Something’s Not Right, Mr. McD!
Because of that popularity, DuckTales was one of the earlier tie-in games with other media. At the time it was a pretty advanced game by NES standards and as is typical of the era could be pretty tough almost entirely due to control issues. Also like most other games of the era, it can be beat in less than ten minutes once you know exactly what to do and have mastered the controls. Still, it holds a special place in many gamers hearts and based on that cache Capcom commissioned Wayforward to update the experience and bring us DuckTales: Remastered.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to how to handle a nostalgia-driven remake. Draw on the original game for inspiration and rework it for modern sensibilities, or keep the structure the same and focus on updating the visuals and controls. DuckTales: Remastered certainly goes after the latter approach. While the game isn’t QUITE a carbon copy when it comes to level-design it’s decidedly close to it. They’ve tweaked a thing or two here and there and added in a couple new levels of interaction but by and large if you’ve still got the original game imprinted in your memories than you’ll be right at home here.
One new addition that has the purists up in arms is the inclusion of some new cutscenes (the original didn’t have any real narrative) with the original voice actors reprising their roles from the show. Frankly while I found them to be a bit plodding and dull I didn’t have an issue with their existence. Sure, the voice of Scrooge (Alan Young) might be well over 90 years old but Scrooge isn’t a spring chicken. Let’s face it, Huey, Dewey and Louie always had pretty husky voices for their age. I certainly find it preferable to have an interlude between levels rather than just dumping back to a menu and then right into the level as it was in the original. Another bonus: Most of the movies feature Launchpad pretty heavily and he’s objectively the best thing in the universe.
The other big change is the graphics, of course. The player sprites look like they were lifted right out of the cartoon and are animated in a similar style and will instantly jump out at you. In fact, they jump out a bit much in comparison to the backgrounds which feel a little muted. It ends up creating a feel like the action is layered on top of the background (which I suppose replicates how cartoons were made at one time) that doesn’t work well for me. The graphics aren’t bad per se, they just end up being distracting.
What really matters of course is how the game plays. Looks can only go so far if you can’t get grabbed by the game play. DuckTales: Remastered changes almost nothing about the original gameplay with the exception of making the pogo move easier to do by removing the timing element of it. This actually is a bigger deal than it might sound at first glance since pogoing is vital on almost all the levels!
As the original NES only had two buttons, you might imagine the game play is pretty simple then. Yes, yes it is. Simple, yet requiring a lot of precision that is hard to replicate with the archaic physics. That means that most of the challenge is figuring out the right timing to stomp or cane smack the bad guys rather than any puzzle or exploration bits. There is some minor freedom in some of the levels but things are linear for the most part. A lot of the game ended up feeling like a chore to me. What’s more frustrating than spending 40 minutes carefully gathering all the required stuff to unlock the boss fights then dying when the boss is almost dead and having to start over from the beginning of the level? Nothing’s more frustrating! It does serve to give the game artificial length by forcing you to replay large chunks of each level.
I was hoping Ducktales would be a fun game to play with my kids, but it turned out that it’s a bit too much for their 5-7 year old dexterity. All we got from playing together was a whole lot of frustration that only harkened back to my anger management issues of my youth rather than the good times in my friend’s living room. I’m not sure if we’ve lost patience or we were somehow better at tricky jumping back when I was a kid since I am sure almost all games were like this yet I still loved to play them.
And that is what it really comes down to with DuckTales. How do you feel about games from the eighties when the philosophy of game design revolved around much different tenets than it does today? This game is a throwback beyond even the latest Megaman installments. For someone like myself who doesn’t necessarily have the same motor skills as I did 20 years ago the draw of the nostalgia surrounding my long-lost cousins Huey, Dewey and Louie serves as enough of an underpinning to draw me in. Kids who don’t get off on super retro gaming and haven’t a clue who Scrooge McDuck is aren’t going to be compelled to spend 4 or 5 hours wrangling the controls just to hop around in the money bin. There isn’t anything wrong with the end product that Wayforward made in terms of paying homage to a classic NES game, unfortunately they chose something from an era so bygone that the audience is going to be limited.