Also On: PSN, PC, Wii U
The original DuckTales on the NES is easily one of my top 10 8-bit titles. I’ve got a lot of love for the pixelated versions of Scrooge McDuck, Launchpad, Huey, Dewey, Louie and rest of the Duckburg gang. It was a game that released at just the right time, when my personal DuckTales fandom was about as high as it could get, and it stands out as one of the best licensed Capcom platformers out there, which is saying something considering there were a bunch of other Disney themed platformers out of Capcom during that era that were pretty exceptional.
But being a licensed property made the possibility of DuckTales being official ported or licensed for modern day services like the Wii Virtual Console pretty slim. So when Capcom announced DuckTales Remastered for PC, Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii U for this year, I was pretty surprised. Happily surprised that is. And now having played it, it’s nice to find a really faithful port of the NES classic, despite the newly stylized visuals and remixed audio. Wayforward, the developers behind DuckTales Remastered, have done a great job of securing what made the original game so fun, and updating it for the current era.
There are some additions here besides the visuals and remixed soundtrack too. Wayforward was able to bring in a lot of voice actors, including Alan Young, the original voice actor of Scrooge McDuck, to flesh out a new script that bonds together the various levels of the original adventure into something a bit more cohesive than just collecting treasure and fighting famous villains from the show. Sometimes the dialogue and cutscenes can feel a bit intrusive, the Amazon stage is the biggest culprit here as it pauses the action for a bit of back and forth between Scrooge and Launchpad every couple of minutes, but by and large I really enjoyed the story bits added. In particular the interactions with Huey, Dewey, Louie and Webby, all of which are absolutely adorable and are exactly as I remember their T.V. show counterparts acting.
The stages from the original NES game are all present, and are mostly recreated in an identical fashion. Even enemy placement is spot on, along with stage layouts. The only real changes come from the various objectives for each stage that are new. These objectives typically task you with finding three or more objects scattered about the stage, which makes players explore the full layout a bit more than the original required. There are still lots of hidden treasures as you bound around the screen on Scrooge’s trademark pogo cane, with secret areas in all the right spots, and hidden treasure chests exactly where you remember them.
Some positive changes have been made to enemy spawn rates, which aren’t nearly as aggressive as the original. This stood out for me a lot on stages like the Himalayas with the jumping goats, and the Moon with its alien duck soldiers. Enemy A.I. is also a bit more reliable, and less prone to getting stuck on weird spots or crowding you into unwinnable situations. Same goes for the boss fights, which are less prone to cheap hits than the original game, with the Rat boss on the Moon being another example of a positive change here.
There are some annoyances still present from the original, mostly in how the pogo cane reacts to the edge of ledges. If you’ve never played the original there are points where jumping around on Scrooge’s cane will feel sort of broken, essentially any time you’re too close to the edge of a platform he’ll stop jumping and this can lead to some cheap hits or deaths. This is, however, exactly like the original game in that regard, and I’d imagine not making a change here was intentional. It can be frustrating at first, but you’ll find yourself getting accustomed to it quickly enough.
While DuckTales was never the most difficult NES game, I’m glad to see that the difficulty wasn’t dialed back further for DuckTales Remastered. You’ll likely face a few deaths on Normal difficulty, and the lack of checkpoints in stages with limited lives will be a shock to some. But the challenge presented is really pretty fair, and the stages aren’t so long as to make retries feel like a chore. It can be a bit tiresome to pause the game so you can skip the new cutscenes, and would have been a better idea to tie that into a single button press instead of putting it in the pause menu. However, if you find the difficulty too hard or too easy, there are additional difficulty options to select from, expanding out to a Hard and Extreme mode, or Easy if you’d like to dial it back a bit.
There’s also a new stage included at the onset of the game that pits you against the Beagle Boys as they invade Scrooge’s office vault, and works pretty well as a tutorial. It’ll teach you the basic controls, none of which are particularly complex. You can also opt to turn on or off “Hard Pogo”, which emulates the NES controls by forcing you to press down along with a face button to pogo jump. And while “Hard Pogo” is off you simply need to press the face button with no directional input, a nice addition to simplify the controls further without forcing a change for those that want the original experience.
DuckTales Remastered also features a remix of the classic stage themes from the original DuckTales, most of which are really solid renditions of the iconic themes. Obviously the Moon theme gets a lot of love from everyone, and I’m quite happy to say that the remix featured here is really good. I’m not as hot on the Himalayas remix, but the rest of the stages, Amazon in particular, are pretty well done. However, if you’re not a fan of the remixes, you can go into the options and turn on the classic 8-bit music instead, a nice option to have from the start that I’m happy wasn’t locked away.
The final addition here is the gallery, which gives you something to do with all that cash you gather up in each stage. Here you can spend money on artwork, including background renders, pencil sketches, character art, music, and other audio/visual material. There’s a lot of this packed in here, and while unlockable art and audio might not be the most exciting incentive in the world, when a game looks and sounds as good as DuckTales Remastered it makes for a more compelling argument for unlockable media like this.
Basically, if you loved DuckTales as a kid, whether it was the NES game or the T.V. show, or both, you should definitely pick this up. And if you never got into the show or game, but have some affinity for retro games, you should still pick this up. It’s one of the best retro revival titles I’ve seen, with some loving detail given to both the look and sound of the game from the fine folks over at Wayforward. I sincerely hope that Capcom doesn’t stop here with their awesome licensed catalogue, and hope to see titles like DuckTales 2, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, and Darkwing Duck in the near future. So support this game people, it really deserves it.