Ducktales: Remastered - A Tale Worth Retelling
Fashion isn't the only thing clawing it's way back from the 90's this season. The last three weeks for video games has consisted of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mickey Mouse, and now Ducktales. Yes, the late 80's and early 90's have been making a comeback in the video game industry.
If you're not aware, Ducktales is a cartoon hit that ran from 1987-1990. The cast and characters from this show have stuck with me my entire life. The classic mishaps of Launchpad McQuack; the great one liners from any of the three boys, Huey, Dewy, and Louie; the insight into Uncle Scrooges real treasure (aside from his "lucky dime") being his beloved nephews. So the moment I heard of this remake, I excitedly sang the theme song on the way to pick up the first couple of seasons to force upon my children.
The Original Ducktales Game
As with any successful product in the 80's and 90's, Ducktales got a video game. The original version saw only a NES and Game Boy release (in '89 and '90, respectively). The original version was developed by Capcom, you know, the guys who made Mega-Man.
The 2013 "Remastered" version was developed by WayForward Technologies. The "Remastered" is just that. There are updated visuals, an added stage, and all voice acting was recaptured by all available cast members from the original cartoon series.
So... how does Darkwing Duck fit into all this?
The story that sets the scene for this 2D adventure consists of Scrooge's nemesis, Magika. She's attempting to capture Scrooge's "lucky dime." She tricks Scrooge into thinking he found a list of secret treasures. The locations include:
- The Amazon
- The Moon
- The Mines
- And the Icy Himalayas
As you traverse these varied and self explaining environments, which are rendered beautifully, you'll be accompanied by a few friends along the way. In one mission both Gyro and Gizmoduck are helping you acquire the stinky-green-moon cheese (obviously a timeless treasure).
Another mission, as you're bouncing around on Scrooge McDuck's cane, you run across Bubba. Bubba is a young duck from the pre-historic times frozen in ice, and a friend of the McDuck family (via the TV series). That same mission you find out Webigail was a stowaway on Launchpad's now crashed plane.
Each mission / level is themed, if not directly taken, from the TV series itself.
Which for me was a great trip to nostaligia-ville. From the "ghosts of the mine," the Amazonian tribesmen, to seeing the Beagle Brothers running amuck and causing trouble everywhere they go. As you move throughout the level, jewels will fall magically from the heavens. As you backtrack to get each and every one of those jewels, you can golf swing or cane bounce on any enemy or rock to discover things like health and the occasional jewel. Finding continues, hearts, and mission objectives are mostly done by exploring the surrounding environments. That could consist of jumping toward a wall that is really a secret tunnel. Sometimes simply just pushing "up" when it looks like a rope doesn't stop at the top of your screen will reward you.
Don't mess with that crazy, cane-wielding duck.
You dispatch the majority of your enemies like you would with any other basic 2D platformer; by jumping on their head. This can be frustrating if the game's controls seem loose or just delayed a bit. This is not a problem with Ducktales: Remastered. I found the controls were very tightly and precise. Whether a remake or a brand new IP, controls can make or break a game at higher difficulties. It can expose issues in balance, or even show a glaring flaw in level design. If the original (which I played, but don't remember 25 years ago too well) had a problem with that, WayForward fixed any nagging control issues.
That said, knowing the controls are as precise as they are, I know that I'm the one to blame for failing so many times on the "Hard" difficulty. Ducktales: Remastered has made it clear to me that games have gotten easier in this era of gaming. Nothing is more heartbreaking than retrying a boss battle over and over, to find after your fifth continue is up, and now you start the whole level over... again.
Collecting money in the game is only good for unlocking the art and music. Unless you appreciate that kind of stuff (which I do), it's not a real bonus. The bonus content consists of the music from the original game. It also includes stills from the TV series, the 80's character models vs the remastered models, and an array of background art too.
But Something's Missing
Despite this, Ducktales: Remastered doesn't resonate with me in the same way the more recent Mickey Mouse: Castle of Illusion did. There was a lack of charm for me. That intangible quality, that makes games like this a must play. Maybe I've been on a nostalgic overload and am just dismissing the underlying charm of the game. There are no real problems, and no game breaking bugs. It all just felt a little hollow.
It is still something I'd recommend playing if you enjoy the classics from the NES era. There is no denying that Ducktales: Remastered is a quality product meant as a nod to the cult that helped resuscitate life back into this franchise.
November 13th, there will be a boxed version instead of just digital for purchase.
-Greg Magee, @coatedpolecat