This Week in Games - The Disney Afternoon Collection

by Dustin Bailey,
I “finished” NeiR: Automata this week, and obviously I'm putting “finished” in quotations because I actually just got to the first ending of many. I liked it, but I wasn't enraptured by it. The daily stories of nearly biblical transcendance may have set my expectations a bit too high, and the metanarrative promises set up by the first few hours don't really pay off in a huge way through the remainder of the game or at least this iteration of it. But whatever, I know things are supposed to get way crazier and fundamentally different in subsequent runs, and it plays great, so I'm sticking with it.

The past month or so has also seen me slowly engage in the sad process of paring down my game collection. There's a point where you have to get uncomfortably real with yourself, and for me that's realizing I'll never actually have time to play though that copy of Shining the Holy Ark. That's doubly true when you've got increasingly well-built ports and remasters that are—in almost every case—superior to the originals. There's a part of me that just wants to see raw pixelated 240p images on my gaming screens, but then there's another part that realizes spending hundreds of dollars on increasingly rare DuckTales 2 cartridges is absurd when the Disney Afternoon Collection exists.

Review: The Disney Afternoon Collection

A couple years ago Capcom decided to finally listen to the wailing, anguished cries of their older fans, a cacophonous chorus of 30-year old men whose only dream was a competently-produced collection of old Mega Man games. They finally got their wish in 2015 with the Mega Man Legacy Collection, a compilation of 6 classic NES Mega Man titles, complete with an archive of design and promotional works. It wasn't perfect – the selection was limited to only those 6 NES games, and there were some emulation problems right out of the gate that got patched up pretty quickly, but on the whole it was a pretty solid release. I remember thinking at the time “hey, if they're going to do this for Mega Man, maybe eventually they'll release a compilation of their Disney games!” and then of course, they did.

First, a little history: if you were born in the last 20 years, this information might be relatively new to you. The Disney Afternoon is a legendary syndicated block of Disney TV cartoons from the mid-to-late 1980s that ran through most of the early 90s. Largely animated in Japan (all the best-looking episodes of these shows – including the entire classic DuckTales opening theme – were animated by Tokyo Movie Shinsha), their theme songs are burned into the psyche of anyone who grew up in the general proximity of the late 20th century. These games were largely considered some of the best platformers of the era (at least a couple of ‘em were), built in some cases by the Mega Man team. Odds are if you had an NES in 1989, you were renting DuckTales over and over and over again from your local Blockbuster Video.


It's nice this compilation came along, is all I'm saying.

In this compilation you get 6 games – DuckTales, DuckTales 2, Chip ‘n Dale's Rescue Rangers and its sequel, and then both TaleSpin and Darkwing Duck. This is far from all the Disney licensed games Capcom released, but I guess that's why they limited the scope of this collection to ‘The Disney Afternoon’. A couple of these games – the sequels especially – are some of the rarest NES carts around (good luck finding a copy of DuckTales 2 for less than $150) so this collection is, in effect, resurrecting these games. You get faithfully emulated versions of all 6 games with the usual suite of enhancements that come with collections like this – a couple of different scanline filters, the option to ruin the aspect ratio by stretching the games from 4:3 to 16:9, background art to help fill out your screen and a sound test mode so you can run through the incredible soundtracks for these games. It's pretty much what you'd expect.

The main feature they've added is a rewind button, which allows you to quickly skip backward in time when you screw up, which happens constantly in twitchy platformers like these. The Mega Man collection let you save scum, which goes a long way toward trivializing the difficulty of those old games, but the rewind button takes it to a whole new level. I couldn't find a way to turn the rewind button off – it's always there, tempting you – but this is an incredibly handy feature to have if you're only here to play through these things and see everything there is to see without getting stuck on a particularly obnoxious jumping puzzle or boss fight. They've also included a boss rush and time trial mode with online leaderboards so you can see which of your friends remembers how to beat Chip ‘n Dale's Rescue Rangers in under 20 minutes. If you've played these games a lot and can still finish them quickly thanks to muscle memory, these additional modes really add a lot of value to the package.

