Licensed games. Aaaugh. Utter those two words to anyone who plays video games as a hobby and you'll likely get the same reaction. It's just one of those constants in the world of gaming that everyone sort of agrees on; most licensed games out there are pure garbage. Now, I said most there because you will sometimes find an actual gem within the garbage. For every half-assed Harry Potter or Star Wars game out there, there's something that actual clever developers worked on that is good, like a Goldeneye or a Riddick.
Back in the good old fun happy times of the 8-and-16-bit days, we had licensed games. Just like back then, a lot of them were horrible. Some even qualify for Worst Games Of All Time status (yes we all know Bebe's Kids is terrible, that's another of those constants). But back then we had Capcom pumping out some very interesting licensed games. These weren't just good, they were god-damned INCREDIBLE. Of particular note is their partnership with Disney, which created what might be some of the greatest licensed games ever made. Ducktales in particular is cited as a shining beacon of game design, with wonderful gameplay and music that ranks among the top of chiptune nostalgia. (The Moon theme really is great).
..so instead I'm going to talk about the Darkwing Duck game Capcom made.
Darkwing Duck, much like Ducktales or Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, was a Disney animated series that aired on the Disney Afternoon cartoon block. Most anyone over 20 will remember the hell out of these shows, and most of them are nostalgic cartoon classics. What's even more incredible is that almost every one was made into a licensed game by Capcom, mostly for the NES or SNES (with the odd Gameboy port here and there). What really makes things shine is that nearly every one is not only a good licensed game, but a good game in general! Capcom you've done it again.
Enough blathering about cartoons and licensed games, let's talk about this one. Why Darkwing Duck? Well, Darkwing Duck was my favorite of the Disney Afternoon cartoons when I was 7. I loved it, and this was the only game of the Capcom/Disney set that I was able to rent as a kid, and I got it at any opportunity. It must have been good if a little kid could play it and do relatively well at it, and surprisingly it still holds up today.. for the most part.
If one were to hold a gun to my head and force me to describe Darkwing Duck in three words, I would panic and have my head blown off. Since I'm not in danger of that, I can give you three right here: "Mega Man Lite". As Darkwing Duck, a Batman-esque vigilante who is a duck, you select stages from a stage select screen in any order you like, and platform your way around while shooting your foes with a blaster (or "gas gun", if you're savvy to the canon). Hell, the game itself is even built off of Mega Man 5's engine, so this is a very elaborate and extensive Mega Man hack in a sense.
Capcom didn't just palette swap out the Blue Bomber for this one, oh no. Darkwing can do plenty of things that Mega Man could not. He can hang onto certain platforms, duck, and even use his cape as a shield against projectiles. There isn't any weapon stealing from the bosses since he's a duck and not a robot, but there are certain "gas" upgrades that you can grab, sort of like subweapons in a Castlevania game. Most of them aren't all that useful, though; Thunder Gas shoots at an angle upwards and downwards, Heavy Gas runs along the ground, and Arrow Gas creates little plunger-tipped arrows that can stick to walls. They all have SOME use, but it's not the most useful stuff in the world.
Capcom treated the license relatively well with this game, as you face many of Darkwing Duck's greatest foes in this game. The game takes a cue from the Game Boy Mega Man games, of all things, and has three stages available from the get-go. Beat those and you open up three more, and then after those is the final stage. It's short, but it's still a blast. Your baddest of bad guys range from a deranged Joker-esque jester called Quackerjack, to a electric-suited rat named Megavolt, and even a werewolf..duck.. called Wolfduck. That one was never in the cartoon. Finally, you face off against a Bond villain-type rooster with a metal beak named Steelbeak. I could never beat him as a child but it's laughably simple to today.
So you have a faithful adaptation of the cartoon, with gameplay reminiscent of another classic game series, and even some pretty good music to boot. What's the catch? Well, there's a reason this is Mega Man Lite. Not only is the game a bit on the short side, but it's also both simple and difficult. Simple because there isn't any really tricky platforming, barring a few sections involving grappling and moving platforms. The difficulty comes from your health meter. Unlike Mega Man, which mostly gives you plenty of chances to take damage, Darkwing can only take four hits before he dies. This makes some boss battles especially frustrating, as a few of them can be really tricky until you know how to exploit their patterns. Extra lives are everywhere, though, so it's very doubtful that you'll see the Game Over screen once you learn what to do.
Is Darkwing Duck a good game? Absolutely. It may not be AS good as the game series it borrows its gameplay from, and some might debate that if you're going to play a Disney/Capcom game you should play Ducktales. Nevertheless, it's a quick play that shouldn't last you too long but will yield entertainment. Hell, if you're a fan of the series like I am and you haven't played this yet, what are you waiting for? Go get dangerous.