Tag Archives: gargoyles

The Other Disney Afternoon Games

Capcom recently released a digital collection of NES games called The Disney Afternoon Collection. It’s available for Playstation 4, Steam, and Xbox One (though curiously not for a Nintendo console despite all of the games originating from one)and is a pretty solid collection of not quite classic games at a budget friendly price. And that last part can’t be understated since copies of DuckTales II sell for hundreds of dollars on the aftermarket thanks to low release totals. By most measures, the collection of games represent Capcom’s best licensed titles, but certainly not all of them. It also doesn’t capture every title released with the Disney Afternoon branding and this post is about the leftovers.

1Bonkers (Super Nintendo 1994)

 

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Expect some indirect cameos from famous Disney characters.

Bonkers was a short-lived series that ran from September 1993 to February 1994. In that window, the show managed to feature 65 episodes, the magic number for most Disney cartoons as that met syndication guidelines. Bonkers is reminiscent of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? as it pairs a cartoon bobcat with a human who both work for the Toon Police. They go around solving crimes in a toon world that’s basically inhabited by all of Disney’s classic characters, many of whom make cameos in the show. Disney even allowed Mickey to cameo breaking with tradition that basically kept Mickey shielded from the television properties.

 

In December of ’94 Bonkers came to the Super Nintendo. In a game developed by Capcom (who else?), Bonkers allowed the player to play as the titular character as he tried to recover some famous cartoon assets stolen from a museum. His partner, Lucky, is laid up in a hospital bed forcing Bonkers to go solo. The items he needs to recover, and the places he visits to find them, should feel familiar to Disney fans young and old as they include Mickey’s iconic sorcerer’s hat and Ariel’s voice.

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The Genesis Bonkers wasn’t developed by Capcom and took the gameplay in a very different direction.

The gameplay for Bonkers is very similar to a Konami contemporary, Buster Busts Loose, released in ’93 and based on the Tiny Toons character Buster Bunny. Both games are platformers with large sprites where a main feature of gameplay is a dash meter. Bonkers can dash as a means of attack and to navigate the levels. Special items will bestow upon him invincibility and unlimited dash for a brief period, which is also a feature of an earlier Capcom Mega Drive/Genesis title Quackshot starring Donald Duck. The dash is your bread and butter and what a player needs to master in order to make it through the game. In addition to that, Bonkers can take out most enemies Mario style with a jump attack and he also can toss bombs, though his supply is limited. The game contains just five levels, with the first three being selectable from the game’s hub menu and can be completed in any order. Bonkers never earns additional power-ups or special abilities beyond what he starts with, so there’s no preferred order to them.

 

Bonkers for the SNES is a solid title, though not really spectacular so it’s not surprising to see it’s not a fondly remembered one. The cartoon from which it came is also not one that possesses a huge following, though it was an interesting premise and is probably worthy of revisiting. Bonkers also received another video game, this one for the Genesis and developed by Sega. It’s kind of like a tower defense game in which Bonkers is primarily featured in the foreground defending a position by tossing items at enemies in the background. There are some platforming parts as well, but most probably agree that the SNES game is superior. There was also a Brazil-only Game Gear title called Bonkers: Wax Up! that I know very little about. Judging it based on some YouTube long plays, it doesn’t look like a title that needs to be sought out.

250px-SNES_Goof_Troop_BoxGoof Troop (Super Nintendo 1993)

Following DuckTales, the flagship series for the Disney Afternoon seemed to shift to Goof Troop. Starring Goofy and his son Max, Goof Troop was a mostly wholesome program about adolescence and being a single parent. It’s really melancholy for a series starring Goofy and definitely added a new dimension to a mostly one-note character. For fans of the more action-oriented cartoons like Rescue Rangers and Darkwing Duck, Goof Troop was a bit of a hard sell, but I recall watching it somewhat frequently and thinking it all right.

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A standard screen in Goof Troop with a standard set of obstacles for Goofy to navigate.

The game is definitely an odd duck amongst the other Disney Afternoon titles. Once again developed by Capcom, Goof Troop is an adventure game in which the player controls either Goofy or Max and simultaneous co-op is possible. I suppose it isn’t surprising that the game is unlike its sister titles since Goof Troop, being more of a sitcom than most cartoons, doesn’t have a natural ability to become a video game. In this one, Goofy and Max somehow end up ship-wrecked on an island and need to find a way off of it. It’s basically a survival game, and the player controls one of the two Goofs from a top-down perspective similar to The Legend of Zelda. Goofy and Max can hold a maximum of two items at a time, and the player has to constantly find and drop items in order to progress. The game is more puzzle-like than the others, and since Goofy and Max can’t directly damage the enemies they encounter you’re almost encouraged to avoid conflict.

