The original DuckTales game for the NES was one of my favorite games. I remember receiving the game as a Christmas gift when I was ten years old, and getting to the last level that very same day, only to have my older brother turn off the system during the final boss fight, because, as he put it, I “shouldn’t finish a game the same day I got it.” So I beat it the next day. And the day after that. For months, DuckTales was the only game that inhabited my NES. The gameplay, the controls, the music – it was in every way a perfect game. Fast-forward twenty-five years, and I am sitting at my desk at work when I see the announcement of DuckTales Remastered. Pulling up that announcement trailer, I was in a state of shock. One of my favorite childhood games, being remade by one of my favorite developers, WayForward – this was just too good to be true. After playing the new title, I can say that while it’s a great game, DuckTales Remastered is not all it’s quacked up to be.
Platforms: PC, PS3 (Version Played), Wii U, Xbox 360
Developer: WayForward Technologies
Genre: A 2D Trip Down Memory Lane
Release Date: August 13, 2013 (PC, PS3, Wii U), September 11, 2013 (Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+
The game pits you as business tycoon Scrooge McDuck, who is on yet another treasure hunt. You’ll travel to exotic and familiar locales, from the Amazon jungles and the frosty Himalayas all the way to the Moon. Using his trusty cane as his main weapon, Scrooge bounces and golf-swings his way across the terrain, collecting treasures to add to his money bin. You spend each stage collecting specific items needed to progress to the boss of that level. After each level, you collect an artifact and move on to the next. You can also take a break by diving into Scrooge’s famous money bin, which really is more fun than it sounds. Collecting treasures doesn’t just add to your overall score; you can use the money earned to purchase character bios, level designs, music tracks, and more. Plus, once you beat the game on Hard, it unlocks Extreme difficulty, which will really bring you back to the controller-throwing days of yore.
Capcom made a smart move by turning to WayForward to remake the classic title. To say that the developers at WayForward put their heart and soul into their projects is an understatement. Not satisfied with just another remake, the developer chose to give DuckTales Remastered a fully fleshed-out story that melds perfectly with the classic game. To make it even better, they actually brought in the original voice actors to reprise their roles – which is quite the accomplishment considering that two of these actors, Alan Young and June Foray, are well into their nineties. And as an avid watcher of the show, having the original voices is essential to retaining the feel of the classic series. Otherwise, we’re left with wrong-sounding Muppets.
And in this regard, DuckTales Remastered truly is a work of art. The 2D, hand-drawn style and animation by the talent at WayForward is second-to-none. I truly could not have wished for another developer to handle this game’s visuals. The animation is so smooth and so crisp, that at times the line between cartoon and video game is (duck)blurred. Levels are beautifully re-created in a high definition 2.5D style, and they look phenomenal. The Disney art style is definitely there. Just as any animation fan immediately recognizes a Tex Avery or Hanna-Barbera cartoon, you’ll know this is a Disney title at first glance.
Hand-in-hand with the graphics, the sound and music are also top-notch. The original DuckTales had one of the best soundtracks of the 8-bit era. The Moon theme will always be one of my favorite video game songs. WayForward understands how important the music is to older gamers, and updated the original tunes, changing just enough while retaining the magic of the originals. The effects are just as nice – Scrooge’s cane pogo bounce sound effect is exactly the same as we remember, and the sounds of item collecting and invincibility all remain intact. Plus, if you yearn for the music of old, you can unlock the original NES soundtrack once you beat the game (or by using this handy-dandy code). Scrooge gives commentary during the game, and adds to the overall charm of the title.
Seeing DuckTales Remastered running in HD is nothing short of beautiful. I give a tremendous amount of respect to WayForward for all the effort and hard work they put into making this game look and sound the way it does. It’s just unfortunate that the gameplay didn’t get the same treatment.
It really is strange that a game that looks this good suffers from such inconsistent controls. Back in the NES days, you had to press down & B in order to use Scrooge’s pogo bounce – a required move in order to beat enemies and navigate dangerous terrain. Now, you can just press one button – although you can choose the original option if you are feeling particularly nostalgic. One would think that this would make bouncing about much easier. This is simply not the case. Switching to Scrooge’s cane is hit-and-miss, with about a 90% success rate in my experience. All-to-often I tried to switch to my pogo jump and had no response from the game, causing me to lose health, or worse, fall into a pit. As a result of this, I’ve been pushing the button a lot harder than I normally do, but it doesn’t really help. It’s like pushing the elevator button a bunch of times thinking it will get there faster. Regardless, it really gets frustrating losing out not to difficult AI, but a frustrating interface.
It’s not just Scrooge’s cane that presents issues; there are multiple instances where I’ve fallen in a pit or landed on spikes due to the game not recognizing the “Up” input. Furthermore, I’ve been on the receiving end of damage for being just a little too close to where rock meets spike – something that never should have happened. The game has also crashed on me twice – most recently after I lost to the final boss. I was all set to continue, but was only given a black screen with the sound of wind blowing, resulting in having to manually turn off my PS3. It really is disheartening to see such persistent problems in what is otherwise a fantastic game. The game is still fun to play, though – so don’t think that these problems make the game unplayable. It’s just aggravating at times.
After putting so much time into the game, I feel that DuckTales Remastered is a love letter to those of us who grew up on these types of challenging 8-bit titles. The game is difficult; but this is old-school difficult. There are no auto-checkpoints. There aren’t infinite lives. You lose all three lives, and you have to start the level all over again. This may be a turn-off to some, but I understand what WayForward is trying to accomplish. It’s just that these old-fashioned mechanics may only be appreciated by old-fashioned gamers. I really, really wanted to give this game a perfect score. From the moment I saw that trailer, I prayed that DuckTales Remastered would be everything that I hoped for. And while I did enjoy the game, I feel in retrospect that nostalgia may have played a pretty big factor in my judgment. DuckTales Remastered may not rewrite history, but a little fine-tuning could have solved this mystery.
Review Disclosure: A retail copy of DuckTales Remastered was purchased by Warp Zoned for the purposes of this review.