My first article in a series of retro video game articles leading up to Game On Expo will look at some of the Disney games on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Disney partnered with developer Capcom who at the time wasn’t the huge developer juggernaut they are now. Licensed video games are hit and miss now, usually a way for a developer to make a quick buck with a built in audience. In the 90s, Capcom put together a string of Disney hits that become a high note on a massive library of NES titles.
Firstly, if you grew up with the NES, you probably played a Capcom at some point. Bionic Commando, Mega Man, and Ghosts ‘n Goblins were massive hits on the NES that helped made Capcom synonymous with quality.
The first Disney game North America saw with the Capcom logo, Mickey Mousecapades, wasn’t actually a Capcom game. It was developed by Hudson Soft but Capcom was the developer who brought it to North America. If you never played it, don’t worry, you didn’t miss anything.
The first title Capcom produced themselves with the Disney license was a doozy and perhaps the strongest title they put out that was Disney related. Ducktales hit shelves in September of 1989 and it rocked my world. I still remember the exact day my parents bought it, I was living in the Bay Area and I was sick the day I got it but that didn’t stop me from going on an adventure with Uncle Scrooge at the age of 5.
Capcom set the bar incredibly high with Ducktales. The controls, gameplay, and most of all, the music were just high points not just for a Disney game but for an NES game.
Almost a year later in June 1990, Capcom hit gold again with their next Disney entry: Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers. As with Ducktales, Rescue Rangers was based up on a Disney cartoon show during a time that Disney was producing strong animated programming for television. The unique aspect of Rescue Rangers was it was an early co-op, allowing two players to share a single screen in a platforming style game. This was another game I owned and the difficulty was a bit higher than Ducktales but it was still a very good game and like most of the Capcom titles of the NES, the music was memorable.
An interesting side note on the previous two titles, both received sequels on the NES but they came out so late in the life in the NES (1993, the SNES was already on the market at that point) that a lot of people missed the sequels, many not even knowing they existed.
The next title, taking another year to be released was Talespin. Unlike the previous two however, Talespin was also released on multiple platforms such as the Sega Genesis. The NES version however, was not a platformer, it was was a side scrolling shooter as the player controls Baloo in his plane shooting down the enemies.
1992 saw the release of Darkwing Duck. Capcom went back to the tried and true formula of a side scrolling platformer with good controls and excellent music. Again, all these titles were based off of Disney television programs but Capcom did deviate from that trend twice.
The first title was The Little Mermaid, which was released in 1991 in between Talespin and Darkwing Duck. The game wasn’t very good and the odd thing about the choice of doing The Little Mermaid was that the film released in 1989, two years before Capcom decided to develop a game based off of it.
The second of these two games developed by Capcom that wasn’t based off of television wasn’t even based off of a movie but the actual Disney theme park. 1990 saw the release of Adventures in the Magic Kingdom. Set in Disney World (though the layout is more aligned to Disney Land), you play a character who is enlisted by Mickey, Donald, and Goofy to find the six keys to open up Cinderella’s Castle so the parade can begin.
This was another game I played as a kid and it was a misstep for Capcom. The game was clunky and parts of it were crazy hard. You visited various attractions in the theme park such as the Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain.
Capcom actually kept developing Disney titles on various platforms and for years. The general consensus is that the line up for the Disney NES titles as whole was much better then anything of the other Disney console games Capcom developed (though the Sega Genesis can give it a run for its money). I hope you guys enjoyed this look back at the Capcom/Disney era of NES games. I’ll be doing a few more articles this month leading up to Game On Expo in Mesa!