While I have a DuckTales Remastered review in the wings (haha pun) for PixlBit. I decided to let a Let’s Play buddy of mine, FreezingInferno, give you his two cents on DuckTales Remastered. The entire text in plain font after the break is his doing and its amazing, so give him some props on his YouTube channel, ok? Just a warning; if you don’t like in-depth reviews with WORDS explaining things, you may suffer a brain malfunction.
Prologue: A Link To The Past
1989 and 2013 are leagues apart; two years separated by that impasse we call the past. 24 years. 8,760 days(roughly). I was four years old in 1989. I have no memory of the year, save a fuzzy one of crying outside a grocery store after being stung by a bee. That might not have even happened in 1989. The memory cheats. The memory, dear reader, straight up lies. Of course, thanks to 2013 and its Internet, I can decipher a history for 1989. A secret history; the history that happened while I was a small child, just barely sentient. The Cold War was beginning to crumble. Reagan was out, and Bush was in. Doctor Who died. The Simpsons was born. Indiana Jones went on what looked like his Last Crusade. It is a time of The Bangles and Madonna, of Miami Vice and ALF… and oh yes, the Nintendo Entertainment System. The grey box was still a year away from influencing my life, of course. For now, it remains lurking within the secret history, waiting in the wings. A lot of games were put out for the thing in 1989, but only one has managed to create a solid link with the present; Ducktales.
Yeah, Ducktales! You remember that game, right? The first game of the Disney/Capcom partnership! The one with Scrooge McDuck and the pogo bouncing and that really cool moon music! It’s an NES classic! Hell, some call it the best licensed game on the system! I’ll be honest with you nice people here. I used to think this game was pretty overrated. Not bad, just overrated. I’ve since softened on that opinion, thanks to playing the hell out of the thing this week. Hell, I can kind of speedrun it. One wonders, though. What the hell could have happened to the present? How does an old but beloved 8-bit video game create a tether to the future? How can Ducktales thrive in a world that’s moved from new wave to dubstep? The answer is Wayforward. Lovely company. They made Shantae. Contra 4, too. Oh, and for the purposes of our chat, they put out an HD re-imagining of Ducktales, simply called… Ducktales Remastered. I am here to tell you that it is fantastic, and wonderful, and a marvel of old-timey video gaming in a beautiful new shell. I could end this review here by simply saying “Ducktales Remastered is excellent and should be played by everyone”.
But I’m not going to do that because I’m an egotist and I want to write words about the good video game. I have a passion for the thing and I like writing. You must like reading, because you’re still here. We have an understanding, don’t we, dear reader? I’m glad we do! Alright, so let’s approach this by following the very link the game has created with the past. Hop into my TARDIS, my wayback machine, my DeLorean… whatever you want to call it, we’re going to zip back along the nostalgia freeway and look at the original game for a bit before we take a look at this fancy new one.
1989: Crazy Duck In Space
Well, here we are. Watch your step, now. 1989 can be a strange place to visit, even if we’re only travelling via the magic of words. It’s a secret history, but it’s a history nonetheless. So, where did this funny duck game come from in the first place? Some animated show that started in 1987 about a really rich duck who likes to find treasure? It sounds weird when you say it like that, I know… but we’re in the 1980’s, friend. This is the age of the Transformers, of He-Man, of Thundercats and goddamn Rainbow Brite. Was the Ducktales cartoon good? I can’t really say. Remember, I was four when the game came out. That would make me two when this show premiered. Now, this shouldn’t suggest that I have not seen ANY of Ducktales. I know for a fact I have… I just can’t remember any of it. My jam came later, in the early 1990’s. Darkwing Duck and Chip n Dale and Goof Troop. Ducktales passed me by, I’m afraid… and that goes for the video game we’re talking about as well. Much like the cartoons I just mentioned, Ducktales passed me by during my NES playing days. Darkwing Duck, I rented every weekend I could. Chip n Dale, I remember playing on a black and white TV in that same sacred place I experienced Super Mario Bros 2 and Dr. Mario. Ducktales? It was only until the rise of emulation that I well and truly got into it. At the time, I thought it was okay. How about now? That’s why we’re here, isn’t it? To learn about the original Ducktales game? Well, let’s see what we can make of this secret history…
This thing oozes charm. Capcom did a damn fine job with it. This really is a wonderful little game. It was produced by… dear god. Tokuro Fujiwara. The man who created Ghosts ‘n Goblins. I may need to lay down for a moment. This does explain… certain things. Before we get into that, a basic primer. You play as Scrooge McDuck, and you’re looking for treasure. You get to select levels in any order, a la Mega Man, in search of a big treasure. The stages have a bunch of branching paths, and exploration is essential in order to clear them. Oh yes, and let’s not forget Scrooge’s unique method of attack. He uses his cane like a pogo stick and bounces on enemies. The bounce is also used to break open treasure chests and clear long gaps. It’s a fun mechanic, and I don’t think it’s been used in any games other than the Ducktales games. The game looks and sounds great, too. Hell, the moon music is right up there with Wily 1 from Mega Man 2 in video game player’s hearts. How about that? Two of the most highly regarded NES melodies, not only from the same year, but the same company? (Okay, Mega Man 2 was 1988 in Japan, but it was ’89 here!) Goddamn.