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Co-op is the preferred way to tackle this one.

The game was developed by Shinji Mikami, who was basically the mind behind Resident Evil. Yes, Resident Evil owes something to Goof Troop and it’s rather remarkable to see how some of the survival elements from that series were first born in Goof Troop. Even right down to how awkward it is to control Goofy and Max and how frustrating it can be to avoid enemies. The game feels like it’s designed for two players as opposed to one as some rooms are really hard to clear without the aid of a second player. The other player can help act as a lure for enemies allowing player one to activate a switch, move a block, or trigger something else on the screen. In two player mode, Goofy and Max can only hold one item each, but it’s an easy trade-off to make in order to gain an ally. Playing solo, I had a hell of a time trying to clear one room where the enemies could kick blocks, blocks that I needed to kick into a certain spot to pass the room. The problem was getting to the enemies and taking them out before they could kick one into a spot where I couldn’t make any use of it, forcing me to leave the screen and re-enter, also re-spawning the enemies.

Goof Troop is an interesting game, and played through the lens of knowing it’s a pseudo Resident Evil predecessor certainly adds to it. As a change of pace from the other Capcom developed Disney Afternoon games, it’s acceptable, but I found it a bit too frustrating to really want to come back to it again and again. Given the license though, this is probably the best Capcom could have done short of just making a platformer that made little thematic sense.

250px-Gargoyles_game_coverGargoyles (Genesis 1995)

Lastly, we have Gargoyles, our only featured game to only be released on the Genesis without a SNES counterpart and (gasp!) to not be developed by Capcom. This one was done by Buena Vista Interactive, and if you know anything about Disney you know that’s likely the name for an internal studio. At some point, someone high up at the company must have got the bright idea that they could make more money if they developed their own games rather than licensing them out to Capcom. Big mistake, as doing so ultimately lead to a severe reduction in quality for Disney based video games and Gargoyles is no exception.

Gargoyles is a series I’ve covered pretty extensively here. It was basically The Disney Afternoon’s answer to WB’s Batman which aired during Fox’s afternoon block of programming. Batman was a hit, so naturally others copied it and Gargoyles was perhaps the most blatant. Don’t confuse that with criticism, as Gargoyles was a pretty entertaining show and was able to develop its own identity during its run. And unlike say Goof Troop, it pretty obviously lent itself well to video games being an action-oriented show starring some pretty bad ass characters.

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At least it looks pretty good.

The game stars Goliath and is essentially another platform-styled action game with some exploration elements. It’s sort of like DuckTales on steroids and with an overt gothic theme. The game starts off in the past with the fall of the castle and the gargoyles being turned to stone before taking the player to the present timeline. All of the main baddies from the show make an appearance, and Goliath handles like Goliath should possessing powerful strikes, a running attack, and the ability to climb walls and double-jump with his wings.

Visually, the game is probably the best out of any Disney Afternoon title and is one of the better looking Genesis titles around. The music even sounds great and you could almost trick someone into believing it came from a Super Nintendo. Sadly, that’s where the positives mostly dry-up. While the music is great, the sound effects are horrendous with awful enemy death screams that sound like they were recorded through a tin can. Goliath is a chore to control as negotiating tight spaces is problematic and his ability to cling to walls is automatic, resulting in numerous occasions where he’ll grab a wall when you don’t want him to. The opening level is particularly frustrating as it features lots of tiny spaces and towers to ascend. Enemies will routinely strike from offscreen and finding enough room to get a running start to smash through a wall can also be harder than it should be. Goliath should feel like a powerful beast, but he’s too easily felled by the humans who serve as foes. The rotten icing on the cake is spotty collision detection when attacking enemies, making their defeat feel wholly unsatisfying.

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There are plenty of familiar faces from the show.

Gargoyles is one of those games that I want to like, but it just makes it too hard to do so. It’s a great license that should have lead to a great, or at least passable, game and it looks awesome. Unfortunately, it just isn’t remotely fun and I’m sure lots of people were conned into buying, or renting, this one based on the track-record of Disney Afternoon titles and because the screenshots looked promising. The game ended up being released only in North America, and there was a Super Nintendo port planned but it was scrapped, either due to poor sales of the Genesis version or because the 16-bit era was essentially over. Stay away, stay far away.


