Darkwing Duck is another Disney-based game from Capcom, and the fourth title based on the Disney Afternoon TV block of the early 90s. Since its premiere in the fall of 1991 the show provided a fun spoof of the super-hero and spy movies as the masked Darkwing constantly fought crime with a cast of kooky friends and cool gadgets. Naturally Capcom decided to bring D.W. to the NES since they already had games based on the other shows in the lineup (DuckTales, Rescue Rangers and TaleSpin), and despite a surprising difficulty level and blatant reuse of a familiar game engine, the result is another fun Disney title.
The storyline is pretty basic. In this game Darkwing is enlisted by the top-secret organization S.H.U.S.H. to stop a crime wave that's plagued the city of St. Canard. They suspect that the evil group known as F.O.W.L. (Fiendish Organization for World Larceny) is behind this, so it's up to D.W. to take down the organization's top agents and bring an end to the carnage.
Darkwing's mission will take him through seven stages set in different parts of the city. He can take on the stages in any order, but he gets presented with a choice of three areas at the beginning of the game. Each level is crawling with assorted baddies that are out to do our hero in, but Darkwing's armed with his trademark Gas Gun that can shoot pellets to take them down. Darkwing can also collect special ammo cartridges to fire special shots such as Arrow Gas, Thunder Gas and Heavy Gas, each with different abilities and uses. Each type requires different ammounts of ammo, so you need to collect 'G' canisters to replenish your stock, and you can only have one of them equipped at a time. As he moves through each level Darkwing can grab onto certain structures and hang from them to reach certain ledges, and he can also use raise his cape to block projectiles like a shield. As he travels along each level D.W. scores points for defeating enemies and for collecting various objects and power-ups lying around, and he can enter one of two bonus stages if he shoots at the right spots in each level to open the secret entrances. At the end of each stage Darkwing must battle a familiar foe from the TV show, such as Megavolt, Bushroot, Quakerjack, Liquidator, Moliarity and Wolfduck. If he's successful he gets bonus points and can move on to the next stage. Once he's clear the three initial stages, three more areas open up and once all six levels are finished, Darkwing can enter the final stage for a showdown with the head of F.O.W.L. himself, Steelbeak (Yes, the final boss is Steelbeak, not Negaduck as you might have hoped).
The graphics are very good in this cartridge. All the characters are well drawn and many of them are very recognizable from the show plus they have great animation, especially Darkwing himself, who creeps through each level as only he can. The stages each look great and have some nice details to them, and the introduction screens from when you begin the game are especially well done. There is a bit of flicker sometimes but it's not a big issue. The sounds are your usual Capcom fare; the music is very snazzy and fun to listen to, including a nice rendition of the TV show theme, while the sound effects are decent but nothing special.
For the most part Darkwing Duck is a pretty fun title, just like most of the other Disney titles on the NES, with some nice run 'n' gun platform action throughout the game. The controls work very well and are easy to use with very few problems, though trying to grab onto stuff to hang from can be a bit tricky at times. Capcom also did a nice job of bringing the show's personality to the game, such as when Darkwing begins each stage by unfurling his cape while proclaiming "I am Darkwing Duck!" However there are a couple of issues that bring this cart down slightly. The first thing most gamers will notice about the gameplay is that it bears more than a resemblance to the Mega Man series. Indeed it does seem at times as if the programmers could swap some of the sprites between the two games and there would be no difference either way. What's really surprising is how difficult this game is, considering it's a Disney title. Most enemies take several shots to defeat, and they often have periods of invincibility which can prevent you from dispatching them quickly. Plus you can only take four hits before losing a life and in many spots the enemies can be brutal with their attacks. Regardless this game can be conquered with plenty of practice and memorization of patterns. There are also plenty of 1-ups and health boxes scattered about, and you do get unlimited continues to help you along.
So despite the high challenge level and the slightly recycled game engine, Darkwing Duck is still another well-done Disney game from Capcom. It captures the essence of the cartoon very well and backs it up with first-rate graphics and solid gameplay. Granted it could have done some things better, like not have as much frustration, but overall this is a great title that gamers should check out, especially fans of the show. Grab a copy and get ready to Get Dangerous!
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