When you think of the Nintendo Entertainment System, some real classics come to mind. You’ve got your Super Marios, your Mega Mans (Men?), your Castlevanias and your Zeldas. But one title that is regularly seen as one of the best games on the system is Capcom’s DuckTales. Based on the then-popular late-80′s/early 90′s cartoon (which is still entertaining to watch), you wouldn’t expect DuckTales to be a good game (given the standard of licensed titles), but thanks to a close partnership with Disney, this platform adventure immediately stood out. Even a Game Boy port successfully recreated the game to suit smaller screens while retaining its quality.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been over two decades since the original version was released and the animated series left television screens. It’s been exactly 20 years since the sequel hit the NES & Game Boy, and other than a 6-issue comic book run in 2011 (written by System Shock/Deus Ex/Epic Mickey’s Warren Spector, of all people), it’s been a long time since we’ve seen Scrooge McDuck, his nephews and their friends in an adventure. Thanks to Capcom, Disney and new developers WayForward, they have finally returned.
In this update of the NES classic, Scrooge McDuck, the richest duck in all of Duckberg, faces his most famous foes: arch-rival Flintheart Glomgold, the sorceress Magica De Spell, and renowned thieves the Beagle Boys. All are trying to steal McDuck’s fortune from the giant building where he keeps (and swims in) his riches. After beating an all-new tutorial stage and defending his “Money Bin” from the Beagle Boys, Scrooge finds a treasure map hidden in one of his recently acquired paintings – a treasure map that points to some incredibly rare and valuable artefacts. Cue a globe-hopping adventure, as Scrooge, his employees, his family and their friends try to find these items before their enemies do.
As soon as DuckTales: Remastered begins, fans of the original game will quickly see that this is both a faithful remake and a re-imagining. Uncle Scrooge still jumps from platform to platform using his handy cane as both a tool to remove environmental barriers and as a pogo stick to jump higher and defeat enemies. In the NES/Game Boy original, activating the pogo jump involved jumping, then pressing the B button while holding Down on the D-Pad, which could occasionally become rather cumbersome. Remastered allows you to turn these classic controls off, and lets you pogo by just holding the X or B button while jumping – a far more elegant solution for today’s gamers. Other than that, Scrooge still moves and controls exactly how he did all those years ago, although his cane swing gets a bit more use this time around.
Even for DuckTales veterans, there are quite a few differences. While each level is mainly unchanged, how you play them is different. Now, each level requires that you pick up several items from chests, enemies or hidden areas; no longer is it just a matter of getting to the end of the level and defeating the boss, occasionally picking up the odd item to proceed. Previously, some levels required you to revisit other levels to pick up particular items such as keys; in Remastered, each level is self-contained and no backtracking is required. If you’re playing on Easy or Normal difficulties, you can even view a map of your current level while pausing. DuckTales never had the most labyrinthine of levels, but it’s a nice feature for new players, even if it does make the game more easy by pointing out the location of required items.
What I particularly love about Remastered is that Wayforward have taken such a classic game and made it feel completely new. Bosses are now tougher and have more varied attacks, while levels have been padded out with new areas. Without spoiling too much, even the final stage has some new surprises.
Then there’s the fact that Remastered has completely changed the original’s presentation. The beautifully-animated characters and enemies look like they’ve been taken straight from the cartoon, while the environments genuinely look like they could be painted backgrounds – although there were a few occasions where platforms were too dark in colour when compared to the background, making for some unnecessary deaths.
The soundtrack features new versions of all the original game’s tracks, all extended and beautifully arranged, while WayForward have wisely kept many of the original’s recognisable sound effects (including the satisfying pogo “BOING!”). Of course, that undeniably catchy theme to the cartoon is in there as well, as a rare extended version, and I challenge you to not sing along or hum when you hear it!
And how could I forget the voice acting? Somehow, Disney have managed to get the entire surviving voice cast in the studio to record the game’s dialogue for brand new cutscenes. Combined with the visuals and the writing of the dialogue itself, it feels like you’re watching the show. There’s clearly a love for the subject matter, and that shows in the attention to detail that oozes from every frame. For example, they have even found a way to explain how Scrooge can breathe on the Moon without a spacesuit. In-between levels, you can even dive into Scrooge’s famous Money Bin (it’s the silliest little thing, but it brought the biggest smile to my face).
Because Remastered has 8-bit origins, it is on the short side. While the levels have been extended, bosses made tougher and cutscenes have been added, there are still only seven levels. There are Easy (infinite lives), Normal and Hard (no map) difficulties, and an Extreme Mode that removes the map and requires you to use the classic pogo mode. This mode also removes the ability to save and continue, adding some much needed difficulty. However, you’ll need to finish the game on Hard before you can take a crack at this difficulty.
If you know the game well, you could feasibly finish it in about 2-3 hours, which I did on Normal, before immediately diving back in for a full Hard run-through, because I enjoyed the game so much. The cash you earn in-game can be used to purchase various pieces of artwork and music from Remastered, the cartoon and the original NES game, requiring you to finish the game multiple times to purchase everything. There are 20 Achievements/Trophies, although they aren’t particularly challenging. One involved travelling from one side of the Amazon’s underground area using just the pogo stick, which is tricky but not out of reach for the average gamer. In the XBLA version at least, there are Leaderboards for things like number of playthroughs, most money earned in a playthrough, speedruns, etc. Try to beat my scores (WhiteSpyderZero), if you can!
VERDICT: It would have been easy to just take the original game and re-skin it, but it’s clear that everyone involved put so much thought and effort into bringing a true classic onto modern consoles, while still making it feel new to those who remember the original.
Issues with game length and difficulty aside, this is a brilliant and respectful update of one of the best platformers ever made, and one that gamers of all ages will enjoy, whether you’ve played the original or not. The only way this could have been better, is if Wayforward had included the original NES game and its sequel. I truly hope that this will pave the way for Capcom, Disney and WayForward to work together on more Remastered games. Chip & Dale: Rescue Rangers with online co-op, anyone?
SUPERB. This is the mark of greatness, only awarded to games that engage us from start to finish. Titles that score 9/10 will have very few problems or negative issues, and will deliver high quality and value for money across all aspects of their design.