Reviews// The Disney Afternoon Collection

Posted 5 May 2017 13:40 by
I didn't own a NES when I was growing up. Like many of my contemporaries in the UK during the late 80s/early 90s I owned a Sega Master System. I won it in a Rice Krispies competition where I had to eat a vast quantity of the cereal and then complete a tie breaker question. I loved my Master System and although I didn't have many games for it, I still have extremely fond memories. It may not have had the depth of games that its rival the NES had, but the quality was still there.

Disney, via a partnership with SEGA, released a number of excellent games on the system - The Lucky Dime Caper starring Donald Duck and Castle of Illusion were particularly good. The Master System never had the games that make up the Disney Afternoon Collection, though, and my only real exposure to them was through the Gameboy ports. I do remember watching Duck Tales and Chip 'n' Dale on ITV in the late 80s and like most people of my age still have the theme song ingrained into my brain.

Consequently, I was quite looking forward to playing the collection as although I don't quite have the same level of nostalgia for the games as I probably would have done had I owned a NES, I still knew of them by reputation. Thanks to the Disney Afternoon Collection I have gotten to know them; for better or worse.

The collection contains six games, Duck Tales (1989), Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers (1990), TaleSpin (1991), Darkwing Duck (1992), Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers 2 (1993) and Duck Tales 2 (1993). The quality of experience is consistent throughout.

In an effort to make the games more accessible, each title has had a 'rewind' function added allowing the player to correct his or her mistakes. Difficulty varies greatly between each game and whilst the rewind function feels rather like cheating in the Chip 'n Dale games, I could hardly play Darkwing Duck without it.

In addition to the rewind ability, each game can have visual filters applied, the screen stretched or borders added to recreate the experience of playing on a CRT TV. I found some filters to be rather overwhelming, particularly the one that creates a 'TV' effect.

Whilst these are nice additions, I would have been far more impressed if some work had been done to improve the visual fidelity of the sprites. Whilst I understand that the point of this collection is to preserve the past in great detail, it is still rather off-putting for newcomers. My daughter, who is generally quite forgiving of mediocre visuals was not in the slightest bit interested in trying the collection and couldn't be persuaded to have a go, even after watching a few episodes of the cartoons on YouTube. She's quite happy to play older games, like Super Mario Bros 3, but for some reason this collection didn't appeal.

Almost certainly this is intentional, as the target market is quite clearly people who grew up during the '80s and early '90s, as is evident from the menu screens and effects which are very similar to those used by Saved by the Bell. In addition to the games, the collection also contains a reasonably-sized gallery and audio sound tracks. Included in each gallery are production notes and observations making them well worth a look.

However, I do wish that some interviews with the developers at Capcom had been included, or perhaps a few episodes of the TV series that accompanies each game. Perhaps this was not possible for licensing reasons, but it is a shame as it would perhaps have created a more rounded package.

As it stands, the six games included, although mostly good, do not provide a great deal of longevity. As I mentioned, the use of the rewind removes some of the challenge in some games and the incentive to return is limited, with perhaps the exception of the Duck Tales games.

Indeed, it is Duck Tales that stands out in this collection, largely because the game design is more interesting than the more standard platforming found in Chip 'n Dale and Darkwing Duck.

Using Uncle Scrooge's pogo stick to navigate the environment is as fun as it was in 1989 and the level design, particularly in the opening Amazon levels, is excellent. The game is challenging, but not to the point that I wanted to destroy my controller.

Darkwing Duck, on the other hand, I found far less enjoyable. One of the later releases (1992) included in the collection, Darkwing Duck is horrendously difficult, even with the use of the rewind function. I have little nostalgia for the character and the game certainly did not endear me any further. Although it is not the worst of the games available to play - that honour goes to Tailspin - it certainly is the most frustrating.

Throughout the collection, the control schemes are uniformly precise, the characters feel very good to control. This is where the games included really stand out, compared to their late 80s peers. Aside from the impressive animation (for the time), I am sure it is one of the reasons why the games are remembered so fondly. They are so well designed that when I made errors I never felt that I was being treated unfairly - it was always down to my own lack of ability or impatience.

The same is even true of the only game that isn't a platformer in the package, Tailspin. Tailspin is a shooter and although I can't fault the control scheme, I did find the game to be rather dull, entirely lacking in the creativity that makes the majority of the other games in this collection interesting. I would imagine that players with a particular fondness for the cartoon may feel differently.

And therein lies the problem with the Disney Afternoon Collection. Although the package contains a number of pretty solid NES classics, real enjoyment of them in this form does require the player to be susceptible to the cheesy nostalgia of the late '80s and early '90s as represented by the Disney Channel. For those of us who grew up on the other side of the 8-bit console war, that nostalgia is perhaps not quite so strong.

Nevertheless, I am sure that a devotee of Sonic, rather than Mario could still find something to enjoy here. If Disney wants to capitalise on my childhood nostalgia, a SEGA Disney Afternoon Collection of Master System and Mega Drive classics would be most welcome.

Pros:
+ Duck Tales.
+ 'rewind function.'
+ Well presented.

Cons:
- Tailspin
- 'rewind' function
- Relies heavily on nostalgia

SPOnG Score: 6/10

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