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Disney DuckTales Remastered (video game review)

Review by PJ Hruschak

Reviving old properties is an effective way to try and cash in on nostalgia. Case-in-point is Capcom’s recent release of DuckTales Remastered, a modern-day makeover given to a late-1980s game based on the popular animated television series.

OLD IS NEW AGAIN

The original, simply titled DuckTales, was a virtual masterpiece of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) era. It included relatively innovative design elements including (semi) non-linear gameplay and multiple endings based on your stats. It was also able to escape the curse of licensed products in that it was actually an enjoyable experience while being faithful to Disney. (Unheard of, I know.)

A look at the classic game.

When we hear something has been “remastered,” that typically means original elements were re-recorded – often visual and/or audio – to give the purest, closest to the original experience possible, fixing issues that crept into the version consumers experiences.

For video games, however, remastering really means replacing, re-doing or otherwise recreating with more modern techniques. Often this means simply adding polygons and rendering things out at a higher resolution (and maybe adding some sound effect and a better compression algorithm for the audio).

For DuckTales Remastered, however, Capcom, has taken a much, much more aggressive approach.

DUCKTALES, WAH-OOOOH-OOH

In DuckTales Remastered, Scrooge McDuck and his ducky nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie, embark on a world-wide quest to gather five legendary treasures and increase his already insanely massive fortune.

Scrooge and his nephews, remastered

As with the original game, you play as Scrooge who walks, swats stuff and uses his cane as a super pogo stick of sorts, allowing him to hop over otherwise dangerous areas.

As with classic games, you jump on opponents’ heads to take them out.  They’ll often drop jewels, health regen or simply offer an extra bounce to help reach those particularly hard-to-reach platforms.
 
Some of the in-game quests include saving other Duckburg characters, collecting items to unlock areas and defeating various level Bosses. You’ll also see plenty of Duckburg’s friendlies including Gyro Gearloose, Webbigail, Mrs. Bentinsa Beakley, Duckworth the Butler, Fenton Crackshell (a.k.a. Gizmoduck or RoboDuck) and, yes, Launchpad. Most are also expertly voiced by their original TV voice actors.

Also like the original game, you have one set of lives and then you are put back at the menu area (in this case a room) where you have to re-select a location to explore: African Mines, Amazon, Himalayas, Transylvania and the Moon. You can explore them in any order but you have to return to Transylvania for a final Boss battle.

NOSTALGIA NEVER LOOKED/SOUNDED SO GOOD

Instead of simply re-rendering everything, they’ve given the game all new hand-drawn art, a new score, new backgrounds and added TV cast voiceovers, a longer and more detailed overarching story and revamped Boss patterns.

Although the sprites all remain 2D, many elements include 3D models, including the vehicles that take you from Duckburg to your destination (flown by Launchpad, of course). This creates a bit of a visual discord, especially when the characters look so nice and are poorly plopped in on a poorly rendered plane or ship. Even so, the 3D backgrounds add new and pleasant visual depth.

All the Disney characters look great. They have all the charm you’d expect from the Mouse House exemplified by several poses that help keep things active. They do have breathing/standing loops that can be a bit goofy at times and Scrooge sometimes takes an awkward pose with his cane. Even so, they are always fun to watch. (Keep an eye on the loading sprites as well. Very fun.)

The new score feels like it was pulled right from the television series, which is an excellent touch.

Obviously, not having to rely on the 8-bit game system meant they could make it a bit more orchestral. After you finish the game you are able to unlock the original soundtrack as well.
As you collect money throughout the game not only do you fill Scrooge’s Money Bin (which you can dive in for fun) but you can also use it to unlock extras including Remastered concept art.

GAMEPLAY, HOWEVER…

When it comes to gameplay, the original was not a rousing bout of difficult thumbusting. It was made for the young audience who enjoyed the series and could be completed in a day. Remastered, however, is targeting those same gamers, so the difficulty has been likewise ramped up.

Read: Do not plan on being able to finish the game on your first or second sitting.

Opponents are more difficult, there are more secret areas and the game generally takes longer to complete. They’ve even changed the Boss patterns – they are less pattern-y – and beefed up the physical size of pretty much all opponents to make it harder to time jumps or ducking.

Hopping around on Scrooge’s cane is a giddy joy early in the game. Later, especially as you get into deeper caverns, the height and timing becomes a bit of an issue, making it nearly impossible to grab some ropes, jump between small spaces or clear larger opponents. There are also some wonky gold chest drops that can make an area impassible, meaning  you either need to restart the game or sacrifice Scrooge to try again. Sure, those are both very old school game elements but the bad chest drops really just feel like a design issue.

Also, when you lose all your lives, you are forced back to Scrooge’s Money Bin where you must reselect a level (there’s no mid-level Save File here) and either re-watch or skip the cinematics. That’s would not normally be so bad except that each one area includes at least three mini movies to skip. It unnecessary tedium that could have easily been avoided. The cinematics are enjoyable in terms of the art, acting and even the cheesy writing but having to watch them more than a dozen times is not.

TAKE US AWAY, LAUNCHPAD!

DuckTales Remastered will force you to dig through your inner attic to rediscover those powers of timing you had perfected with your original Nintendo game system.

The ramped up difficulty, additional hidden areas, tweaked Bosses and beefier character sizes help make Remastered a worthwhile challenge for older gamers. Their kids might not be quite as satisfied but the story and overall cuteness of the characters will keep them engrossed as long as they can avoid becoming overly frustrated.

Nearly all of the new elements will make any DuckTales fan happy but the voice acting, new score and hand-drawn art will make this a must-own for all Disney fans. (75/100)

END NOTE:

I reviewed the Xbox 360 version of Ducktales Remastered using the standard Xbox 360 controller, which uses the left thumbstick or D-pad to control Scrooge. While a more modern device, the Xbox 360 controller proved a bit bulky at time while trying to perform precise jumps and rope grabs. I was aching for the original NES controller after about an hour.

I’d suggest playing either with an older style controller that does not include unnecessary buttons or simply avoiding the thumbstick.

                                                DuckTales Remastered is available now!

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