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Disney Afternoon Collection Review: Racecars, Lasers, Aeroplanes

The Mega Man Legacy Collection was the first big outing for the Eclipse Engine, and paired with six classic Mega Man games, showed its value as a game preservation tool with aplomb. This second time around, the games are tied together by nostalgia itself more than franchise, bringing together six NES games licensed during the 1990s era of Disney cartoons like DuckTales and TaleSpin. Some games have aged better than others, making this selection pretty hit-or-miss, but the presentation is still top-notch.

Here in Duckburg

The Disney Afternoon Collection includes both DuckTales games, both Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers games, Darkwing Duck, and TaleSpin, all hailing from the Nintendo Entertainment System. For those who grew up watching many of these after school on weekdays, the thematic tie is clear as day. These four properties don't have much to do with each other aside from their specific slot on TV 20-something years ago, but it recalls a time and place vividly.

Part of that is the menu, which is full of the teals, purples, and squiggly lines that somehow defined kids properties in the 1990s. This was the era that brought us zuba pants, so we have to be permissive to fashion oddities.

The original DuckTales is the marquee item here, a classic that's still beloved and was remastered a few years ago with crisp high-definition artwork. That re-release was gorgeous to look at, but made enough changes to the game to throw off the balance. This OG presentation is pitch-perfect, retaining even the same slowdown. DuckTales 2, a fine sequel that didn't quite escape its predecessor's long shadow, is a welcome addition as well. The others, like the Chip 'n Dale games and Darkwing Duck are curiosities that may spark some memories. Chip 'n Dale's second outing is more welcoming than the first, but none of them hold a candle to either DuckTales game.

TaleSpin is the odd man out, as it's the only inclusion that isn't a side-scrolling platformer. Instead, it's a fairly janky air combat game, in which changing directions also changes the pitch of your trusty Seaduck, making aiming nearly impossible. As such, it's the inclusion that feels most like a museum piece–a relic of a time when developers were still taking wild swings at innovation.

Or Rewrite History

Each of these benefits mightily from the addition of a new "Rewind" feature, which replaces save states as the most convenient way to tackle difficult old games. If you make a mistake, just hit rewind and go back a few seconds. It's so instantaenous and easy to use that it became reflexive for me, letting me relive the salad days of playing through NES games on the fly without needing to hone my old skills quite so precisely. In this, Disney Afternoon Collection prioritizes play over perfection. You can resist the urge to Rewind if you want, but if you hit the button, the game will not judge you for it.

That philosophy extends to the entire Collection, which carries itself with a sense of generosity not seen in many old-school compilations. Similar to the Mega Man Legacy Collection, you don't have to earn your way to unlocking the various music tracks, artifacts, and artwork. Everything is available right from the beginning, complete with notations and insights on the rarer finds. This lends it the feeling of a nice, respectful historical document.

For those who do want to test their mettle against old-school challenges–and God help you–you can take on Time Attack and Boss Rush modes, which offer online leaderboards for speedruns, and strings of consecutive boss fights, respectively. And naturally, each game comes with a variety of filters and sizes, letting you turn on a CRT-style motion blur or see the pixels in all their jagged glory.

Awoo-oo

The Disney Afternoon Collection may not have the consistency of Capcom's previous work with the Eclipse Engine, thanks to its library varying in quality. But it is just as reverent and breezy, and the addition of the Rewind feature helps ease the journey into the past. If you were a fan of even a few of these games, you owe it to yourself to see them presented so respectfully for a modern audience.


This review is based on a PlayStation 4 download code provided by the publisher. The Disney Afternoon Collection is available digitally now, for $19.99. The game is rated E-10+.

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The Disney Afternoon Collection

8
very good
  • Lovingly restored collection of classic NES games
  • New Rewind feature is great for replaying challenging games
  • Lots of museum artifacts with notations unlocked from the start
  • Some inclusions are much stronger than others