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Darkwing Duck

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Released: 1992

Genre: Platformer

Format reviewed: NES/Famicom

Publisher: Capcom

Developer: Capcom

Do you ever find that one small, singular thing can make the biggest difference to how much you enjoy a game? It’s a surprisingly common occurrence. I have friends who can’t tolerate the original Sonic The Hedgehog unless it’s one of the versions where the spin-dash has been added. For others, English voice acting – or the lack of it – can be a deal breaker. Until recently, I thought that my biggest example was the preference I have for Tetris games featuring a “hard drop” function when you press up on the d-pad, but digging out my NES during the production of our last issue actually highlighted something much more deeply felt.

I’d not played Darkwing Duck in a while, but it’s the kind of game where you know what you’re getting. It’s one of Capcom’s licensed Disney games, in the same sort of fashion as DuckTales and Chip ’N Dale, and they were always good value. What’s more, it was a game produced by Tokuro Fujiwara, a prolific game designer who served as the main producer for the Mega Man series for a good while, and you can definitely see the influences. Darkwing Duck really feels a lot like the Blue Bomber in many ways, from the rhythm in which he fires his weapon to the small forward nudge he makes when you tap the d-pad. Alternate weapons are incredibly useful in navigating the game area, although they’re regular pick-ups rather than rewards for beating bosses. The game even has a non-linear structure that allows you to pick your stages.

I couldn’t work out why I was enjoying it more than I usually do the Mega Man games, until it hit me – or rather, something didn’t hit me. As an enemy attack came in, I instinctively pressed down and took advantage of the fact that Darkwing Duck can, well, duck. I’m so used to crouching being part of platform-shooters that I resent its absence when it’s not there. I know Mega Man doesn’t traditionally let you do it, but it still feels like a “knock 10% off the review score” bugbear. Does that seem extreme?

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