In the Billy Joel song, “Keeping the Faith,” there’s a line that says “You know the good old days weren’t always good.” Nostalgia can make us believe things were better than they once were. I’ll absolutely recommend Valkyrie Profile as one of my favorite games, for example, but was only reminded about two years ago of how much of a nightmare the dungeon design could occasionally be. The Disney Afternoon Collection, Capcom’s compilation of six NES games, proves that some things are as good as you remembered. Sure, there are some technical hitches like flickering sprites, lag when too much is happening on screen, and constantly respawning enemies, but these games are often just as good now as they were back in the 1990’s.
Except TaleSpin. TaleSpin is as infuriating as ever.
Anyways, The Disney Afternoon Collection is a conglomeration of all the Capcom NES games that were inspired by cartoon shows. The only Capcom Disney games not present are Adventures in the Magic Kingdom, The Little Mermaid, and Mickey Mousecapade which, while good games, don’t fit the theme. They’re organized by year in the menu, rather than title, so you can appreciate the progression and see how one may have influenced the other. For example, Darkwing Duck has a level selection screen inspired by DuckTales, which was released three years earlier. DuckTales 2 has Scrooge using various switches and level gimmicks to reach new areas, something that appeared in Darkwing Duck a year before. Each one offers clear and defined menus that provide immediate access to the main game, time attack and boss rush modes, and a gallery.
Almost every single game in The Disney Afternoon Collection holds up well. The first one to appear when you start things up is DuckTales. While it definitely has its Nintendo-hard moments, and both the sequel and remake made us realize how much better it is when you don’t have to press A, then hold down and B to begin pogo jumping, the game is still as wonderful as you remember. The levels are designed in an interesting manner, there’s a sense of freedom where you choose where you go and when, everything looks great, and of course there’s fantastic music. It can get cheap sometimes, in terms of enemies and placement, but is otherwise delightful.
From there, you go into Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers. This was my very first co-op game and again, holds up well. Progression is more linear, but we get levels that take us up, down, and left across spaces. Things are designed to scale, showing how diminutive Chip and Dale can be. Working with another player is equal parts helpful and frustrating, since it is possible to aid your companion or go ahead and chuck them into an oncoming enemy.
One after another, each game shows how good it was and is. I have a new appreciation for Darkwing Duck, now that I have the skills, rewind button, and save states that allow me to actually get through levels without constantly dying. I better appreciate his gas weapons. DuckTales 2, with its upgrades to Scrooge’s abilities, secrets, and mechanics that require you to do more than quickly pogo your way through stages, feels fuller than the original. Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers 2 has even more involved levels, as well as boss fights that require you to do more than repeatedly chuck a ball at a large opponent.
As for TaleSpin, well, it is the sole exception. It wasn’t the best side-scrolling shooter at the time. It didn’t do anything revolutionary. Of all the games in the collection, it has aged the absolute worst. There are times when it tries, as Baloo will need to fly both vertically and horizontally to get through areas. But it doesn’t offer the same references to the original show like the other games do, there are no in-level power-ups aside from the after level upgrades, and it feels more generic when placed alongside games that feel like they go the extra mile to offer the same ambiance as Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, Darkwing Duck, and DuckTales did.
Everything else in The Disney Afternoon Collection feels as though it is there to remind you why you loved these games and make the experience better. The different display options let you make it look like you remembered or more visually pleasing on your modern setup. The gallery lets you reminisce and see what went into each game. The rewind function, my favorite feature, lets you rewind back as far as you’d like when you screw up. You can see what you did wrong and learn from your mistakes. Then, after it all comes back to you, you can head into the time attack and boss rush modes to really show how good you are.
The Disney Afternoon Collection is a game that really takes you back. It gives you the chance to appreciate the NES games you may have taken for granted as a child. It reminds you that there was a time when you would eagerly anticipate almost every game inspired by a children’s movie or TV show, because odds were it would be actually amazing. Even when one of the available titles shows that it doesn’t hold up, like TaleSpin, you might still appreciate the opportunity to at least see it again and compare it to others released at the time. As is, every other game is just great. Each one’s new features only enhance what was already there and make the whole selection more solid.
The Disney Afternoon Collection is available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.