This daring duck of mystery was a champion of right. He sweeps out of the shadows. Darkwing owns the night.
Arguably the most iconic of the Disney Afternoon heroes of the 1990s, Darkwing Duck kept viewers interested because of his comic book roots and a continually wry sense of humor. A amalgamation of Disney, Batman, and the Shadow (and Spider-Man in one particular episode), Darkwing poked fun at superhero conventions and popular culture of the day.
A spin-off of DuckTales, the Darkwing Duck series was originally intended to be a spy-themed series rotating around pilot Launchpad McQuack, who was a stand-in of sorts for Donald in DuckTales and featured many old-school hero qualities himself. The series was largely revamped and was one of the first and only TV series not to be based on a classic Disney property.
It’s no surprise that Darkwing was turned into a game, as his other Disney Afternoon counterparts had become video game icons long ago in Capcom’s long-standing, prestigious Disney game series for the NES.
Now, the Capcom Disney games had a long, proud pedigree, as regular readers are already fully aware. The DuckTales games perfected a 2D gaming formula largely based off Capcom’s previous side-scrollers like Mega Man and Ghosts ‘N Goblins. Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers successfully turned this into a two-player co-op format. Then TaleSpin kind of threw us for a loop with Gradius-style action, which echoed the NES version of The Little Mermaid, which is a little less embarrassing to admit playing now than it was in 1992.
Darkwing brought things full-circle by returning to classic 2D platforming. DW fought his classic villains in order, using his gas gun (another reference to pulp heroes of the 1930s) and various other gadgets. He proudly pointed skyward and declared, “I am Darkwing Duck!” at the beginning of each level, kind of ruining the whole idea of skulking in the shadows, but we didn’t mind.
Darkwing Duck had an interesting hook, pun possibly intended, as he could grab on to hooks across the levels to leap from one platform to the next. He could also get different kinds of ammo for the gas gun, like Lightning Gas, which makes absolutely no sense but could shoot bolts of lightning in different directions, and Arrow Gas, which could stick to walls and give DW a leg up to jump to high places. Coincidentally, this same gimmick would be used by his fourth cousin Donald Duck in Quackshot for the SEGA Genesis.
Tragically, Darkwing Duck came out near the end of the NES’s lifespan, meaning it was largely ignored by the mass audience who were already entrenched in 16-bit gamedom, though it did manage to be one of the final NES games to grace the cover of Nintendo Power Magazine back in its heyday. Let’s get dangerous!