Dreaming of Kingdom Hearts 3

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UPDATE 3/8/2014: Square-Enix has posted a survey for Kingdom Hearts, and if there is something you want to see in Kingdom Hearts 3 (Gargoyles!), this is the best way to make your voice heard!

Watching Gargoyles these past few weeks has got me thinking about the upcoming PS4/Xbox One game Kingdom Hearts 3.  So far, little information, aside from confirmation the title has been in development, has been released regarding the next entry in the Kingdom Hearts series.  For those unaware, the Kingdom Hearts games were initially conceived as a marriage between Disney and Square’s Final Fantasy.  Several games have been released in the series and, for the most part, they all follow a pattern of having the main character visit various different worlds based on classic and current Disney films.  Gargoyles has got me thinking about how cool it would be to see that world brought to the series as it would seemingly lend itself well to the video game form.  There was a game based on the series created for the Sega Genesis.  It was a late arrival on the Genesis and while it boasted some rather slick animation it was bogged down by poor gameplay mechanics and a repetitive design.  It is my understanding that the only rules for selecting worlds for Kingdom Hearts are that they be from Disney films, but not Disney owned films.  This would eliminate the various Marvel films produced by Disney as well as any future Star Wars ones.  It also appears to apply to Pixar films as well as so far no worlds from a Pixar film have shown up.  It also excludes any worlds from Disney television, but in the case of Gargoyles, this rule could be circumvented by the existence of Gargoyles The Movie:  The Heroes Awaken.  It’s kind of cheating as the direct-to-video movie is just the first five episodes edited into a 90 minute film but lets not get too technical.

Using my own memory, and with help from Wikipedia, I’ve come up with the below list of Disney films to appear as worlds in the Kingdom Hearts series:

  • Sleeping Beauty
  • The Little Mermaid
  • Aladdin
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • Winnie the Pooh
  • Peter Pan
  • Hercules
  • Tarzan
  • Pinocchio
  • The Lion King
  • Steamboat Willie
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Cinderella
  • Snow White
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Mulan
  • Tron
  • Lilo & Stitch
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  • The Three Musketeers
  • Fantasia

This list may not be exhaustive, and does contain some unusual selections.  “Steamboat Willie” stands out as it’s not a feature-length film, but as Mickey’s most recognizable short, it’s not surprising to see it included.  It also, like pretty much all of Disney’s classic shorts, was originally released to theaters.  The Three Musketeers also stands out as it was a direct-to-video release so it appears their self-inflicted rule does not mean the film needed to be theatrically released.  Square has done a good job of hitting most of Disney’s biggest properties.  There is also a good balance of old and new, but there’s still plenty of room for more.  Below are some thoughts of mine regarding where the franchise could go for its next outing:

Bambi – Bambi the character has already appeared as a summon in the KH series but he’s never had his own world.  As one of the few classic pictures to not have a world, it makes sense for Bambi to step into a larger role.  His world is not particularly unique considering it’s just a forest, but a world created around the forest fire scene from the film’s climax could have some interesting gameplay mechanics.  For one, it would make the world visually interesting and the fire could be the result of one of the film’s antagonists.  Bambi could be an assist character and, together with Sora, they would be tasked with extinguishing the blaze.  The world could either be full of peril due to the fire, or there could be a time limit in place.  Considering Bambi is one of Walt’s greatest achievements, it just makes too much sense to include it eventually.

And to think, some at Disney felt The Horned King would be too scary for kids...

And to think, some at Disney felt The Horned King would be too scary for kids…

The Black Cauldron –   The Black Cauldron is, unofficially of course, Disney’s black sheep.  It differs quite a bit in tone from the works that preceded it in that there’s a distinct absence of humor throughout.  A lot of critics disliked the film, and while it appears to have spawned a cult following, it’s still one of the lesser films put out by Disney.  It’s inclusion here is not a defense of the film, I haven’t it seen it in so long that I really can’t offer much of an opinion on it, but it’s world would actually appear to fit in quite well with the KH universe.  The Horned King would make a natural complement for Maleficent and the Fairfolk could be incorporated as well.  The film almost makes too much sense for inclusion, leading me to believe the only reason it has not been is because the film is so obscure.  It’s also possible that Disney doesn’t own any of the characters outright and legal issues may not make it worthwhile to include.

