Officially what was once known as the Disney Afternoon premiered in syndication back in September of 1990. Although Disney already had their own network which of course was The Disney Channel, it wasn’t nearly as widespread as what it is today and in fact was a premium channel instead of being something available as a part of your cable package. It was also still two years before one of the first 24 hour networks dedicated to cartoons would launch but children were content with coming home afterschool and partaking in what was a ritual for most; sitting down to watch afternoon cartoons.
The Disney Afternoon ran for seven years and for most, the second season is often the one which is held in the highest regard. This would eliminate the rather annoying Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears from the lineup and the two hour block would consist of four different series which have become beloved by fans, even those who might not have watched any of them originally but caught them later on The Disney Channel or perhaps picked them up on DVD. The classic lineup consisted of DuckTales, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, TaleSpin and Darkwing Duck and Disney wasn’t just content with dominating the realm of afternoon animation but also had interest in having the character work their way into the world of video games.
The Disney Afternoon Collection packages together the four iconic series with six different video games. However this isn’t like DuckTales Remastered where developers went to great lengths to take the original, classic game and recreate it for a new generation of gamers. These instead are the original, NES versions just as they would have been back when they were released on the Nintendo Entertainment System, minus periodically having to blow into the cartridge in hopes that it would magically work, a long standing myth that was finally debunked a few years ago.
DuckTales had already been a part of the Disney Afternoon since it originally launched so it’s not a surprise that the video game was released before the first season of the Disney Afternoon even launched. DuckTales finds players assisting Scrooge McDuck as he travels the globe in search of undiscovered riches, something that his rival Flintheart Glomgold is also keen on accomplishing. The two travel to Africa, the Amazon, and even the moon with Scrooge hoping to retain his title of richest duck in the world. The sequel simply titles DuckTales 2 would launch three years later and this time Huey has found a piece of a map drawn by Fergus McDuck which is believed to lead to lost reassure. Scrooge sets out once again with Glomgold seeking the game treasure.
Both DuckTales games play very similarly to one another and the involvement of many of the key participates of the MegaMan series is evident. The major difference between the games is that the sequel allows you to revisit locations and Scrooge can not only upgrade his cane but can now also use it to grab levers and perform a few other tricks as well. While the idea behind the gameplay might be a bit basic, keep in mind that these were the NES days and with only two buttons to use, that didn’t really allow for a great assortment of moves but then again, it wasn’t really necessary. Most players were content with bouncing around and Scrooge’s cane as well as off the heads of foes.
1990 saw Chip and Dale hit the NES in the video game adaptation of the series. Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers offered a two-player co-op mode with gamers assuming the role of either Chip or Dale. The adventure starts out with the pair going to rescue a lost kitten but once they seemingly have accomplished their task, the truth is revealed. It was a distraction by none other than their nemesis Fat Cat who has managed to kidnap gadget. Now they must rescue their missing friend and, with any luck, put a stop to Fat Cat and his evil schemes. The sequel would appear three years later at a point when the NES had dwindled in popularity due to the release of its successor, the SNES. The sequel once again features a co-op mode but there is little change in the gameplay as the pair jump and hurl boxes at enemies. In their second video game outing Fat Cat has returned and this time as stolen the Urn of the Pharaoh and released the evil spirits inside. Now it’s up to the Rescue Rangers to seal the urn and put a stop to Fat Cat.
TaleSpin was released on the NES in 1991. The idea of taking some of the familiar cast characters from Jungle Book and putting them in a completely different environment seemed strange initially, but it caught on with most. The game itself is rather basic and features Baloo flying his cargo plane the Seaduck but of course Shere Khan is intent on putting an end to his deliveries as well as Rebecca Cunningham’s business, Higher for Hire. TaleSpin is little more than a shooter and while not a bad effort, it doesn’t quite manage to soar to the same heights as the other Disney Afternoon games.
Finally Darkwing Duck saw his NES premier in 1991 and along with DuckTales, Darkwing has always been one of those favorites even if Disney seemingly isn’t willing to reboot the series. Of course if it were to look like the upcoming DuckTales series, I’d prefer to see them leave it alone. Darkwing Duck puts players in control on the title character as he embarks on a mission for S.H.U.S.H. Once again the nefarious organization F.O.W.L is up to no good and Steelbeak is determined to have his emissaries of evil assault the innocent citizens of St. Canard. Darkwing must face the likes of Quackerjack, Liquidator and Megavolt armed with his trusty gas gun.
Aside from the games there are a few new additions to the collection. Each of the six games also allows players the option to play a boss rush mode as well as a timed attack version. There are also art galleries for the games includes as well as the ability to access the music, something that was rare back in the early console days and often was only accessible via putting in a code.
There are many long time gamers as well as those who have developed a love affair with retro gaming who are going to find the Disney Afternoon Collection a very welcomed release on consoles. The series themselves are still ones which have a very dedicated, cult following as do the games themselves. I don’t expect that we’ll be seeing any of these getting a makeover like DuckTales did but even without one, being able to once again relive these classic games is more than enough.
Mike is the resident reviewer for Couponing to Disney and his own site Underland Online. He has a toddler daughter and is obsessed with Haunted Mansion and all things Disney. You can read Mike’s complete bio here.