Tag Archives: disney afternoon collection

We can play this any way you want

Capcom and Digital Eclipse’s Disney Afternoon Collection has been out for a couple of weeks now. This rerelease of five beloved NES games (plus TaleSpin) has given players plenty to talk about, but a large part of the discussion has focused not on the games themselves but on a feature added in for the collection: the ability to rewind gameplay, undoing mistakes large and small at the push of a button. The concept is nothing new, having been incorporated into some emulators and even previous retro compilations like 2015’s Rare Replay, but Capcom shined the spotlight on it here, making sure to showcase it in the trailer that revealed Afternoon Collection to the world scarcely a month before release.

Over the last few years, quality-of-life perks such as this have become standard in rereleases of old games, from Nintendo implementing “restore points” in the post-Wii Virtual Console to M2 offering no fewer than thirty save slots in their PlayStation 4 rendition of classic shoot-’em-up Battle Garegga. But the inclusion of such permissive features has given rise to an ongoing debate as to whether such quality-of-life perks detract from games of yore. Players who experienced these games in their original form often question a tool they “know” isn’t necessary added after the fact. After all, they managed to go without, so why should anyone else need it? Similarly, those who have gone to great lengths to master games over weeks or months chafe at the thought of neophytes tapping an inexhaustible stack of “Get Out of Jail Free” cards to blunder to the end in a single session. For them, these games’ defining experience consists of overcoming tremendous hardships to eventually bask in an equally rewarding sense of accomplishment. But they’re not worried that fellow players will miss out so much as they’re concerned that this aspect won’t be counted in the collective consciousness’s appraisal moving forward. The fear is that games they’ve come to appreciate on a profound level will be dismissed as nothing more than the sum of their parts—that their reputation will suffer. Fans of shoot-’em-ups regularly wince at reviews chiding their supposed lack of content, knowing that every shmup can be as long and as deep as you want if you strive to see how far you can reach on one credit. “If only they knew,” they mourn. “If only…they didn’t credit-feed!”

At its ugliest, this sentiment ties in to fans’ elitism and existential yearning for validation—the reason reviews that fail to properly adulate are met with wailing and gnashing of teeth. But I’m not here to decry the purists, and if I seem to speak from authority about what runs through their minds, it’s because I’m one of them. I get it. For a variety of reasons, old games do tend to be quite a bit harder than newer ones; at the same time, new players tend not to be as patient with them. Judging with modern eyes, they expect their time investment to correlate to “content” as it consists of concrete assets, divorced from more intangible factors like player improvement and replay value. Lacking a personal history with a game comprising five or six short stages, they’re likely to approach it as something to blitz through and quickly scratch off their backlog.

Without even getting into cheats intentionally included in games by their developers, the means to cheat “externally” have existed forever, going back to emulator save states and even devices like the Game Genie that coexisted with these games in their heyday. For those means to not only be implemented but advertised in official rereleases now lends them a certain sense of legitimacy, as well. But with so many years gone by since these games’ original release, this raises the question: “Is this how these games were meant to be played?”

I admit, when I saw that rewind feature placed front and center in the Afternoon Collection trailer, it gave me pause. I flashed back to YouTubers petulantly swatting the Load State key as they repeatedly missed the same jump in Super Mario World. I anticipated the provocative hot takes of unwashed content tourists asking, “Were these games really ever any good?” Surely this was not the way they were meant to be played.

But then I took a moment to step outside myself. As thrilling at it is for me to narrowly seize a victory after hours upon hours of “putting in the work,” it’s just as comforting for someone else to breeze through a game and enjoy its inherent qualities with no constraints. It’s not that some people are less patient; everyone just has different priorities—what they think is important, what they find fun, and what they get out of any given game. Likewise, games ultimately exist for us to enjoy them, and that means doing so any and every way we can. There is no True Way. Maybe some players will overuse the rewind feature and miss out on what made Rescue Rangers great, but others might give up on it entirely if they didn’t have something to provide a leg up. We’re not looking at some moral choice between depravity and enlightenment but an opportunity for some to spare frustration for their own enjoyment.

And for all practical purposes, the individual’s enjoyment is all that’s at stake. One player’s rewind-assisted run of Darkwing Duck doesn’t diminish the accomplishment of another player’s one-life clear, and DuckTales will probably still have fans after thousands have made a mockery of its difficulty. It might not be much fun to watch someone else rewind over and over, but most people are playing for themselves, not performing for an audience on YouTube. …And for those who are, rewinding does at least provide some visual continuity setting the player back where they were. Beats loading a two-second-old state any day.

5 Comments

Filed under Game Analysis

April 18 will be an aging gamer’s smorgasbord of delight

It really sucks about tax day being April 17th this year, but apparently the games industry is determined to heal those IRS-inflicted sorrows by giving all of us old video game types a lot to look forward to the following day. April 18th is now confirmed to include no less than three excellent-looking reworkings of classic games. It’s kind of an embarrassment of riches, if we’re being completely honest here.

Here’s what we aging nerds can look forward to:

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap

We’ve known about this one for a while, to the point that we produced an entire episode about the series last year. I finally had a chance to go hands-on with The Dragon’s Trap at Game Developers Conference a couple of weeks ago, and the only word I can really think to use to describe it is “legit.” You hear the term “labor of love” tossed around a lot; this game truly embodies the concept. It came into being because programmer Omar Cornut invested years into deconstructing the code for the original SEGA Master System game as a hobbyist, and eventually that evolved into a proper top-to-bottom remake.

