For many, Capcom’s DuckTales on the NES is the quintessential example of platforming perfection during the late ’80s and early ’90s. Next to Mario and Sonic, you’d be hard pressed to find something as rewarding as Scrooge McDuck’s treasure-hunting adventure. As well as being a solid title in its own right, the game was one of the first to subvert the now-common notion that licensed titles are doomed to failure from the start. It’s fitting, then, that developer Wayforward opted to take Scrooge’s celebrated game debut and give it a fresh coat of high-definition paint, full voice acting, and ample fan service for modern game consoles.
In case you’re too young to remember the TV series DuckTales, two things: first, I feel sorry for you, so get yourself over to YouTube and watch a few episodes and see why those of us on the wrong side of 25 worshiped at Scrooge’s altar. Second, the only thing you need to know is that DuckTales: Remastered honors its cartoon cousin such that folks like me, who grew up watching the show, immediately turn into giggling 10-year-olds at the very mention of Scrooge and Co.’s globe-trotting exploits. This is nostalgic bliss, pure and simple. Oh, and it also happens that Remastered is actually a bloody good game, too.
DuckTales: Remastered utilizes all the staples of the NES original, but isn’t afraid to tweak things here and there. The polished platforming paradigm laid down by McDuck’s 8-bit romp is strikingly evident from the get-go, but long-time fans will nod sagaciously at areas that have been expanded or otherwise switched up for PlayStation Network. Wayforward uses the original game’s five-stage layout as a blueprint for the action, so expect to visit Amazon, Transylvania, African Mines, the Himalayas, and The Moon in the hunt for lost artifacts. While the overall objective is to pogo-stick your way to the end of each stage to face off with the level’s Big Bad Boss, the action is pleasingly non-linear.
Typically, players will have to fetch a few key items in each stage, requiring you to hunt up, down, left, and right to progress. Areas have multiple levels to explore for treasures and bonus items–increasing Scrooge’s wealth and health–and hidden pathways reveal ample diamond hordes to gobble up. The incentive for exploring every nook and cranny is stirring as ever, and the rewards are well worth it–I found myself spending ages smacking open coffins in Dracula’s castle and poking around in mine carts in Africa to fill Scrooge’s already-minted pockets.
Scrooge’s trusty cane is an intrinsic part of his very being, both from an aesthetic and mechanical point of view. You’ll use it to bonk baddies on the head, leap to higher places, and whack objects out of the way. Controls are simple, with players limited to just the D-pad/analogue stick to steer Scrooge, X to jump, and Square to activate his cane in mid-air. Scrooge may not be Mario in terms of control, but Remastered’s platforming segments are nonetheless a joy to experience. Meticulous timing is often required to navigate gaping chasms and leap from climbable ropes and chains, with one false move meaning a one-way trip to the abyss for McDuck. It’s tough–the original was a notoriously tricky bugger–but never to the point of frustratingly unfair.
Every successful pogo jump feels satisfying, and seeing Scrooge effortlessly bonk enemies on the head while using it as momentum to cross a huge gap will fill you with smug satisfaction. Still, there’s a few gripes to be had. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you are meant to use Scrooge’s rudimentary jump or pogo stick to traverse, and blind guesses can lead to you losing a life. Expect splashes of trial-and-error to creep in now and then, but overall these niggles are inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. Speaking of lives, Wayforward is pretty stingy; the Richest Duck in the World has two attempts by default, and although you can acquire more, they are few and far between.
Furthermore, if you lose all your lives, it’s straight back to Scrooge’s Money Bin (aka the game’s main hub) to start again. The fact stages are pretty damn short (10 minutes or less depending on your exploration) is a double-edged sword. On one hand, their length helps to alleviate any frustration in having to replay stages from the start and makes for quick, bite-sized sessions. But on the flip side the game is woefully short. Enemies are the typical bunch of misfits, ranging from giant spiders and slugs to moon-bound monstrosities, though sadly the developers didn’t see fit to improve upon the original’s lack of a diverse bestiary. Bosses are superb, though, having received an extensive overhaul in terms of getting new attack patterns and unique personalities (Magica de Spell is a particular highlight), doing well to keep you on your toes. I’m not afraid to admit I lost plenty of lives to these white-knuckle encounters.
Pleasingly, Wayforward has seen fit to add a plethora of extra content. All those diamonds Scrooge collects in each level don’t just sit around in his Money Bin; they can be used to purchase anything from concept art, character renders, and background drawings to music and much more, all satisfying your inner child. It’s quality stuff, and a great reason to make sure you bring back as many riches to Duckberg as you can carry. Beyond that, if you fancy tackling the higher difficulty, then you can crank things up to NES-era toughness, though don’t blame me if you end up pulling your hair out. I played on Normal, and found the game to be perfectly balanced in terms of a challenge without crossing into the realm of hair-pulling fury.
Visually, the game is an absolute dream, especially for fans of the show and original game. Scrooge, Huey, Dewey, Louie and Co. are sumptuously rendered–for all intents and purposes you may as well be playing an episode of the cartoon. The locations are equally well-realized, from the lush jungles of the Amazon to the moody lighting of Dracula’s castle in Transylvania. Aurally, things have really taken a step up. Voice acting is introduced, with much of the original cast reprising their roles–including the 93-year-old Alan Young, who voices Scrooge McDuck. Sure, the addition of dialogue was never needed to propel DuckTales along, but it’s a welcome addition, and fans will lap it up. For everyone else, it’s still an amusing addition that helps punctuate the action and shower you in some childhood nonsense. Oh, and the music: yes, the Moon stage sounds as awesome as you remember, and yes the remixes will still have you humming these iconic tunes for weeks to come. Rest assured, justice has been done.
Overall, DuckTales Remastered is a brilliant re-imagining of the original NES game, and for fans, it is an absolute must-have. It’s tough, entertaining, and addictive, with enough content to keep you plugging away at fattening up Scrooge’s wallet. Sure, it’s not innovative in the least, and sadly not the longest game on the planet, but for DuckTales fans and those who just love old-school platforming, Scrooge and the boys should be right up your street. Ah-woo-oo!