle can be blamed for that. As a game, Darkwing Duck is one of the best Disney games in history. Might even be one of the finest and most appealing 8-bit games I've played.

I am the terror that flaps in the night!

By day, Drake Mallard is a bumbling father to his adopted daughter Gosalyn. By night, he is Darkwing Duck, a sworn crime fighter with a very impressive ego. When St. Canard is hit by a mysterious crime wave orchestrated by six of the most volatile supervillains in the city - Quackerjack, Wolfduck, The Liquidator, Dr. Reginald Bushroot, Megavolt and Professor Moliarty - the intelligence agency S.H.U.S.H. calls in the only duck capable of hitting the villains where it hurts.

The bigger problem than Quackerjack himself is
Mr. Banana Brain.
Words can't express how I loved the Darkwing Duck cartoon. I actually got pissed to the point of tears if I missed one episode. Actually, I'm somewhat pissed that missing an episode of any show these days isn't a problem at all. Back then, I didn't have torrents or Internet TV to my advantage. Everything's so easy nowadays. Anyway, Darkwing aired on Sunday mornings, clamped together with several other Disney cartoons, both classic shorts and new syndicated shows. There simply was no way you could remove me from the front of the TV set, and there was no way you could make me hear one single word you said during that marathon, or rather a ritual. I was simply mesmerized by weekend cartoons. The Darkwing Duck video game was the one singled-out game I rented the most times from a local video store. Man, it was almost as awesome as the show, and it was almost as awesome as DuckTales, the game. I was a bit afraid I would have to flush another fine memory when I dug Darkwing Duck up after all these years, but for once, I can say the game's attraction hasn't toned down one bit. It's clever, it's true, it's authentic, it's challenging, it's fun to play, it's 8-bit cartoon-based entertainment at its near best.

Not over 'til the fat bird's popped.
There's only one thing that is off about the game's presentation, and that is the inclusion of the boss character Wolfduck, who was never in the show. Back when I was a kid and the cartoon was still on, I thought that Wolfduck was a new character who simply hadn't been seen in our local broadcasts just yet, or part of the couple of episodes I missed - but he never did appear on the show. They could've put The Bugmaster, Major Synapse or Taurus Bulba in to accompany The Fearsome Five as the sixth boss, anyone but a character that didn't even appear on the show. He fits the bill quite well, though, but I've got to find something to complain about, since otherwise, the game really feels like you're playing as DW in just the right environment.

The graphics are absolutely awesome, just about of the best God damn graphical show of power you can expect from the NES; not only does the game look good, the framerate is also very much ahead of Capcom's usual quality. The character design, especially that of the enemies, is fantastic. The music is a mix of very, VERY Mega Manly jive and the Darkwing Duck theme song. I love it, but it kind of amuses me - if I closed my eyes, I could easily imagine myself playing a Mega Man game instead. It's no wonder the music's so alike to some of the first Mega Man games, since the soundtrack's composed by Yasuaki Fujita, who worked on Mega Man 3 and 4. Great stuff.

Climbing Moliarty's dark tower.
As a game, Darkwing Duck is a perfect combination of the DuckTales and Mega Man franchises. The appeal and constant joy of gameplay come from DuckTales, while the Mega Man franchise is the source for the game's most tricky challenges and the ability to change weapons on the go, to the most suitable one for each situation. At first, it seems your standard gas pistol is the only weapon that has some practical use, but in the later stages, the alternative ones will possibly prove quite handy. In the beginning of the game, you only have three levels to choose from. This eliminates a common peeve in many totally non-linear games, such as DuckTales, in which the difficulty level never really increases. The first three levels are quite moderate in difficulty, but the later three require some work. And perhaps a little blood. And sweat. And if you're really sensitive about challenging platformers, maybe just a little bit of tears as well. Just like in nearly every self-respecting platformer, the supposed final stage is not the end. After beating all of the six levels, you're handed the right to go for the final challenge, the previously invisible seventh stage, and the very final boss of the game, F.O.W.L. agent Steelbeak, Darkwing's arch nemesis.

What separates Darkwing Duck from most platformers in its time, is that most of it's based on DW's ability to hang. You can jump down from any platform and hang from it, and also latch on to any platform you jump at. Most of the boss fights are wholly based on a vertical game of cat and mouse, in which you really need to think about your position all the time, and whether you should lay low or go for higher ground to get the advantage. The boss fights repeat themselves a little - the duels against Quackerjack and Bushroot, and their respective buffs are nearly identical - but it's not such a big problem.

I have a feeling this is not a pleasure cruise.
Overall, the game isn't as hard as certain sections in some levels make it out to be. It's very generous, surprisingly generous even, when it comes to power-ups, and once you get a good feel of the controls, it shouldn't take you more than a couple of hours and a few necessary losses of life to beat the thing... and go back for more. Seriously, this game infects you in a positive way just as DuckTales did before it. It was made to recapture the magic of DuckTales after a string of good and decent, but kind of hollow games, and I think they followed up on that intention better than anyone could have expected.

If it's not even better than DuckTales, then Darkwing Duck is at the very least one of the most overlooked games in the whole NES library. It's probably just because people felt a whole new Disney license should've been released on the SNES or at least the Sega Genesis, there was no sense in it otherwise. Well, in those times of darkness in which all parents couldn't afford to buy their kids a 16-bit console, I think it was only fair that we got this gem all to ourselves. Darkwing Duck is excellent.

SOUND : 9.0


a.k.a. Disney's Darkwing Duck

GameRankings: 71.00% (GB)

An unrelated game also entitled Darkwing Duck was released on the TurboGrafx-16 system in 1992. It was developed by Interactive Designs and Radiance Software, and published by Turbo Technologies.

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