STAFF REVIEW of DuckTales: Remastered (Xbox 360 Arcade)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013.
by Adam Dileva

DuckTales: Remastered Box art There’s a reason kids used to wake up as early as they could on Saturday mornings back in my day, the cartoons that only played on those days. While I used to watch hours of Saturday morning cartoons, one of my favorite and most memorable would have to be DuckTales without a doubt. It had one of the most memorable theme songs ever and I would never miss an episode every week it was on. I was eight years old when the NES video game adaptation of the TV show was released and it was everything you wanted as a kid. It had all the familiar characters, had great gameplay, and was so challenging that even though it wasn’t the longest game out there, you played it constantly. It’s still regarded as one of the best NES titles for the era and easily has one of the best soundtracks to go along with it as well (Moon level song anyone?).

When DuckTales Remastered was originally announced, I couldn’t help but grin as I’d get to revisit one of my fondest games growing up as a kid, as did almost anyone that grew up in that era. Nostalgia is a funny thing though, as it can make you remember the best of something but completely forget the worst parts that accompany it, so I didn’t want to get my hopes up too high, as I wasn’t sure at first if the classic NES game of my childhood would hold up well to this modern era, but more importantly, my fond memories.

I’m happy to report that DuckTales holds up surprisingly well after more than two decades. Sure it’s nothing like modern games these days, but it’s not trying to be, it’s a reminder of how gaming was twenty years ago, and while it may be simple, it worked and put a smile on your face. This HD remake of the classic NES title is more than a simple one-to-one remake as well, as WayForward Technologies, best known for Boy and His Blob (Wii), Double Dragon Neon, and the Mighty Switch Force games, has clearly put their love and devotion into make this the best reimagining it could be. Many things have been tweaked and even new assets other than the new graphics have been done with a great amount of care that will make old and new fans alike enjoy what’s a truly great game. Don’t let the Disney logo and cartoon style fool you though, DuckTales Remastered is a very challenging game, as that’s how games were that came from this era.

It would have been easy to cash in on a simple HD remake without much effort taken, but the level of detail and extras that’s been included with Remastered is very impressive, and I hope other studios that want to do HD remakes and remasters pay attention, as this is how you do it right. Visually you’re going to notice the sharp hand drawn sprites that are animated beautifully, the ORIGINAL voice talent (of the ones whom are still alive), painted backgrounds, a modern take on classic 8-bit music (of which you can choose to play with the classic music if you desire), and tweaked gameplay that fixes some of the issues the game originally had. There are even more improvements and additions like new areas, new boss patterns, and some slight changes to the pacing and gameplay, but all for the better in the end, which I’ll get to shortly.

If you didn’t grow up in the era of the iconic TV show, the gist of DuckTales is that Scrooge McDuck, uncle to Donald Duck, is the richest duck in the world and is often going on adventuring expeditions to hunt for treasure to further his wealth. The NES game had the same premise, as you played Uncle Scrooge searching for treasure, but there really wasn’t much story back in these types of games back then, so you were simply thrown into a location to defeat enemies, then the boss, then finally move on to the next level without much explanation. While the classic game was fantastic, it didn’t have the heart of the show within it, as there was no voice acting or much dialogue to keep you grasped like the show did (though as an 8 year old boy, I didn’t care at the time, as I got to play a game from one of my favorite shows).

Remastered fixes this and adds a new depth and does great fan service to try and not only recreate the classic game that we loved, but to also fuse it with what made the show so memorable as well. This is done simply with the addition of the fully voiced cutscenes, which it should be noted is actually done by the entire original TV show cast, which adds another level of authenticity and brought back so many memories of early Saturday mornings watching Uncle Scrooge go on his adventures. While the original game didn’t have much for story, Remastered’s cutscenes explain why you’re going from area to area and even answers some questions you may have had as a kid playing the original, like why can Scrooge breathe on the Moon level. Not only did WayForward make an updated version of the game great, but they’ve also made Remastered feel like you’re playing an original episode of the cartoon as well, which is no easy feat.

Remastered plays as a sidescroller done in 2.5D, all with hand drawn 2D characters mixed with painted backdrops and 3D modeled levels. Gameplay itself most resembles the classic Mega Man games, though that’s most likely because the Mega Man team was the ones responsible for making the original game. Visually everything looks amazing and as if it’s taken from the TV show itself. Not only were the main characters redrawn, but every enemy and boss as well, some look so good now that they barely resemble their 8-bit counterparts. Visually everything looks impressive, and even the items and chests pop out as they are 3D models in a 2D background. It’s wonderful to see the new artwork given to classic characters and levels.

