☆ Retro Review: Darkwing Duck - “When there’s trouble, you call DW!” ☆ #Retrogaming

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I hate that I never knew about this game when I was a kid, because it might have rivaled Duck Tales for me as a top platformer.
The show only ran from 1991-1992, but it remains the cartoon I revisit the most from the Disney Afternoon—other than Gargoyles possibly—to this day.
I didn’t actually find out about Drake Mallard starring in his own game until looking into emulation many years later, and I just recently acquired my own physical copy of this game after some searching and patience.
There were rumors of a new version of the duck defender for years, but he will finally make his triumphant return in the new DuckTales cartoon it seems, which means it is as good a time as any to type this one up!

“When there’s trouble, you call DW!”
I love when the game has a good midi version of the show’s original theme song.
It really does something for me.
What? Why yes, I have been listening to the original theme on repeat while writing this—and now it won’t leave my head.
Why do you ask? Before I get wrapped up in my nostalgia high though and just re-start the show again, let me break some things down about the game.
Being released in May of 1992 and making use of the Mega Man 5 engine, Darkwing Duck pushes the NES in performance and is tweaked to impress. The music is great of course, never getting boring. The sprites are nice and animated extremely well with a decent bit of detail for the 8-bit landscape.

Most of the stages are intriguing in their backgrounds and designs with wonderful splashes of color, save for the sewers perhaps. All of these things give Darkwing Duck an expert presentation from Capcom, who knew how to work the system expertly by this point.
For those who may not be familiar with the IP though, this is a loose spin-off of DuckTales (the creator says they are different universes, but they have a shared character, mention others, and crossover in the comics) where our mild mannered hero—one part Batman, but more old radio serials like Green Hornet and The Shadow—fights against the villainous group F.O.W.L (Fiendish Organization for World Larceny) to save St. Canard in some typical but insanely fun superhero flavor.
Darkwing Duck is a side-scrolling action platformer that will feel familiar to many fans of other games from the same company, but I found myself having a little problem with the hanging mechanic, since the ability to drop from an initial platform to the underside of it and then to fall are different button inputs. That alone makes the first boss battle a trial by fire experience that is easy to pick up on, but difficult to do right without some experimentation for new players. It will become second nature though.
There is also a shield mechanic with the cape, but I had to keep reminding myself to use it, that it was limiting in some situations, and not all attacks can be blocked. DW is capable of finding power-ups for his iconic gas gun, but these eat up ammo quick, so I wouldn’t recommend relying on those. The arrow gas can assist in some cases with platforming, even if I had trouble using it, and there are some hidden areas to keep an eye out for also.
This is a challenging game, but certainly not impossible. However, players will need to run through these stages several times with some trial and error, and The Terror that Flaps in the Night can only be hit four times, while many of the enemies can take just as many hits to kill. There are some creative enemy sprites, like the turtles who throw their shells, and the boss fights are fun for the most part, with a few being quite interesting to take on. Most people point to the Moliarti encounter, but I enjoyed all of them. It took me a few attempts on each one, and they are a bit more memorable since most are baddies from the show. As a side note: I hate banana peels. They don’t do any damage, and mostly just hurt my pride, but yeah.
“I am the winged scourge that pecks at your nightmares!”

It’s an overall wonderful experience on the NES that I see myself replaying again soon. I don’t want to be cliché and call it ‘a new classic’ for me, but I really do wish I had owned it as a kid. There is a smaller scale version for the Game Boy that I want to try and a completely different creation of the same name found on the TurboGrafX 16. That though is an expensive and hard to find game that controls worse than its counterpart and was panned for gameplay in some rather negative reviews, unlike the Nintendo game that was mostly revered.
Because the title can still be a bit higher price on the NES and harder to track down, I encourage anyone wanting to play to check out the recent Disney Afternoon Collection release, seeing as it comes with a few other great games as well. Unless we are counting home-brews though, there has never been a sequel to this game, and that makes me sad.
In truth though, Darkwing Duck doesn’t do anything so incredible that I can call it a shame that the series died. The things it did do had already been expanded upon in other games, leaving this as a collection of good ideas with no standout features. It was more of a cash-in on something that was popular at the time, but I really enjoyed playing through this again and have a lot of nostalgia for the game and its source material.
Now, I’ll be happy if this just gets a few others to try out this poultry selection for the first time.

Review By: Wilds

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