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DuckTales: Remastered

Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: WayForward
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Platformer (2D)

Graphics & Sound:

Nostalgia has a way of clouding our judgment. All of the sepia tones, dated technology, and fond memories contribute to that slightly painful yearning for a simpler time. I do have a history with DuckTales on the NES. Capcom's 1989 platformer is regarded as a genuine classic; a singularly well-made game that holds up pretty well today, thanks to its engaging mechanics and abundance of charm. What you need to know before diving into WayForward's DuckTales: Remastered is that this new game is not a reboot. It is essentially the same game, only with an improved presentation and an extra level. This won't fly for some people. However, this is clearly a labor of love; this entire franchise has been dormant for far too long, and it's time for it to come back. Anyone who recognizes this should have no trouble supporting this game.

DuckTales Remastered is not held back by hardware; rather, it is empowered by it. The original NES release had more than its share of retro appeal, but on current hardware, the developers are able to bring the fuzzy, feathery charm of the cartoon series to life. Favorite characters regularly appear, from Launchpad, Gyro, Fenton/Gizmoduck, and the ever-adorable Bubba the Cave Duck. Villains such as Magica de Spell, Flintheart Glomgold, and the Beagle Boys also make their requisite appearances. All of it is wonderfully faithful to the show. This is rounded out by a nice contrast between the two-dimensional characters and the three-dimensional environments.

The original DuckTales benefited hugely from Capcom's predilection for incredible 8-bit soundtracks. I don't know a single soul who doesn't remember the NES game for the music featured in the Moon level. WayForward clearly knows that the soundtrack is near and dear to the hearts of longtime gamers, and have come up with a soundtrack that effectively modernizes the original work without ruining it. I'll put it to you this way: the Transylvania music actually features "wub wub." What's more shocking is that ::gasp:: it actually WORKS. In keeping with their respectful approach to everyone's childhood, the developers have brought back a handful of DuckTales alumni, some of whom are in their early and mid-90s. Alan Young makes a winsome return as the kindhearted Uncle Scrooge, while Russi Taylor reprises her roles as Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Webby. Even June Foray returns to take one last turn as Magica de Spell, though her slurred delivery is kind of a sad reminder of what once was.


Gameplay:

DuckTales: Remastered doesn't waste any of the talent that the developers obviously worked tirelessly to procure, so that means a script has been written for a game that originally had no use for one. After a failed attack on Scrooge's vault by the dastardly Beagle Boys, Scrooge McDuck finds himself in the possession of a map that details the locations of five special treasures hidden across the world: The Sceptre of the Incan King, the Coin of the Lost Realm, the Giant Diamond of the Inner-Earth, the Lost Crown of Genghis Khan, and the Green Cheese of Longevity. So yes, fans of the original game know that the locations you'll travel to include the Amazon, Transylvania, African Mines, The Himalayas, and The Moon. There's also a new prologue level and a new final level, though they don't hold up alongside the classics.

DuckTales: Remastered puts you in control of Scrooge as he adventures across the globe in search of the treasures. It's a very simple platformer; you run, you jump, you attack. That's literally it. Of course, you'll want to explore every nook and cranny in each of the levels; not only are there gems to collect, but there are hidden heart containers in each level, as well as special Mrs. Beakley rooms, where you'll be restored to full health and get an extra life while you're at it.

There are a few watercooler moments on your trek across and beyond the planet; many of them include mine cart rides or lifts from Scrooge's reliably unreliable pilot Launchpad. But the gameplay structure is generally pretty standard. The changes that have been made feel more like padding than anything else, but since they essentially force the player into exploring each level to the fullest, it's okay. Some story contrivance will see Scrooge separated from his nephews or shatter an integral part of Launchpad's plane into three pieces. Its inoffensive, but speed demons will definitely be turned off by it.


Difficulty:

DuckTales: Remastered can be anything from harmless to punishing. Sometimes it is incredibly easy, but one-hit kills can and will happen, whether you find yourself plunging into a pit or on the business end of a giant boulder. The easier parts have you hopping around in a kind of rhythmic bliss, but more difficult parts have you mixing up your pogos and regular jumps. This is most apparent in the newest (and final) level. It's a rough stage that takes you through a good five minutes of simple platforming only to dump you into a boss fight, followed by a climbing sprint that is very easy to mess up.

None of this would be a problem if the game hadn't stuck so stubbornly to its retro roots. When you start a level, you are given three lives. No more, no less. Sure, finding Mrs. Beakley in each level will earn you another life, but it doesn't really mean anything when you have to repeat long stretches of simple gameplay that are punctuated by tough segments with infinitesimal margins of error. Once you lose your lives, you're kicked back to the level select. Ouch.


Game Mechanics:

Remember, DuckTales: Remastered isn't a reboot; it's a 1989 game with a fresh coat of paint and a few new levels. So we're talking about a game that only makes use of a movement input and two buttons. This is a simple platformer with one main mechanic that happens to carry the entire game. Of course, I'm referring to Scrooge's cane, which doubles as both a pogo stick and a golf club. By holding down a button in midair, Scrooge can catapult himself higher and bash enemies over the head. You've got quite a bit of control over him as he does this; releasing the pogo button will stop his upward movement in case you need to avoid any hazards above him. As far as that other function goes, Scrooge can bat rocks and other detritus into enemies or out-of-reach treasure chests. Save for some shimmying up ropes, that's all you need to know about the actual mechanics.

There's more to gameplay than simply getting from one end of the stage to the other. As you explore, you will find gemstones, either dropped by enemies, buried in rocks, or invisible to the eye. Yes, this takes us back to the days of Pitfall where certain pickups only became visible when you touched the general area. In the NES game, gemstones were only good for increasing your score. In Remastered, they're the currency you use to purchase unlockable artwork and music. This invites replays where otherwise, you'd probably be done with it after your first playthrough.

I'm glad WayForward has their hands on this IP. They're clearly the right people to have it, due to their reverence for old-school sensibilities. However, DuckTales: Remastered might be a little bit too old-school for many. I'd love to see a new DuckTales game of the same style, only with some fresh mechanics to get more use out of the modern controller, which can do a lot more than the NES one could. Still, this is an engaging throwback that is at least worth a look. And hey, you can take a swim in Scrooge's money. That alone makes it worth it in my book.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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