Another eerie parallel I just noticed; Tokuro Fujiwara produced this and created Ghosts ‘n Goblins. Recall how you had to beat GnG twice to reach the “true” ending. Ducktales has a Transylvanian level with several ghosts and mummies and skeletons in it. A complete run of Ducktales has you visiting this stage a total of three times. That honestly scares me. Secret histories dig up the most frightening things. Speaking of frightening things… this game can be a little rough. It’s important to remember that video games back in this period of time weren’t cakewalks. I mean, the producer created Ghosts ‘n Goblins. That thing is sadistic. Ducktales thankfully does not reach that level of difficulty, even on its hardest setting… but it’s not the easiest. Three lives and no continues. Granted, it’s a short game, but this is a little rough. Still, it could be worse.
You could be Ducktales on the Game Boy.
We’ve jumped ahead just a bit. It’s 1990 now. Ducktales the television series is on its way out. The NES is on its way to me, and will arrive a week before the new year. The long 1980s haven’t quite ended yet. Nirvana and Bill Clinton and the fall of the Soviet Union have yet to reach us. What has reached us is Ducktales on the Game Boy. The Disney/Capcom collaboration games were all pretty great on the NES. Something was lost in translation when these games were stripped of color and given portability. Ducktales is no exception. I played this game two nights ago to see if it was good. Something was missing. The control was a little off. The level layouts were changed. The music wasn’t as good. Where has the magic gone? The iconic moon level is where frustrations peaked. You are meant to grab a chain and climb into a UFO. The chain hovers over a pit. For some reason, I kept missing it. Over and over I missed this jump, and I do not know why. A fault in the control? A quirk of emulation? Perhaps if I were not attempting to reconstruct the secret history, I would fare better. Much like the missing episodes of Doctor Who, the reconstruction is not truly how it went down.
I am missing a certain factor. I am missing the magic that made Ducktales a great NES game… but the people at WayForward found that magic. It took them 24 years to hunt it down, but by god they caught it and rained it back down upon the world. Come back with me, friend. Come back to the present and let’s appreciate the miracle we have been given.
2013: A Diamond The Size Of… Mrs. Beakley
Here we are, back again. August 2013. Hell, maybe you’ve travelled along the tether link of the Internet and these words are in the past. Hi there, future friend. You want to know about Ducktales Remastered. I told you it was a thing of beauty. I said it was wonderful and fantastic. These words are true. I loaded up the game thanks to my generous benefactor, and within a few minutes I was in the new introductory level; one of two new stages added in this re-imagining. I started playing… and bam. 1989 and 2013, connected in an instant. I am pogo bouncing just like I was in the NES game. Everything looks gorgeous and vibrant thanks to the new graphics, but she plays like the old Nintendo game I’ve grown accustomed to… with some new tweaks. There are cutscenes now! Lots of them! This game has voice acting and story and stuff, and they even got some of the original voice actors! This is amazing because at least two of them are well into their 90’s. Some fuss has been made over the voice acting quality. I found it fine, but I admit to not having watched the show in over two decades. Alan Young is 25 years older than he was when the show aired. There is no getting around this. He sounds fine to me. The other characters all work. There is a delightful charm in watching the cutscenes play out. It really is like watching a cartoon… maybe even an extended episode of the cartoon. Hijinks are had, silly banter is exchanged, a villain laughs a maniacal laugh. Has Ducktales Remastered tethered a link to its original forebear? Who can say for sure?
What I can say is what I’ve already mentioned; the game plays like a dream. The levels are expanded now. In the NES original, there was that element of exploration. Once you knew where the items and shortcuts were, you could blast through the game in, say… 15 minutes or so. Now 15 minutes will get you through one stage. Peppered throughout each sizable level are items you’ll need to progress. Get the eight ancient coins, or the pieces of Gizmoduck, or the components to a magic spell. Explore. Find treasure. Find heart containers and extra lives and have fun playing the game. It’s not a chore at all to play… but more on that when we come to it.