The games themselves hold up pretty well, for the most part. DuckTales is still such a beloved game it got a full visual overhaul only a couple years ago, and the sequel is just as good as the original (the level design isn't quite there but everything else is on-point). Chip ‘n Dale's Rescue Rangers is the other most-beloved title in here and it's still a fantastic co-op multiplayer joint, likewise with a sequel that's more ambitious (check out the lengthy cutscenes!) and just as much fun to play as the original. I'm less fond of TaleSpin – it's a simple, slow-moving shooter with a gimmick that isn't very fun (flip Baloo's plane around! Shoot behind you! Who cares) but that's kind of the only real dud in here. Even the relatively uninspired platforming of Darkwing Duck acquits itself pretty well in the harsh light of modern day – these are solidly constructed games that deserved preservation.

There are a few problems with this collection – I played through a couple of these games and tested the others on PlayStation 4, and there appeared to be some audio distortion in the stage select screen for DuckTales, which will hopefully get patched out. The design archives – which is always the coolest part of any retro compilation – is sadly a little underwhelming compared to the extensive museum they put together for Mega Man. Anyone hoping for exhaustive design works here will be disappointed – there's a slideshow that explains that most of the art in these games was modeled after the original design sheets from the cartoons, but these games are full of original enemies and locations, and we don't really get any of that unique stuff in the archives. There are still some incredibly cool things in here – a piece of unused Famicom DuckTales cover art, for example, and a bunch of vintage Capcom promotional art – but it just isn't as extensive as I'd like. Maybe the audience for the complete design archive of Chip ‘n Dale's Rescue Rangers 2 is limited, but I'm pretty sure all of those people are going to buy this collection so why not include it?


This unused cover art for the Famicom version of Ducktales is one of the coolest things in the collection.

While I wish they'd have expanded this collection to include more of the Disney Capcom library (there's a Goof Troop game for the Super Nintendo, and why not include the Game Boy versions of these games, at least?) and it isn't completely clear of technical issues, it's still the best presentation these games are likely ever going to get and absolutely worth your retro gaming dollar. You even get a fun, authentic-sounding 8-bit version of the Disney Afternoon theme song, which feels like the heaviest nostalgia rush you can get shy of crushing up and snorting a DuckTales NES cartridge. Recommended.

NEWS

THE NES CLASSIC MINI IS DEAD, LONG LIVE THE SNES CLASSIC MINI

Shortly after last week's column went live, news came to light that the NES Classic Mini was being discontinued indefinitely. Yes, Nintendo has elected not to fulfill the ravenous demand for its smash hit retro console, and secondary market prices for the $60 MSRP machine are already stretching toward the $300 mark. Conventional wisdom would suggest that generally, the accusations of artificial scarcity leveled at Nintendo are absurd—after all, they're not making money off of items they're not manufacturing—but it gets a lot tougher to refute those claims when they're discontinuing production of a hot item at peak demand.

Reports coming from Eurogamer—an outlet which was very reliable regarding Switch rumors, I might add—suggest that Nintendo is redirecting their manufacturing efforts toward the NES Mini's successor. That is, of course, a tiny Super Nintendo. (Sadly, I'm not an expert in supply and manufacturing to explain why, exactly, Nintendo can't contract further production of the still-hot predecessor.)

Though this is still in rumor territory, a SNES Mini seemed like the inevitable response to the NES Classic's success, though I wonder if it can enjoy the same success. The SNES library has aged far better than most of what was on the NES, but the Super Nintendo didn't enjoy the mainstream ubiquity that helped to make the previous micro-console such a hit outside of the general gaming audience. In any case, make peace with this rendition of Super Metroid being the only appearance of Samus you'll get to enjoy for years to come.

NINTENDO DIRECT ROUND-UP

Last week's Nintendo Direct wrapped up mere moments before this column had to be submitted for review, so if you're wondering why those juicy news bits were missing from last week's article—well, there it is. If you were hoping for justifications for your Switch purchase, you were kinda outta luck, since many of the new stories were about the 3DS, and the bigger bits of Switch news were about mostly known quantities like Splatoon 2 and Arms.

