By: Mike Chen
DuckTales is often remembered by children of the 1980s and 1990s for a number of things, among them the ridiculously catchy theme song and the beloved NES game. While many NES games don’t stand up to the test of time, DuckTales is remains popular in the ROM community and the announcement of DuckTales Remastered was pretty universally met with applause. Now that it’s available, is it worth a swim through Scrooge McDuck’s money bin? Let’s take a closer look.
One of the reasons why DuckTales stood out during its NES heyday was due to its fantastic controls. They’re exactly what was needed for a successful platform game: simple, crisp, and responsive without feeling too light. The HD remaster replicates this exactly, and really, you’ll only need to get to know two buttons — one to jump and one to use Scrooge’s cane.
When you use Scrooge’s cane during a jump, he’ll angle it below him and add in the ability to pogo off of it. This works for defeating enemies or bouncing off objects to get to higher ground (sometimes this is used in conjunction). The other way Scrooge can use his cane is to golf blocks or other objects to attack enemies or hit triggers.
DuckTales is essentially a re-skin of the original 8-bit game. While once we had sprite-based graphics and chiptune music, everything has been modernized with clean, bright cel-shaded art and nostalgia-inducing voiceovers. For what it is, there’s really not much more you can ask, though as a standalone package, DuckTales doesn’t necessarily break any new ground.
Next to its controls, DuckTales was originally known for creative and well-paced platforming. Since the game has essentially been recreated in its entirety (except for a few expanded or reorganized sections), much of this stays the same. There aren’t a bunch of new levels, though, and this exposes the gap between an NES-era game and modern game values.
By today’s standards, DuckTales is relatively short: one prologue level and a number of location-based levels selected from a hub before winding things down. Platform games of the NES era found longevity based on difficulty and mastering levels rather than lengthy exploration, so theoretically one could speedrun through a game like this in about an hour. That may not be considered appropriate bang for the buck in today’s era, and other than a few bonus features, there’s not much to DuckTales‘ package outside of the original game.
The difficulty level presents a bit of a paradox — set it to the ease-of-use expected by today’s standards and you’ll be through the game in no time. Set it to old-school NES difficulty and many gamers will be cursing their screens. As this is a remake, it’s important to keep that context as the bar for expectations.
2D platforming is its own niche audience, one that has been catered to by indie and downloadable games. For those that loved NES classics, DuckTales Remastered is a beautiful romp through memory lane. Younger fans of platformers will still appreciate the inventive controls and level design, though the difficulty and overall brevity of the game may seem unfamiliar.