When I mention NES we all remember a time when Donkey Kong was king, Mortal Kombat was the greatest fighting game we’ve ever seen and DuckTales was pure fun. Over the next twenty years we’ve seen remakes, reboots and revisions of our beloved 80’s and 90’s classics; some to our horror (Duke Nukem Forever) and some to our surprise (Tomb Raider).
DuckTales was one of the rare Nintendo games based on another property (TV show) that was ridiculously addictive. It also had a rare combination of frustrating difficulty yet hours of pure joyous fun. So when I got the review code for DuckTales: Remastered, I’ll admit I was a little concerned about whether the game would be as good as I remembered. In fact I was downright frightened.
Well…I can report, there is nothing to worry about.
Let me start from the beginning of this momentous occasion. When I started DuckTales Remastered, it hit me – the classic theme song from the TV series was there, but with a slight difference: the soundtrack from the NES game masterfully blended into newer notes. It’s subtle yet it enhances the sound, somehow making the song brighter and just that more sweeter. In fact, if you listen closely to each musical piece, it just sounds more orchestral. However, if you’re a stickler for originality, the game allows players to switch between the new soundtrack and the original 8-bit soundtrack after clearing the game once, which includes 8-bit renditions of the newly added compositions. I quickly recalled the developers discussing how faithful they were to the original during the game’s development. Trust me, they did not disappoint.
As I was busy dancing away in my seat, remembering how life is indeed like a hurricane, I literally stopped in the middle of my “two-step” when I saw the menu screen. DuckTales: Remastered features a 2.5D presentation, with 2D hand-drawn character sprites and 3D modeled levels. Every 2D and 3D color, line and minute detail was crisper – the yellows reminded me of the sun, the reds were like fire, the blues were like the Pacific Ocean. I was in awe with how much attention to details there was in just the start menu. It was like watching the restoration of a Picasso unfold before your very eyes.
…Sorry I lost myself in such artistry. Now back to the good stuff.
Ducktales: Remastered is basically the exact same game played over twenty years ago, just given a face-lift and some filling by expanding the game in all the right places. In fact, the game features full voice acting for the characters, including the surviving members of the original animated series cast, such as Alan Young as Scrooge.
The major difference is that the story is no longer a simple case of retrieving stolen money instead it’s more family based and Scrooge McDuck is actually given a soul which requires him to choose between being money-hungry hoarder or a family man. While each character has an important role in the story what’s more important is that the game features new story elements which explain some of the motives behind each level. For example, 20 years later all of our unanswered questions are finally answered; like how can Scrooge breathe on the moon? Why would anyone want to kidnap Huey, Dewey, and Louie Duck? Even the most baffling questions I had as a child; just why are you fighting an enlarged green rat on the moon and why is there even a rat on the moon?
You’ll also notice two new levels with an introductory level based on Scrooge’s vault and a finale leading up to the last boss set in Mount Vesuvius rather than returning to Transylvania. The new levels blend perfectly well, balancing the game’s difficulty curve by giving players an easier starting stage and a last level that builds on the challenges in the rest of the game. In addition to the new level structure, secondary goals have been added to each of the main five levels, requiring you to collect a number of scattered items before continuing to the level’s finale and boss level. The collection quests drastically change the entire structure of the game. If you remember, the original allows players to dash through its plethora of platforming challenges with some exploration, but always moving toward the level’s boss. Exploration now front and center as players need to go back through certain parts of the level to collect items that will unlock the path ahead.
The game also features almost identical gameplay of the original, with a few gameplay tweaks, such as a map screen and an easier pogo jump, which can be toggled on and off. Trust me, you don’t want to skip the tutorial, after 20 years your pogo jumping will be rusty. I tried being a showoff by playing the game on difficult and skipped the tutorial and quickly gave up after a shoe I threw at my TV in a fit of rage almost caused the TV to fall. It was just that difficult. Also, money gathered in levels can now be used to unlock various gallery items such as concept art and pieces of music.
Just like the original, Remastered is broken into five levels: African Mines, The Amazon, The Himalayas, Transylvania and The Moon. What I loved about the original is that I had the ability to visit the levels in any order and can revisit them in order to access new areas unlocked after collecting certain items; and to my delight this feature hasn’t changed a bit. Like all games each level ends in a boss battle that the player must defeat to retrieve that level’s goal or in this case treasure. There are also two secret treasures hidden within some of the levels but I’ll let you figure out their location (there must be some air of mystery). Also just like the original you’re given random treats (ice cream and cake) to restore your health.
For those who like creative originality with a side of awesome, the five levels you’ll be playing are vastly different from each other and range from fascinating to frustrating to head scratching. Your enemies will mainly come at you at random according to the difficulty level you use. So expect adorable cute but deadly little bunnies to the infamous Magica De Spell who is neither cute nor adorable. While I can go on and on about my love of the game…breathe…I’ll just focus on my two favorite levels, which are The Amazon and The African mines.
My love for The Amazon is pretty simple. The HD beauty truly shines on this level and is downright breathtaking. Remember the Picasso imagery? Take that and times it by ten. It’s really hard for me to describe aside from saying it looks like a 3D environment; every color is eye-popping. Since you’re in The Amazon, expect to encounter Amazonian enemies along with being distracted by both the artistry and an assortment of jungle animals and wildlife. While they are generally easy to kill like an extremely lazy snake, the duck-eating plant will make you want to go all Call of Duty. Even if Scrooge was able to whip out a custom made shotgun, these creatures just won’t die; like the Final Fantasy franchise. What I appreciate the most about this level is that it’s broken into three separate parts, in case you get bored with one section, you can simply just navigate your way to another section with entirely different enemies and challenges.
My other favorite level is The African Mines, if you remember this is where the Giant Diamond of Inner-Earth awaits. Scrooge McDuck heads there to see how things are going with his mining team, but they’re simultaneously scared off by ghosts deep within its ruins and run over Scrooge a la The Lion King stampede. Unlike The Amazon, The African Mines are less colorful and unless you like different variations of brown, visually it’s rather boring. However, what it lacks in color palette it makes up for in enemies and the challenges you’ll face, including the return of the oh-so-fun mining carts.
Unlike the lazy snake from the Amazon, the bats are the complete opposite. They actually do something like random Kamikaze dives evoking a feeling of being trapped inside Hitchcock’s The Birds. While all enemies you’ll simply kill there are some you need to help you along your journey. I got a thrill out of the sea monster ducks, which jump out of the water like The Little Mermaid minus the Part of Your World number; you’ll require their help to reach a part of the stage where there are no platforms.
I also like to refer to this level as the Indiana Jones stage; for most exciting part of the entire game is at some points of this stage, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into an Indiana Jones movie as a rolling boulder will come charging towards you, which will require you to run and pogo jump as fast as you can until you’ll reach safety. All that was missing from this stage was a whip and a satchel.
Overall, this game is incredible, just simply a well-constructed gorgeous upgrade. It feels familiar but the expansions make this game fresh and original. Despite my shoe throwing and frustrations mastering the pogo, once I got the hang of it I fell in love and didn’t want to stop playing. However, I will admit at times the game can be repetitive with all the jumping, since aside from running this is mainly the only move you’re allowed to do.
On the plus side, since the game is made for younger audiences the gameplay is not very long, finding the perfect balance. Compared to the games of today, some players will have problems with its simplistically; there’s no action-pack sequences or gun-blazing moments–sorry Scrooge doesn’t master the art of Kung-Fu. However, this is a great companion piece to the original and for those too young to know of the original this game is a great reminder that sometimes the true beauty of a game is simply good-clean fun.