Toy Tinkers – I am an unabashed Donald Duck fan so I wanted to include one of his shorts on this list.  I initially thought “Trick or Treat” would work well because of the Witch Hazel and her special potion that brings inanimate objects to life, but such a world would have a lot in common with Fantasia and Halloweentown.  I settled on “Toy Tinkers” because it would allow the inclusion of a Christmas themed world and a unique gameplay opportunity.  I conceive it as a world in which Sora has been shrunk somehow and is caught in between the fire-fight between Donald and Chip and Dale.  There would be debris raining down and perhaps Sora would help Chip and Dale thwart Donald somehow.  It would be a bit of comedic relief and a fun bit of level design.

This would seem to be a natural conflict for a video game.

This would seem to be a natural conflict for a video game.

The Brave Little Tailor – My thought process for this level is similar to the above for “Toy Tinkers,” so I consider this an either/or arrangement.  In the short, “The Brave Little Tailor,” Mickey is tasked with defeating a giant.  For KH, the scenario seems obvious and Sora would either replace Mickey or assist him in taking down a giant.  It would feel similar to my “Toy Tinkers” scenario because Sora would be taking on a foe much larger than he, so the two would perhaps feel too alike if they both appeared in the same game.  Nonetheless, it would be fun to challenge the giant and a tailor themed Mickey could be an interesting assist character.  This could also easily be swapped out in favor of a Mickey and the Beanstalk themed level.

Duck TalesDuck Tales would appear to not be eligible due to the fact that it was a television property, but it sneaks in because it did have a feature-length release, Treasure of the Lost Lamp.  If the level had to be based on that film, then no matter, it could be a pseudo Indiana Jones type of deal with cave exploring with Uncle Scrooge, the nephews, and maybe even Launch Pad.  Classic Duck Tales villains could still be included as well.  Ultimately, I just want to see Scrooge’s giant vault of gold coins included complete with diving board.

Toy Story – Yes, I know and covered it already, it would appear that Pixar films are a no-go when it comes to KH.  However, Pixar’s films have become as much a part of the Disney brand as Mickey and Snow White and their presence is felt throughout Walt Disney World and Disney Land.  And if there is to be one exception made for Pixar, why it has to be Toy Story, no?  It makes too much sense for inclusion as Sora could be transformed into a toy of some kind and have to team-up with Woody and the gang to foil Sid.  The level basically designs itself and there are so many action sequences from the three films that the designers could look to for inspiration.  Come on Square/Disney, it’s time to invite Pixar to the party.  Do it!

I'd be delighted to see any of the films/shorts from this list incorporated into KH3, but mostly I just want to kick some ass with Goliath by my side.

I’d be delighted to see any of the films/shorts from this list incorporated into KH3, but mostly I just want to kick some ass with Goliath by my side.

Gargoyles – We’ll end this with what started it in the first place, Gargoyles!  Gargoyles, as primarily an action-adventure cartoon, makes a lot of sense for a video game.  Goliath would be a pretty bad-ass support character and Demona seems like a perfect villain for KH (though MacBeth and Xanatos would work as well).  There would be some fun music to source, and most of the voice cast has maintained a relationship with Disney to this day including Keith David (voice of Goliath) who recently voiced the villain for Disney’s The Princess and the Frog.  Gargoyles would also allow Square to set a level in New York, specifically the skies above New York.  The castle would make for both a great visual and fun setting for an all out battle with Demona or the Steel Clan.  Someone send the developers of Kingdom Hearts 3 a copy of the first season (or the movie, but they would need a VCR on hand to watch it) and then try to stop them from making use of it!

There’s actually plenty of other films Square could source for Kingdom Hearts 3 that I didn’t even bring up.  The Sword in the Stone or Robin Hood seem like natural fits, or perhaps because they’re too conventional they’ve been ignored.  101 Dalmatians also seems like an easy film to incorporate and Cruella De Vil would be a natural as a villain for the series.  And considering it drew inspiration from video games, I feel like I have to mention Wreck-It Ralph.  I actually fully expect a Wreck-It Ralph scenario of some kind to appear in KH3, either as the game world Fix-It Felix Jr. or maybe a Sugar Rush style mini game.  I consider all of my selections as long shots and I’d be surprised to see most of them.  It actually wouldn’t shock me if Disney lifted the embargo on Pixar films and allowed a Toy Story level, just because the property is so popular, and the giant sequence I described (most likely to occur in the form of Mickey and the Beanstalk) also strikes me as a legit possibility for a KH world.  The others are merely dreams or wishes, and as much as it would delight me to see Goliath and crew in Kingdom Hearts 3, I also acknowledge it’s mostly a pipe dream.  Perhaps if I wish upon a star…