To paraphrase Dave Grohl, I have a confession to make: I have never beaten DuckTales for the NES.
Sure, I played it in the early 1990s and again fairly recently as I have a copy of the game in my collection… but I’ve never finished it. The original is fun to play, and it makes me think fondly about the classic animated series. The theme song is there, the characters are there, and there’s a certain unmistakable charm that the video game has which it shares with the cartoon.
Now, thanks to WayForward and Capcom, we have DuckTales: Remastered. It’s not quite an HD port of the 1989 original, but it’s not a complete remake or modern-day reboot, either. It’s an homage to Capcom’s game from 24 years ago, with respect to the original combined with a bit of new content and some updated aesthetics to tie the experience together. Remastered offers a story that is more cohesive than the original and is voiced by the original cast of the cartoon series. DuckTales Remastered is not a game for everyone, with its challenging and sometimes punishing difficulty. For fans of the original game and those looking to enjoy a bit of nostalgia, however, this is worthy of your hard drive space.
For the uninitiated, DuckTales is a platforming game that puts players in the feathers of Scrooge McDuck, the richest duck in Duckburg. Scrooge is always in pursuit of adding riches to his coffers, and in this game, he sets out in search of a series of treasures scattered around the world (and beyond). Scrooge can jump, duck (fowl pun unintended), and use his cane to pogo into the air for more height. His cane is also invaluable for defeating enemies, which he usually does by pogoing on top of them or by hitting rocks or blocks at them. Scrooge’s pogo skill is essential, and players will use it – a lot. Each of the game’s five stages has a boss battle at the end, and pattern recognition is key to victory. As with many games in the 8-bit era, pattern recognition for boss enemies allows players to analyze when to attack and when to defend or dodge. The bosses in DuckTales are pretty straightforward with their patterns, once players learn them.
Playing DuckTales Remastered on the Easy difficulty level is likely too easy for most skilled players, but its use of frequent checkpoints makes deaths less punitive. For those who haven’t played the original game before, or for those who might be rusty with the gameplay mechanics, playing Remastered through once on Easy is recommended despite the difficulty being arguably too forgiving. After that, replaying on the harder difficulty levels will test skills and unlock Trophies as badges of honor for those talented and driven enough to finish. Be warned, though, that Remastered bares its fangs (errr… beak?) in the higher difficulties. If you get frustrated easily or are prone to throwing objects or salvos of loud expletives, this game may bring out the worst in you on occasion.
There are a few things to bear in mind when determining whether DuckTales Remastered is for you. The first thing is that the game is very true to its 8-bit roots. Enemies will respawn on occasion, cheap deaths aren’t uncommon due to missing an enemy pattern or certain timing, and there’s not a whole lot of depth here. Secondly, WayForward decided not to add new powerups or significantly alter patterns and enemies from the source material, so if you’re expecting a new and improved DuckTales experience, this game won’t deliver them. It’s also worth mentioning that the cutscenes which have been added to Remastered to give the game a fuller story might not sit well with some players – especially those who just want to get into the action.
Finally, the game is admittedly a bit on the short side. Most players will breeze through on Easy in 2-3 hours tops, and length in the higher difficulty levels is only stretched by how many lives are lost are having to start further back in a level afterwards. 2-3 hours for a $15 game is a bit short, although unlockables including artwork and music can keep completionists coming back for more.
Personally, I had a blast with DuckTales Remastered. I like the new artwork and the updated soundtrack. I thought that the cutscenes were pretty funny, despite the understandably uneven performance by Alan Young as Scrooge. It’s tough to get into character when you’re 94 years old, and I think it’s great that Young came back to reprise his role for authenticity’s sake. I beat the game on Easy and came away more prepared to play under more difficult conditions. Lastly, Remastered was a fun nostalgia trip for me. I had some great “Wow, I remember this!” moments that I was thrilled to live again, but for the first time in a new era. Hearing interpretations of familiar music, knowing what the NES original stages looked like and then seeing a 21st century update to those visuals, and reprising the feeling of beating the bosses as a reward for getting through each stage all made me smile.
Now, with Duckburg mysteries solved and history rewritten with DuckTales: Remastered, I wonder what else Capcom might consider for the Remastered treatment. I’ve heard that sometimes, some crimes go slippin’ through the cracks. Thankfully, there are two gumshoes who can pick up the slack. I’ll let you guess who I’m talking about. While I’m waiting for that announcement, it’s time to go back through and earn more money for Scrooge’s vault so that he can swim in it.