How about the music? Jake Kaufman has done something amazing here. A miracle within a miracle. The gameplay itself is a loving throwback, but Kaufman has taken the music and done… something to it. By some composition alchemy, he has transformed it into a paradox; a modern throwback. The music evokes nostalgia and is still fresh. The classic melodies are there as the backbone, but Kaufman has… expanded on them. The man took the Moon theme, one of the beloved darlings of the chiptune era… and improved upon it. That’s a feat worthy of applause. Sure, there’s an option to toggle the music back to 8-bit, but to be frank; why the hell would you? Here’s a thought. Reminds me of something mentioned in the documentary, The People Vs George Lucas… specifically on the subject of George Lucas not releasing the original unaltered Star Wars trilogy on DVD. An interviewed fan suggests Lucas put both versions on the same disc, as if to say “Here, have them both, watch them back to back. I think the special edition is better.” I feel that’s what WayForward has done here. Play the game twice. Once with Jake Kaufman’s score, then again with the original chiptunes. We think our new score is better. I’m inclined to agree… but hey, let’s link some examples.
Alright, I’ve harped praise on this thing for quite a while. Now to address some… things. A certain sect of the review crowd has given this game middle of the road reviews. One of the big complaints ballied at this game is that it’s “too hard”. I admit that I’m a bit of an anomaly here; I kind of made hard games my territory. I personally do not think Ducktales Remastered is a hard game. That should not suggest that it doesn’t have its moments. The final segment of the game is a timed escape sequence. You must jump from chain to chain in an active volcano as lava rises. Time after time, I would jump to a chain, hold up… and Scrooge would plummet to oblivion. Why? I was using a 360 controller, with analog. Switching my hand to the D-pad helped a little, but I was painfully reminded of my struggles with Ducktales on the Game Boy. As I escaped the volcano, the magic that bound what made the NES Ducktales magical seemed to escape ahead of me… leaving me with death after death. This wasn’t so bad in either of my two playthroughs (as of this writing) but it is worth noting. The reviewers’ experience with the game was made by a blind leap of faith. They chose the Medium difficulty, believing it to be standard. With this set, you get three lives per stage. More can be stockpiled by finding Mrs. Beakley in each level (which isn’t difficult to do if you’re exploring for secret passages). Lose all your lives, however, and you must start the level from scratch, collecting all the required items to advance again. This sucked the fun out of the game for at least one online review man. In addition, the cutscenes will always play out when you replay the stage. There are several of them in each level. They can be skipped by pausing the game and pressing the “Skip Cutscene” button on the pause screen. This is a dealbreaker for many. It got tedious, they said. On my second replay, I skipped the cutscenes. While I will agree that there are several of them in a short span when you start a level, they’re not hard to skip. Two button presses. Half a second.
The reviewer complaints, combined with advice from a good friend, led me to start my first playthrough on the Easy setting. On Easy, you are given infinite lives and double the health. This does make things fairly easy, but I still found enjoyment and fun in the game. Some reviewers hated the thought of this. They detested that there was no middle ground. Easy is too easy because I can breeze through the game. Medium is too difficult because of the “severe” punishment for being sent back. Baloney. Nonsense. Malarkey. I had plenty of fun playing this game on Easy mode, even if it wasn’t the biggest challenge in the world. I gained a significant advantage, as well. I learned what the optimal paths through each level were, where the hidden treasures and extra lives were located, the attack patterns of the bosses… vital information that might have cost me lives on a Medium playthrough! As such, when I played on Medium today, the game was fresh in my mind. I was able to beat it with little fuss… barring, of course, the aforementioned escape sequence at the end. I blame this on the room I am in being sweltering hot. That, combined with my nerves, created a less than tight grip on my control pad. I made it out on my very last life. Perhaps I would have been angry if I had died. Perhaps I would have put the game down for a while. That’s just fine. It doesn’t mean the game is bad, by any means. It just got the better of your skills in that instance. You can come back to it. You can perservere. I won. I intend to try Hard, and maybe even Extreme difficulty. I think I will find challenge and fun in this game. About the only other negative I can think of is, oddly enough, the price. It was a non-issue for me as this was a generous gift, but 15 bucks is a wee bit steep for a game that can be cleared in about 2 or 3 hours. The replay value does alleviate this slightly, but I could see it being a sticking point for some.
Well, that’s Ducktales Remastered. It’s a true gem of a video game, and one of the best experiences I’ve had playing a game this year. If you have any brand loyalty to Ducktales, or remember the NES game fondly, you’d love it. Go get it. There’s one more positive I forgot to list, and it’s a good one to close the review out on. I hope that whoever it was at Wayforward that came up with this idea got a huge raise.
YOU CAN DIVE INTO THE MOTHERFUCKING MONEY BIN!
HOLY FUCKING SHIT THIS IS THE BEST GAME EVER!