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DuckTales Remastered Review: Tales of Derring-Do
Nostalgia is a valuable thing. It carries such a great weight, especially when it is built out of one’s youth. The best examples, those that we remember most fondly, are forever etched in our minds. For many, the late 1980’s hold many nostalgias, especially in animated television and video game history. DuckTales, a high-quality program created by Disney featuring Scrooge McDuck and his young nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie, is one that is remembered favorably by critics and fans alike. Taking a playful approach to the treasure-hunting, adventure-seeking heroics of Indiana Jones and other popular figures, DuckTales features an assorted cast of characters–a crotchety billionaire, three young boys, an incompetent pilot, and so on–and puts them on the quest for treasure. The motivations in DuckTales were never high-minded, instead solely aiming to grow and protect Scrooge’s fortune, while helping others was generally an afterthought. The result was a show that was pure fun, but interesting in its use of unusual heroes. Due to the popularity of DuckTales, Capcom and Disney produced a video game in 1989.
The DuckTales game, released on the NES, is arguably one of the best in the NES library, featuring open, non-linear level design and a brilliant soundtrack. The goal of the game is to collect invaluable pieces of treasure from various locations across the globe, much like DuckTales the animated series depicts. The endless possibilities in DuckTales as a show translate perfectly to the video game format, and each level is vastly different than the last. DuckTales also features one of the better soundtracks in the NES library, memorable 8-bit tunes that many can recall even today.
So, when it was announced that DuckTales was being remastered by WayForward Technologies, given a new look and updated sound, the excitement from gaming enthusiasts was easy to see. And, now that the game has been released, that excitement is justified. DuckTales Remastered is brilliant fun.
DuckTales Remastered opens with a heist on Scrooge’s fortune. The Beagle Boys have broken into Scrooge’s vault, up to their old tricks. It becomes immediately clear during this prologue that DuckTales Remastered is not a reimagining in any real way. The prologue, a new section of the game, clearly exists to teach new players game mechanics and posture the events of the rest of the game. It serves no real narrative purpose, and impacts little of the game. Anyone expecting a largely different, rebooted DuckTales is bound to be disappointed. However, if these expectations are set aside, the prologue is clearly exciting, showing DuckTales Remastered hitting its stride early, proving full of the same life and adventure as the original series.
DuckTales Remastered features a full-scale audio and visual upgrade, significantly updating the game but changing little to the level design or gameplay itself. The original soundtrack, which is essential to the experience of the original DuckTales game, is remastered to sound more modern. The result is quite excellent and each track reflects the level it is meant for perfectly. The Moon theme is an obvious standout, though none of the songs can be considered less than great.
The other aspect of the audio design that has been upgraded is the inclusion of voice acting. Thankfully, DuckTales Remastered flaunts the original voice cast of the animated series, and each voice brings with it the humor and adventure that made the animated series so lively. Scrooge is hilarious, and it is a joy to hear his commentary on the events of the game. Each character in DuckTales Remastered is lovingly acted, capitalizing on the nostalgia effect that each voice carries with it.
The other significant upgrade in DuckTales Remastered is its visuals. The game is alive with intricate character animations and vivid environments. It looks beautiful, much in the same way the animated series does, and every level is brimming with Disney’s animated charm. WayForward has done a brilliant job in bringing every level to life, and each character moves and reacts to the levels in appropriate ways.
DuckTales Remastered does maintain the same gameplay as the original game. Scrooge explores open environments, using his cane as a pogo stick to attack enemies and reach hidden areas. While traversing each level, Scrooge is given three lives, and can collect diamonds of differing value to achieve a higher score and a better ending. DuckTales Remastered feels a little different than the original game, with small changes to the physics. Jumping and pogoing feel lighter, and perhaps a tad less tight, but not enough to impact the game in a negative way. The game still maintains the same general difficulty despite the difference in physics, and DuckTales Remastered also includes the option to make pogoing easier, which can help newcomers. The game is challenging in the same manner as the original DuckTales game. Because lives are limited in DuckTales Remastered, the occasional death at the end of a level or boss fight means a level will be replayed entirely. This may be irritating to those raised on autosave systems, but this is commonplace in many of the old-style platformers that DuckTales Remastered emulates.
The story in DuckTales Remeastered, given through the voice acting exclusively, serves to justify why the locations in the game are visited. The scenes reference and resemble old DuckTales dialogue and add little to the game aside from a certain amount of charm. Ultimately, these segments are fun, though intrusive if playing a level through more than once. Thankfully, story segments are skippable if you choose to play a level again.
Ultimately, DuckTales Remastered is not a remake or reimagining. It features a new prologue and a new ending, but it remains, by and large, the same game as the original DuckTales. There are minor changes that do make the game less challenging, but they can be turned off for those looking for a classic-style challenge. The vital aspect of DuckTales Remastered, the audio and visual upgrades, are the true highlights here, bringing the original game to life with lovingly rendered sound and animation.