I won't run down everything blow-by-blow—there are way too many details for that—but the focus on 3DS, including some new game announcements, was more than a bit disheartening. I'd hoped that the Switch's hybrid status would centralize all that handheld development on a new platform, but I guess you can't argue with the 3DS's install base against the Switch's as-yet-unproven future.

As far as big Switch announcements, it was foolish to expect those anyway with E3 just a short time away. Nintendo's big holiday game is Super Mario Odyssey, and it's unlikely that they'll have anything in the near future to derail that momentum—instead, that'll be the time for announcements regarding emulated games and online stuff. In the meantime, please look forward to the release of Splatoon 2 on July 21st.

XBOX IS MAKING STRIDES TOWARD NOT BEING THE EVIL CONSOLE WITH SELF-SERVICE REFUNDS

Remember E3 2013? Microsoft had just announced a console featuring all sorts of restrictive DRM features intended to push gamers toward the all-digital future. People were curious how Sony would respond, with most just assuming they'd follow the same path—but then they didn't. In the face of an overwhelming Sony preference from the audience, Microsoft was forced to change their entire plan, and Xbox One versus PlayStation 4 has been framed as a sort of good versus evil battle ever since.

But more recently, Microsoft has been stepping in to take advantage of some of Sony's missteps. Xbox One's Games With Gold lineup has generally been far stronger than that on PlayStation Plus, and there's the added benefit of excellent backward compatibility with a huge variety of 360 games. The upcoming Xbox Game Pass service looks to be superior to PlayStation Now. And it seems that Xbox One owners are about to get a huge benefit over their PlayStation 4 brethren in the form of refunds.

The latest Xbox Insider Program update has added self-service refunds, which work pretty similarly to the solutions becoming prevalent on PC digital distributors. You've got two weeks from the date of purchase to refund any game that's been played for two hours or less. That's huge for the ultimately closed digital marketplace, and a lack of refund options has been a frequent point of contention on the PS4. I can only hope that this becomes a standard feature across every digital outlet moving forward.

NEXT WEEK'S RELEASES

DRAGON QUEST HEROES II
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PlayStation 4 / PC
Release Date: April 25
MSRP: $59.99

I've got weird feelings toward Omega Force's licensed Musou derivatives. Some have been great—I really enjoyed Hyrule Warriors. Others, like the recent Berserk adaptation, haven't been so hot. But hey, we've got a sequel's worth of iteration here, so Dragon Quest Heroes II has to be great, right? We've got online multiplayer, new player class systems, new world map, and a whole host of other new features to set this one apart. I'll be digging in for a full review early next week, so look forward to that.

PUYO PUYO TETRIS
Developer: Sonic Team
Publisher: Sega
Platform: Switch / PlayStation 4
Release Date: April 25
MSRP: $39.99 / $29.99

Puyo Puyo Tetris is a tremendous game. Thanks to the weird licensing around Tetris it's also one of few notable imports not to see a Western localization—until now, that is. Whether you want to play Tetris, Puyo Puyo, or some wacky combination of the two this is a great product, and barring an unlikely game-ruining translation problem this is going to be the cartridge to finally supplant Zelda in my Switch. (Even if that version does come at an unfortunate $10 premium over the PS4 edition.)

ALSO AVAILABLE:
Outlast 2 will up the ante for survival horror in this post-RE7 world, Syberia III will revive a long-dead adventure series, and the folks behind the Unfinished Swan will be putting together another first-person narrative game in What Remains of Edith Finch. Plus, the pretty okay Psycho-Pass VN, Mandatory Happiness, will come to PC, and Dark Souls III will be getting an all-inclusive game-plus-DLC package on consoles.

Also apparently StarCraft is free now? Ahead of the Remastered version that'll be out later this year, Blizzard has elected to put out the original seminal RTS—plus Brood War—out for everybody. So enjoy that.


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