Darkwing Duck
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  • Capcom
  • Capcom
  • Action - General, Other
  • June 1992
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  • $6.00
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9  |  The last Hurrah in Disney creativity
JAnderson , 3/11/2005 3:01:49 AM
I have a confession- I never liked The Tick. I never liked the bleedingly obvious superhero parodies of the show. The parodies registered in .3 seconds, not to mention stories that were too based in existing stories. I also don't much care for parody that's stupid for the sake of stupid. The Tick was obvious in its parodies and stories nor ever bothered to do anything but parody.

Perhaps this is why I liked Darkwing Duck.

Darkwing Duck initially began life as a series called Double O Duck, a James Bond-style Disney afternoon show. However, the Bond angle was quickly scrapped for whatever reasons before production even began, replaced with a superhero parody show. But unlike The Tick, the show was not always ovbious in its parodies. Sure, you may recognize the more mainstream comic characters getting poked at, such as the Joker, but Plantman and Toymaker? Who - from the show's target audience to even older viewers - will be quick to pick out comic's most obscure characters?

Darkwing Duck himself was based primarily around the Shadow. However, heavy amounts of Darkman were topped on(possibly as Darkman had just hit theaters a year before the show debuted), with bits of Hudson Hawk, Batman, and even a bit of James Bond was retained. Or, perhaps just Maxwell Smart. Not to mention the times when he (temporarily) gained the powers of Daredevil for an episode, and the time he was bitten by a radioactive spider(this on top of a rather gritty DW comic that Marvel did at one point). The series was placed as a follow-up to Disney's own DuckTales, with quirky pilot Launchpad McQuack, now older and a lot more muscular, becoming a regular after Darkwing crashed - literally - into Launchpad's new barn. The show took place in Saint Canard, a sort of combo-parody of Manhattan, Los Angeles, and DC cities Gotham and Metropolis. A city crawling with freaks, mutants, and other powered supervillains, all fought by a crimefighter with no powers.

But at the same time, the show also had a number of original plots and characters and didn't rely too much on the stuff it did copy to tell a story.

Of course, no popular cartoon would do without a video game. Disney went to Capcom, developer of the DuckTales, Chip & Dale, and Mickey Mouse games, for this one. The game centers around the villain Steelbeak - a combo parody of Bond villain Jaws, Lex Luthor, and the Kingpin - and his criminal group F.O.W.L. - a parody of Get Smart group K.A.O.S. - out to take St. Canard with help from DWs own villains in a plot to destroy the hero.

Darkwing Duck uses a modified Mega Man engine. While the basic elements are there, DW can also duck, grab onto the bottoms of ledges, and use his cape as a shield, all things the blue bomber could never do, some of which he should have done. Special weapon obtaining is ditched in favor of picking up one of three special gas weapons for DWs own gas gun - Arrow Gas is powerful, but moves slow. It can also stick to walls and serve as a temporary ledge. Heavy Gas hits the floor and flies in both directions quickly. Thunder Gas was a 2-way shot, splitting into 2 lightning bolts.

The level selection is similar. You can choose from three levels at start. The bridge construction site pits you against Quackerjack, the psychotic clown who parodied the aforementioend Joker and Toymaker, with bits of X-Men villain Arcade thrown in. The sewers put you up against the Liquidator - himself not so complex, being solely a parody of Spider-Man villain Hydro Man. And the city center pits you against Wolfduck - a werewolf duck, who I don't recall from the cartoon. Beating these three areas open up three harder levels. The forest pits you against Bushroot - a plant creature duck, who parodied Poison Ivy, Swamp Thing, and the more obscure Marvel characters Plantman and Man-Thing.

The wharf leads you to Megavolt - a psychotic rat who talked who electronic appliances, and also parodied Spidey villains Electro and Shocker. And the construction site pits you against Moliarty - a parody of an obscure Fantasic Four villain named Mole Man, with a bit of Kingpin added(the Moriarty-parody name just seemed to be in name only). Finally, you get to meet with Steelbeak in his floating fortress in a boss battle that's one of the hardest for an NES-era non-RPG. Between levels, Launchpad handles level selection.

Using the Mega Man engine, gameplay is smooth as can be. In addition to the gas weapons, health powerups, stolen loot, and extra lives litter the levels, some for those who know how to reach the more hidden areas. Special hidden bonus areas, in which you get a number of randomly-dropped items, also exist for those who can uncover the entrances. Graphics are excellent, and characters look as they should. Levels are well done, and the music is very good. The game also uses DW's classic "I am the terror that flaps in the night... I am the winged scourge that pecks at your nightmares! I am Darkwing Duck!" line from the pilot episode, rather than the often-goofy alterations he'd say in regular episodes - the saying, itself, a rip on a similar quote Batman once used.

I do, however, express disappointment in the game's length. Darkwing had many villains in the show, and only six were used(one ditched for an original villain). Using the Mega Man engine, they had room for more levels as well as a much more complex final level. The game feels something of a rush title as a result. Much in the way of New Ghostbusters II, the game is good, but feels short when you get to the end so soon. An extra level with the evil Darkwing clone Negaduck - a sort-of combo of Bizarro and then-new Spidey villain Carnage - to finish the game would have been nice.

Unfortunately, Darkwing Duck has become a forgotten footnote in Disney history. A popular show which was Emmy-nominated, it had a short-lived toy line, and a scant 4 VHS releases, not to mention an early death(and having their own Negaverse term ripped off by DiC's own hideous Sailor Moon dub a year later was just another slap). Disney refuses to touch many of their late 80s/early 90s shows now, sticking DW on Toon Disney so late no one stays up to watch. Disney phased him out of memory fast, having recently ditched him in favor of turning Donald Duck into a cheap Duck Dodgers clone. Sad that such a great show in Disney's past has to be shoved aside so they can make direct-to-DVD movie sequels that people just don't want as well as a string of forgettale movies(the last good animated Disney venture, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, was far too copied from Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water and Stargate for many people's tastes to be counted as original. There's a difference between parody and outright recycling).

Sadly, Darkwing Duck appears to be gone, but at least we have reminders.

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