Some classics can’t stand the test of time. As new technology comes along, developers can build on the established formulas of yesteryear and build a more advanced, content-packed product. For example, many first-person shooters of the last millenium are awkward to control and feature sub-par looks by today’s standards. The things we love age, and some don’t look so good a few decades later.
Luckily for you NES lovers, DuckTales is not one of those games. The 8-bit title has garnered a cult following over the years. Its combination of terrific atmosphere, unique gameplay, and overall fun stands as a gaming legend to this day. It’s a joy to play.
However, the younger generations like me don’t always have access to a Nintendo Entertainment System. It’s a hassle to play the game, and there has been no Virtual Console release. Then there’s also fans of the original who want a continuation of the series, but only received a mediocre sequel. Many thought we’d never see the franchise again, as DuckTales is a licensing
It’s simply amazing to see DuckTales return in the form of DuckTales: Remastered, a version of the NES classic that has been… well… remastered! The entire game has been given a facelift for the modern day, giving it a new look, but maintaining the same feeling of the original.
Let’s begin with my favorite part of Remastered: the soundtrack. Jake Kaufman’s work in the game is gorgeous. It combines the 8-bit tunes of the original game with modern video game music tech, creating some of the best remixes in retro-revival history. Every track emanates the fun spirit of DuckTales. The work on display is a perfect combination of the old and the new, which is what WayForward is best known for. It represents the game’s goal to modernize an old classic perfectly.
Game developers are able to create more detailed worlds today, and WayForward does not miss that opportunity. Although the lovely 8-bit sprites are gone, they’ve been replaced my gorgeous new designs. Taking a gander at the detailed backgrounds is also a joy. Everything looks beautiful, from the surface of the moon to the figure of a gorilla.
However, the updated appearance goes far beyond making the game look pretty. WayForward set out to replicate the tone of the original cartoon, and I must say they’ve nailed the presentation. From the beautiful characters to the hilarious dialogue, I felt like I was back in Duckburg.
The great script does have its cons though. Watching the banter between Scrooge McDuck and Launchpad made me chuckle, but it happens a lot. Cutscenes pop up far too often in the game, making what should be a fun scene an annoying occurrence. The story is intrusive and breaks up the action, despite how fun it is. Yes, it’s entertaining to watch Huey, Dewey, and Louie fall into a boobytrap, but it can get old, especially if you’re playing a level for a second time.
In particular, the Amazon area requires Mr. McDee to collect various hidden coins. Grabbing one of these treasures triggers a lengthy cutscene. They are charming, but there’s tons of them and they’re only seconds apart. It’s not a good thing if watching a cutscene takes longer than getting to it. For some players, watching the interactions between characters will be a highlight, but I wanted to get back to the fun adventure. Luckily, cutscenes can be skipped with the press of two buttons. Their common appearances can get annoying though. I would’ve loved a mode with no cutscenes a la the original DuckTales.
In addition, the cutscenes lack a sense of polish. Scrooge puts on a frustrated posture when he speaks to Launchpad, but when he’s done talking he returns to a neutral position as his pilot speaks. Characters don’t act like themselves when they aren’t speaking. They have no reactions until it’s their turn to talk. This issue took me out of the moment.
This doesn’t mean the cutscenes are bad. They’re actually quite enjoyable. The writing is hilarious and the cast of characters is fun. Best of all, listening to the voice actors of the original cartoon series is simply amazing. Watching any actor return to a role after thirty years is a feat not often seen.
Of course, there’s more to a retro-revival than the presentation. The gameplay of the NES DuckTales is amazing, and it holds up in this remake. Remastered controls the exact same way the original DuckTales did. Bounce on your cane, hit some cans, use treasure chests as stepping stones. Everything’s here the way it was before. However, there have been a few changes for the better. For example, the player can toggle between a traditional pogo control scheme, or a new one. The updated, default version allows you to keep bouncing on your cane by simply holding a button, while the other option requires the use of the D-pad, replicating the original NES title’s controls. It’s a small yet great feature, allowing younger players to experience the game in a simpler style and letting fans of the original play DuckTales the way it was first designed.
Another thing that has been changed for the better is the game’s boss battles. The NES original had fairly simplistic end-level challengers, resorting to simple “wait for an opening, bounce on the head” tactics. There wasn’t much complexity, but now that’s changed. The bosses come with new moves, creating different tactics to work around. My personal favorite was the Yeti. He’s gigantic this time around.
Of course, some things were left unchanged, and that’s usually a good thing. Don’t fix what ain’t broke, right? Well one component is frustrating: the game over sequence. If you lose all your lives in a level of DuckTales: Remastered, you are sent back to Duckburg with nothing and are required to start the level over from the beginning. One could blame this on players “being used to easier games,” but it goes beyond that. It was frustrating to lose all of my lives on a difficult boss battle, as that meant that my past forty minutes with the game meant zilch. Being able to bring back the money I found on that failed level would be enough to make me feel rewarded for my efforts. Instead, all I got was a dose of frustration.
The game also includes a heaping lot of unlockables to put all of Scrooge’s dough to use. From character artwork to music, this vault covers all the bases but offers nothing special. Just the standard stuff. In other words, it’s a nice distraction.
WayForward took a few missteps while recreating an NES classic. Although a few of these slip-ups hold back the title from achieving the great heights set by the original DuckTales, Remastered lives up to the franchise’s name. I can think of no better developer to build on the DuckTales universe than WayForward. If you watched the original cartoon or played the NES game, downloading the game is a no-brainer. For the rest of us who missed the era of race cars, lasers, and airplanes, DuckTales: Remastered stands as a flawed, but extremely charming platformer, with personality and precision to boot.
Modernized Looks and Sounds, Returning Voice Actors, Oxy-chew
Intrusive Cutscenes, Unforgiving Game Over