The NES played a central role in my childhood. I remember walking around the corner to a friend’s house, spending countless hours playing the titles that were destined to become classics, and Capcom’s DuckTales was amongst the most memorable.
At the time of its release, Capcom was already a well-established company… but how they managed to land a deal with Disney is beyond me. In retrospect, I would have imagined Capcom’s reputation for producing crushingly difficult games would have sent mixed messages to the animation giant. After all, their target audience would have been the youngest of children. Could you imagine little Timmy picking up the latest Disney game, only to spend an afternoon crying because it proved to be just as punishing as Mega Man or Ghosts ‘N Goblins? Well, Capcom’s take on DuckTales was surprisingly well balanced. The gameplay wasn’t easy but not particularly challenging, yet hardcore players kept coming back to see who could find the most treasure. This addicting formula was rounded out with fun level designs and one of the catchiest 8-bit scores of all time.
If you didn’t get to experience this game as a child… I’m so, so sorry. You totally missed out… that is, until Capcom announced they’d been developing an HD remake of the original classic – DuckTales Remastered. Yeah, the first thing that flew out of my mouth was, “SHUTTUP AND TAKE MY MONEY!” The prospect of being able to play this title in HD was all I needed, but Capcom wanted to improve upon the initial experience. I wasn’t sure how that could be possible, but I was intrigued nevertheless.
Before I get ahead of myself, it’s important to discuss what made this title so much fun in the first place – Its gameplay. Scrooge McDuck traverses through the Amazon, Himalayas, Transylvania, African Mines and even the Moon, all seemingly for the sake of acquiring more wealth. I say ‘seemingly’ because the devs never bothered to fill us in on what’s drawing our beloved Unca Scrooge to these locations to begin with. That may sound appalling by today’s standards, but this was commonplace in the NES’s heyday. Anyway, in order to obtain these treasures, he has to battle his way through tough apes, giant spiders, mummies, bats, skeletons, goats, slugs, carnivorous plants and more… and that doesn’t even take the stage bosses into consideration. McDuck doesn’t venture into these areas with any projectile weapons, or even a blade for that matter. No, he uses his cane as a makeshift pogo stick, pouncing his enemies into submission. The cane also doubles as a golf club – Small boulder in your path? Stand next to it and give it a whack, hurdling it towards the next unfortunate creature. Yes, it sounds simple enough, but each level has its own series of challenges to overcome. You’ll have to carefully time your jumps from one careening mine cart to the next, or channel the spirit of Indiana Jones as you hop across a collapsing bridge while a massive boulder nips at your heels. If you want our feathered version of the Monopoly guy to survive, you’ll have to be methodical and precise.
Of course, getting from point A to point B is only half the adventure. As already mentioned, you’re continuously adding to Scrooge’s money vault, and this is perhaps the most challenging aspect of the game. Gems and treasure chests aren’t just sitting around waiting for someone to take them home. Nope, they’ll only be revealed after McDuck moves over their hiding spot, meaning you’ll want to walk and hop in every nook and cranny imaginable. Even still, you’re likely to blow your chance at retrieving certain treasures before you even have the chance to realize it… and shockingly enough, this never seems unfair. Missed opportunities will only demand multiple play-throughs, and even urge you to change your play style.
That’s pretty much the game in a nutshell. Everything worked so well in the original, so people pressed their hands together and prayed that Capcom would stay faithful to the original formula. Well, they did, and reviews of DuckTales Remastered has been mixed as a result. Seems kind of hypocritical to me, but I guess that’s the culture of gaming – Even if there’s nothing wrong with a product, you HAVE to find something to complain about. After all, what kind of news gets the most attention? Negative, of course.
So, how does the remake fare, exactly? In short, Capcom knocked it out of the park. This is about as faithful a translation as you can get – Level layouts are almost exactly the same. There’s a few minor tweaks, but they’re so subtle hardly anyone will notice. And oh, how gorgeous these diverse locations have become. Capcom actually enlisted the original series animation team to design the levels, so it actually feels like you’re playing in HD versions of the show. Furthermore, all the characters have been penned, inked and digitized as well. Last but certainly not least, the music has been lovingly recreated, and the result is pure sonic ear worm.
That wasn’t enough, however – In order to enhance the idea you’re actually playing through a DuckTales episode, there’s now a bunch of scripted segments that tie everything together. Their efforts definitely capture the heart of the show, but you know what really went a long way in driving this concept home? Getting the original cast to voice their respective characters. Yes – Scrooge, his nephews, Launchpad, Gyro, the Beagle Boys, and pretty much everyone else – they’re all here with fresh dialogue, and I dare say they sound better than ever (except for Magica DeSpell, who now sounds somewhat aged). Impressive, considering Alan Young – the voice of ‘Unca Scrooge’ – is over 90 years old.
As far as gameplay changes, there isn’t much to discuss. Certain boss battles have been modernized to be a tad more challenging, but all their classic moves are still present and accounted for. Honestly, the most notable change is that it’s easier to pogo. On the NES, you had to press A to jump, and then simultaneously hold ‘down’ and B. Oh, and move left and right at the same time. I’ll never know how I made it through my childhood with my thumbs still intact. If you’re something of a masochist, you can turn the ‘hard pogo’ control scheme on, but, uh… just don’t.
All in all, this is DuckTales as you remembered it… only better. Of course, there’s an inherent problem with this – Not everyone got the chance to enjoy the NES game or even the original series. So, how are young gamers going to react to the HD remake? Well, reviews from 20-somethings across the web are mixed, and understandably so. There was a LOT of hype for this release, so expectations were bound to get out of control.
As far as the gamers who ARE old enough to have enjoyed the 8-bit rendition, reception has been all across the board. Some herald it as the greatest HD remake of all time, whereas others have criticized Capcom for emulating the original design and gameplay to a fault… but me? I say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it… this, coming from a guy who wholeheartedly supports major alterations (when appropriate, of course). I mean, take the upcoming Castle of Illusion remake for example – The original Sega ‘classic’ was a fun game, but the controls were dreadful and the level design left a lot to be desired. It appears the studio behind the HD version is changing things quite a bit, and for the better. To those who wanted something more from DuckTales Remastered… I honestly don’t know what to say. That’s a lie… of course I do – Get the fudge out.
That’s not to say there aren’t some minor issues. Some have complained that the amount of integrated cut-scenes is a pain in the tooshie. I actually enjoyed the story bits throughout my initial run, but they do become tiresome on multiple replays. At that point, all you want to do is collect treasure and bonk bad guys with your cane, and the cut-scenes do cut into that experience. Fortunately, you can press ‘start’ and select ‘skip cinematic’ from the pause menu. Capcom, it would be nice to see a patch in the future that would allow us to skip the cut-scenes automatically… just sayin’.
Last but not least, some have complained that Scrooge doesn’t always pogo when you want him to… but these complaints are a tad misleading. I actually found this to be a huge problem at first, but that’s because I was attempting to ‘hard pogo’ with the new control scheme. Once I stopped trying to do more with the controls than necessary, each and every goof-up from then on was a result of MY doing, and not from faulty controls. I can’t recall a single moment where I got frustrated and said, “GAWDAMNIT! I PUSHED THE RIGHT BUTTON!!! WHAT THE &%$#?!”
In all seriousness, this is a must own title. If you’re a fan of the 2d platforming resurgence, or just a fan of old school or arcade-style games in general, then DuckTales Remastered is the (nearly) definitive experience you’ve been looking for.