The truly remarkable thing about The Dragon’s Trap is that it plays exactly like the original version. Everything from the physics to the semi-open world layout are completely identical to the Master System version, to the point that you can toggle between the new graphics and old at the press of a button… not unlike with the Halo anniversary remakes. Make no mistake, though, it’s not simply the old version running under emulation, because toggling to original 8-bit graphics still allows you to play with widescreen visuals rather than constraining the action to 4:3 proportions. Cornut has rebuilt the original game code for modern platforms (including Switch, which you’d better believe will be my platform of choice for this one), transplanting an 8-bit classic into a new format with absolute fidelity.

I’m equally impressed by the new visuals, which have a fluid European art style and really bring the world and characters to life. If you’re like me, you tend to be wary when the terms “European art style” and “challenging platformer” collide, because the former element tends to wreak havoc on the integrity of the latter. Think games like Rayman which, while lovely, prioritize animation cycles over responsiveness. That’s fine in a meticulous Prince of Persia-style game, but Wonder Boy is vintage SEGA: Fast, unforgiving, and already tremendously challenging by default. Happily, The Dragon’s Trap manages to balance its lovely visuals and its unrelenting-but-fair difficulty level by causing animation to act as a secondary consideration to controls. Actions cancel character movements here, whereas many platformers featuring lush animation force you to sit through a movement cycle before responding to player inputs. And hit boxes are tuned to be forgiving where the new illustrations don’t perfectly line up with the original sprites; for example, Wonder Boy’s lion-man transformation now drags his massive claymore behind him rather than holding it upright ahead of him, but the greatly expanded character sprite is no more vulnerable than the original bitmap version, and he swings the blade with the same effective speed and arc as before.

On top of all that, Cornut made use of some unused dummy data in the original code to add in a few new challenges. You can generate a password for your progress in the remake, input it into the Master System version, advance the game, then bring an updated code from the Master System game back into the remake. And since the reward item for discovering the new secrets is tied to data that was tracked by but unused in the original game, you won’t lose the remake’s bonus item even if you play for a while in the 8-bit game. It’s a minor detail, sure, but it really speaks to the lengths that Cornut and LizardCube have explored in order to preserve the integrity of the original game while making it more palatable to contemporary audiences.

Full Throttle Remastered

I admit I don’t know this one as well as Wonder Boy; Full Throttle was one of the last hand-animated LucasArts point-and-click adventure games, and I picked it up back in the day. Alas, I never made much progress; the burly biker theme didn’t do much for me, despite the quality of the writing. I definitely will give the game a second chance now that it’s been prettified (and moved to consoles), though. Full Throttle Remastered foregoes the obvious remake approach by not converting the original game’s lovely, low-rez, Disney-esque drawings into clunky 3D but rather recreating them in high-resolution 2D. The use of bold, varied line weights keeps the newly reworked animation from looking like Flash animation — think Archer versus Homestar Runner. Pretty classy! As much as a game about a heavy metal biker dude can be classy, anyway.

The Disney Afternoon Collection

And finally, one that’s not a remake at all but rather a compilation. Bringing together six Capcom NES games — DuckTales 1 & 2, Rescue Rangers 1 & 2, Darkwing Duck, and TaleSpin — the Disney Afternoon Collection comes from Digital Eclipse and occasional Retronauts guest Frank Cifaldi. This is the same combination that brought us the excellent Mega Man Legacy Collection a couple of years ago, and one would assume it runs on the same NES interpreter engine as the previous compilation. I think it’s safe to expect the minor hiccups that affected the Legacy Collection to have been sorted out for this new release.

I know this compilation was something everyone involved in the Legacy Collection had hinted at wanting to create, but given the precious attitude Disney has towards its properties I really didn’t expect it to happen. So it’s a pleasant surprise to see a whopping six Disney classics contained in a single package. This, of course, is not the full catalog of Capcom/Disney games for NES, but as the title indicates, these six come from television properties rather than films or Disney real estate concepts. (And, let’s be realistic: These were the good Capcom/Disney games.) In any case, it very helpfully contains the two most ridiculously overpriced Capcom/Disney collector’s pieces, DuckTales 2 and Rescue Rangers 2, both of which command eBay prices that will make your toes curl and wallet shrivel… even as bare cartridges.

As with the Legacy Collection, the Afternoon Collection will contain a huge array of supplemental materials, such as promotional art and development sketches. It’ll also include some custom-made challenges for the more obsessive fans to tackle. About the only downside to the collection I see is the widely lamented lack of a Switch version, which isn’t terribly surprising. I can’t imagine the Disney license came cheap or easy, and Nintendo systems are very much in a transitional state right now; Capcom probably didn’t want to risk committing to a new console. Now that Switch has seemingly proved its appeal (having already moved 1.5 million units worldwide, which has prompted Nintendo to double its production numbers for the coming year; there’ll be more Switches produced in the next year than Wii U systems that were ever made), I would be pretty shocked if Capcom didn’t announce a belated version for that system as well. I mean, it just makes sense… which I realize isn’t always quite how business works, but I suppose we’ll see.

6 Comments

Filed under Retrogaming News