A mysterious crime wave has hit the city of St. Canard, and S.H.U.S.H. requires the services of Darkwing Duck to stop it. It appears that F.O.W.L., lead by Steelbeak, is behind it. They have hired six of Darkwing's greatest foes to wreak havoc in different areas of St. Canard. Darkwing must subdue each of these criminals in order to find Steelbeak and save the city.
The game is a platformer with elements similar to Capcom's Mega Man (Classic) video game series, even using a modified version of Mega Man 5's game engine. Darkwing can use his gas gun to take down enemies, which functions similarly to how Mega Man controls except DW can only fire while standing still or jumping straight up. He can also drop through and grab onto the bottoms of platforms, giving him some control versatility compared to Mega Man. There are three different stages at the start of the game that can be tackled in any order, and three more become available after they are cleared. Once all six stages are clear, Darkwing can proceed to F.O.W.L.'s floating fortress for the final battle with Steelbeak.
In March 2017, Capcom produced a re-release set in the form of The Disney Afternoon Collection, which includes Darkwing Duck, both original DuckTales games, both original Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers games, and TaleSpin for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows (through Steam).
This game provides examples of:
- Absentee Actor: Several key characters from the TV show are missing from the game, including Negaduck, the leader of the Fearsome Five, which wouldn't be so egregious if it wasn't for the fact that all other members of his terrorist group appear as bosses and free launch agents of FOWL.
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Liquidator's stage takes place in the sewers.
- Awesome, but Impractical: Darkwing's cape. Though it can deflect some enemy projectiles, it is useless against the majority of enemies who attack the player physically, and Darkwing can't fire his gas gun or move when blocking. It is far more useful for breaking open capsules during the bonus stages.
- Balloonacy: When Darkwing finds a pump, he can use it to inflate a balloon. He can then hang onto the balloon, which will carry him over gaps.
- Banana Peel: If Darkwing steps on a banana peel, he will slip on it, stunning him. During the battle with Quackerjack, Mr. Banana Brain tosses banana peels at Darkwing, but these kind can actually take away his health.
- Big Bad: In the scope of the game, Steelbeak is the mastermind who's coordinating the massive crime wave all across St. Canard. As such, he serves as the Final Boss.
- Blackout Basement: Liquidator's stage gets darker the further Darkwing delves into the sewers. Hanging from the light switches turns the lights on, and getting off them turns the lights off.
- Blob Monster: Liquidator.
- Bonus Stage: Much like in TaleSpin, portals to these are accessible when certain spots are shot at. In these stages, Darkwing can either collect stolen items from safes falling atop the rooftops, or have safes fire from cannons and Launchpad and Gosalyn collect the items from them in their helicopter.
- Boring, but Practical: The Thunder Gas gun has a cumbersome firing range and outputs very weak damage. However, due to the nature of many levels' vertical layouts, it is excellent for picking off enemies from afar, and allows for easy victories against bosses who fight in multi-layered rooms. It also requires only two units of gas energy to fire, and has an extremely generous hitbox, making it the ideal power-up for many situations.
- Bully Bulldog: The bulldog enemies, who reside in too-small doghouses.
- Cloak of Defense: The player can have Darkwing use his cape to deflect enemy fire by pressing "Up" on the D-Pad.
- Canon Foreigner: Wolfduck is not a pre-existing character from the television series and was created for the game.
- Combat Pragmatist: Steelbeak can't hold a candle to Darkwing Duck physically, so he doesn't try. For the first part of the fight, he's content to just sit back in his armored control panel and let his drones deal with you. When you break that down, he then picks vault doors up from from the floor to protect himself from your shots before chucking them at you and retreating to find something else to use.
- Construction Zone Calamity: Moliarty's stage takes place in a construction site, where Moliarty is developing a monstrous machine at the top of the tower.
- Demoted to Extra: Despite being the Deuteragonist of the show, Gosalyn only ever appears in some of the bonus levels.
- Eggshell Clothing: There are parachuting egg enemies that sprout legs and run around when they hit the ground.
- Hearts Are Health: Darkwing's life bar is a single heart, but he can take four hits before dying. Collecting a thin can will restore one hit, and collecting a first-aid kit will restore Darkwing's health to its full extent.
- Heavily Armored Mook: The turtle enemies, who toss their shells at Darkwing and can only be hit when their shells are off.
- In Case of Boss Fight, Break Glass: During the final battle with Steelbeak, the first phase involves Darkwing destroying the glass window of the control panel he is sitting. Doing so rewards Darkwing with a first aid kit, which he may need for the second phase.
- The Lost Woods: Bushroot's stage unsurprisingly takes place in a dark forest which is where he would be feel at home while on the lam.
- Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: Darkwing can use his cape as a shield to deflect enemy fire by pressing Up on the D-pad. Steelbeak also uses a vault door as a shield in the final battle against him.
- Removable Shell: The turtle enemies sneeze their shells at Darkwing, at which point they are vulnerable (but, interestingly, still really tough, requiring 6 pellets to go down). The shell then comes back like a boomerang, so watch your back while attacking them.
- Sewer Gator: These enemies are prominent in Liquidator's stage.
- Ship Level: The seventh and final level of the game takes place on F.O.W.L.'s floating fortress, where Steelbeak is fought as the Final Boss.
- Shout-Out: The last level is filled with duck Terminator mooks, who reveal their robotic endoskeletons after taking enough damage, and continue to chase you even after they lose their legs.
- X-Ray Sparks: During the Megavolt boss fight, if Darkwing is hit by one of his electrical attacks the sprite of him taking damage will briefly flash to show his skeleton.