Late last week, Disney aired their last episode of the rebooted DuckTales that we’ll see until sometime later this year. But oh, what an episode to go out on!
In case you haven’t already heard, the episode (titled “The Duck Knight Returns!”) rebooted another beloved character and franchise from The Disney Afternoon — the syndicated block of Disney cartoons which effectively ran all throughout the 90’s — Darkwing Duck. And without getting too much into spoilers (other than to say that if you haven’t already, find it and watch it), it filled me with immense joy to see how things unfolded and gave me a rush akin to watching new episodes when I was a kid.
It left me wanting more, and I figure I’m not the only one. So whether you’re a fan from back in the show’s ’91-’95 run or a newcomer who has just been introduced to the hero through the new DuckTales, here are some places where you can find more of the daring duck of mystery, the champion of right.
First and most obvious is to go all the way back to the Nintendo Entertainment System, as covered previously here by Shaun Jex. This 1992 Capcom release coincided with the original run of the show, and a Game Boy version also exists, for those who like to get dangerous on the go.
While you can hunt those down if you’re a collector, those who just want to play can easily find Darkwing Duck as a part of the six-game Disney Afternoon Collection on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Steam for PCs (why no Switch release, we may never know). The compilation was handled by Digital Eclipse, who also handled others such as the first Mega Man Legacy Collection, Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection, and SNK 40th Anniversary Collection, and is given the same level of care, featuring all sorts of new modes and features, including rewind, save states, and museums of vintage media and production materials surrounding each game.
The same year, Turbo Technologies, Inc. published their own take on the daring do-gooder duck on the TurboGrafx-16. While visually closer to the look of the television show, it unfortunately lacks the dynamic Capcom-styled action of its NES/Game Boy counterpart, and doesn’t tend to be as fondly remembered.
Speaking of games looking closer to the source material, Jesus Lopez, the Lead Animator for WayForward and Capcom’s DuckTales Remastered (as Jesse Octavio Lopez), posted a few videos on his YouTube Channel of a game he made for his son following that project, including this one:
Unfortunately, these short clips might be as close as we come to a “Darkwing Duck Remastered.” Ah, what might have been.
In 2010, Disney Mobile Studios released their own game for mobile devices that took cues from both previous styles of game:
Naturally, that one is probably going to be a bit tricky to track down, and it’s difficult to tell if it’s even worth the effort — even if it does feature Negaduck as the main villain, making it the only game in which the foul fowl (not to be confused with F.O.W.L.) appears.
Other cameos and appearances include some references in Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes (he just narrowly missed being an actual part of 3.0 — damn Olaf), an emoji in Disney Emoji Blitz, and a Tiger Electronics handheld. He also appears in Disney Heroes Battle Mode as an unlockable character. Given that most of these (minus the Tiger handheld) have come out within the last ten years with little else going on with the character beyond a pair of short-lived comic books, it’s a strong testament to the popularity of the character among his peers from The Disney Afternoon.
Finally and most recently, however, is another instance of “what might have been”:
One of the developers of the highly-acclaimed Sonic Mania, Simon “Stealth” Thomley of Headcannon, attempted to pitch Capcom on an updated remake of the NES game using his Headcannon Game Engine. Unfortunately, as he explains, Capcom just wasn’t interested for one reason or another — or at least, they were apparently confident Disney wouldn’t be.
Fortunately, unlike some of the other concepts seen here, you can actually play this one! Check out the demo level for yourself by clicking on the description for the above video and downloading the file. It uses the keyboard for controls, but in addition to updating the graphics, a greater focus is placed on Darkwing’s grappling hook, which now shares a meter with his signature gas gun.
Will Darkwing Duck ever get another chance to truly shine in video game form? Before writing this article, I wasn’t so sure, but between some of these surprise appearances in more modern titles and the rebooted version that kicked this whole thing off, I’m actually a lot more confident now.
On the other hand, the DuckTales reboot began in 2017 and there’s no sign of a game for it yet, so maybe it’s best to keep expectations in check.