Gameplay stays true to the original as well, as Scrooge has the ability to jump, pogo jump with his cane, and even smack enemies and rocks with it as well. That’s about it, as you’ll need to use your pogo jump the majority of the time to hop on enemy heads and over dangerous terrain. In the original game, pogo jumping was a pain to do and required some fancy and quick finger work, but now it’s been delegated to a single button which makes things more bearable in an already difficult game. The controls are very tight and I never had a problem controlling Scrooge; the only issue I really had was that it was sometimes difficult to tell where Scrooge was in relation to edges and enemies sometimes because of the sprite artwork.

Bosses were generally a simple affair in the original, as you only needed to jump on their heads a few times and that was it. Surprisingly, all of the bosses in Remastered have been revamped to include new mechanics and patterns that you’ll have to learn, along with taking more hits to defeat. None are too challenging, but some bosses feel like it takes much longer than it should as it doesn’t employ the classic 3 to 5 hit and you win concept. The same goes for the level flow and pacing as well, as changes have been made to force you to explore more of the levels as you now need required objectives to be gathered before you can take on the stages boss. It seems odd and arbitrary at first, but because of the cutscenes, it always explains to you why you need to find all of the pieces. Luckily, you’re given a map on the pause screen that will show you the stages layout and where all of the require objects are in relation, so you’re not just stuck wandering around aimlessly.

I mentioned it before, but I’ll do it again: DuckTales Remastered is difficult, as in 80’s NES gaming difficult. When you’re not playing on Easy mode, as soon as you die three times in a stage there’s no continue screen or anything like that, you need to restart the whole level again. This even goes for bosses, as if you lose your third life during that battle, you’ll need to do the entire stage over again. While we may have become accustomed to continues and I enjoy a challenge here and there, at times this can be infuriating, especially with the final bonus level that took me countless tries to complete.

Other than the aforementioned beautiful graphical overhaul, DuckTales Remastered also contains other differences you’ll notice if you were a fan of the original game. First is the inclusion of a tutorial level at the beginning of the game; set in Scrooge’s money bin it will teach you the basic mechanics and even how to pogo jump properly. As a side note, the original game never really taught you this, and I have a friend that loved and played the original DuckTales game for a long time without even knowing that you could pogo jump, so for those people, this tutorial will be a blessing. There’s also a new level included after the classic levels are complete that replaces the return trip to one of the older levels.

You’re given infinite lives on Easy difficulty and I believe the Normal difficulty mode played much like the original game did. Mrs. Beakley returns hidden in levels, but will give you three food items to refill your health rather than an infinite amount. Certain stages have mini bosses now included and all of the bosses now take more than five hits to defeat. The pogo jump move itself can be used with a single button, or you can toggle off the easier pogo jump if you want a more classic (and frustrating) experience. Money you gather in levels via gems can be used to spend in the gallery to unlock bonus items such as music, concept art, sketches, and more. You’ll also be able to track your stats with the online leaderboard which is a nice touch for those wanting to see how they compare to the rest of the world.

Surprisingly it was revealed that originally the game wasn’t going to have any voice acting, but Disney actually offered to get the original voice actors enlisted so that it could make the game more authentic, and all of the surviving members of the cast still apparently sound exactly as they did twenty years ago, adding to the authenticity. The same goes for the art style, as people that actually worked on the show and Disney were involved to give it that iconic look, which is apparent even from the main menu screen.

The same goes for the game’s music as well, as the 8-bit renditions are among some of my favorites from the era, a new level has been taken to remaster these to sound modern yet classic. You’ll instantly recognize every tune even though it sounds modern, though if you desire you can choose to play with the original 8-bit soundtrack, though the new mixes are quite wonderful as well.

There are a lot of small details that really give DuckTales Remastered a lot of charm and will make you crack a smile if you were an original fan. The one feature that may sound useless on paper but is incredibly fun is the ability to have Scrooge dive into his iconic Money Bin and swim in his riches. It’s a small thing but a huge deal for fans, and between levels I kept finding myself jumping into the bin just because. Multiple playthroughs are supported and suggested, as unlocking all of the bonuses will take some time, but it’s definitely worth it to see how far the game has come from simple sketches and artwork to the final product.

Remastered isn’t going to take you very long to beat, as it’s quite easy to do so in a single sitting, but with the new mechanics and pacing, it does stretch it out conciderably longer than the original. That’s what it needs to be compared to as well, as it’s a remake of a twenty year old NES title and not trying to be a modern dozen-hour experience, which is totally alright with me.

Capcom could have simply slapped on the HD coating and be done with it and call it a day (and I probably still would have bought it), but they didn’t and took the time to truly make the game live up to its Remastered title. I hope the success of DuckTales Remastered prompts Capcom to give the same treatment to some of the other classic Disney NES titles that deserve it like Chip and Dales Rescue Ranger and Darkwing Duck. Xbox 360 users may have to wait until September 11th for Ducktales Remastered, but believe me, the wait will be well worth the trip down memory lane.

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 10.0 / 10


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