So there have been some Duck-games lately and it simply felt incomplete to not talk about this one as well, when it was also made by Capcom and based on one of the best Disney Afternoon shows, just like the Ducktales games. I promise that Quackshot and other gems such as the Illusion-series will get their time in the spotlight, but for now: let’s get dangerous! If you have been following the reviews and are wondering: Yes I played this one first on my Game Boy when I was a kid and yes, I will review the NES-version as I enjoy that version more.
Darkwing Duck is a linear platformer, with seven stages you can tackle as you semi-please. Three areas are unlocked from the start and, after completing them, three more will be unlocked with one final stage at the end. Each stage is a fantastic platforming-level with fun combat-elements added in. The main mechanic Darkwing Duck has, is his ability to jump and grab surfaces, which is greatly utilized in each stage. Some might have you jump on hooks over bottomless-pits, others make you climb upwards or have moving platforms you will have to jump between. It makes the platforming incredibly entertaining and challenging, as it is always creative and unique in every stage. It really is amazing how such a small concept can add so much to a game.
The simple combat is also great, despite some unfortunate aspects. Darkwing Duck has a gun that he can shoot left and right, while airborne or stationary on the ground. There is no possibility for running and gunning, but I never found this unfortunate since it was never required. While the normal, unlimited shots will help, you can also pick up different firearms that will consume your total ammo, represented as gas. This could be intentionally humorous in its own right, but let’s go over the different shots you can pick up: The first one is the Lightning shots. It will consume one gas and will shoot two projectiles diagonally, which is a good alternative since you can only shoot left and right with the normal gun. The second shot is the Heavy shot, which will consume two gas and blast in a small arc left or right and is quite strong. My favorite is the Arrow shot, however, as it is the strongest attack, shoots through enemies, and can stick to surfaces and be used as an extra ledge that you can climb and stand on. It costs three gas to use, so all guns are balanced through their strengths and ammo-consumption.
Enemies come in a lot of varieties and are fun to fight against, for the most part, and are often used as minor obstacles mixed in with the platforming, without them being able to take cheap shots despite you only being able to shoot in two directions. They all have clear patterns to deal with, but unfortunately, some can take too many hits to kill. One common enemy, for example, took 6 hits and since you can’t move, you are pretty much stuck until he is gone. It is far from a deal breaker, but it is off to include this in a game where the combat is not heavily focused on in general, and most enemies take two or fewer hits to kill. Darkwing is luckily quite versatile, with the ability to duck and use his cape to deflect even cannonballs. The cape is also usable in the air, which is a smart design choice.
However, the bosses, unfortunately, can be a mixed bag because they are able to withstand a ton of damage and are quite aggressive, while Darkwing Duck only has four hit-points and has a short, post-damage invulnerability. About four bosses were enjoyable, but one took forever due to having too much health, and another one was so annoying due to his fast pattern, I just spammed my attacks in the end and took damage hoping for the best, which was the best strategy. The last boss was the worst, however, as it starts out sending enemies that home in on you and are hard to dodge unless you get a good start, and its second form was bizarrely easy. It at least makes anything from health pickups, ammo, and extra lives valuable, but I often felt that at least the health the enemies had could have been lowered.
This is a great platformer that unfortunately has some balancing issues due to enemy-health and post-damage invulnerability. If they could have lessened the health of some of the bosses and enemies, it could have easily been a perfect ride, but it misses the mark since this is not a minor issue. However, it is fun all the way through with fantastic platforming and fun, yet unpolished combat.
Gameplay Score: 8/10
Hitting the streets with toe-tapping beats
This is simply a beautiful game. Every area, such as the dreary forest, construction sites, the huge bridge in the middle of the night, and the apartment-districts in daylight, are all fantastic with plenty of colors. All are uniquely designed and have small touches to them, such as the bridge-stage having the city lit up in the background and flickering lights on the bridge itself. It really feels like a big city with plenty of different and diverse areas. The enemies share the same quality, with plenty being from the show and some unique ones that fit perfectly in this game. All have great designs and animations to them, with my favorites being fly-kicking squirrels and terminator duck! Even small elements such as how Darkwing Duck stealths while he walks, are taken into account. It really shows how much the developers not just respected the cartoon, but also loved it themselves.
Then there is the soundtrack and those beats are amazing! I love the OST, thanks to its plenty of rhythmic tunes that are all different from each other. They are short, but never repetitive due to having enough variation of tones used that fit perfectly. This creates a fantastic soundtrack, that is jazzy and upbeat, but so diverse and fits different moods depending on high and low tones. I could really listen to this soundtrack all day, and it is bizarre that I remember these more than the chiptune-version of the shows theme-song itself (which I still know by heart to this day).
Presentation Score: 10/10
Darkwing Duck is so close to being an essential title that everybody should own, but it’s hard to neglect the enemies and bosses need too many hits to kill and the slightly unbalanced difficulty because of this. However, the combat is still enjoyable and the platforming is creative and fantastic. Complemented by the visuals that go beyond what fans could hope for and a soundtrack that deserves more covers, it is definitely a great title in its own right. This is more than just for the general fans: it is fun for everybody.