When news was released that a remastered version of the NES classic DuckTales was going to be made, the internet went wild. The nostalgia for this game is almost unprecedented as just the mention of the title will provoke grown men worldwide to start singing the undeniably catchy theme tune. I dare you to listen to that song without humming it for the rest of the day.
However fast forward to now, the game is due to be released yet the previous DuckTales fanatics lay silent. The reason for this became clear as soon as I booted up Remastered, it appears that our rose tinted nostalgia glasses had clouded our judgement. Most awesome games of the past do not always hold up to modern standards and unfortunately DuckTales Remastered is one of them.
It is always difficult to judge an HD remake of a previous game. Do you only judge the quality of the remake and forgo the games fore-comings when compared to modern games of the same genre? Or do you treat it as a new game and review it for newcomers, people who have never even heard of DuckTales? Fortunately in this case I can do both, because DuckTales Remastered will please neither newcomers nor fans of the original. Allow me to explain…
DuckTales Remastered tells the story of Scrooge McDuck, a rich Scottish adventurer in search of treasure. His greed and lust for money sends you across the globe in search of items such as the Lost Crown of Genghis Khan. The story is simple and mostly worthless as it is a thin excuse to travel to different locations and nothing more. Villains are introduced later on but it adds nothing to the game, only as an additional reason to go to another stage and fight another boss, as was standard with platformers back in 1990. There are 6 different levels overall with each having a nice and varied art style, every locale you would expect is present here; the snow stage, the lava stage and the jungle stage just to name a few. The new art is impressive and looks great, the characters look high quality and the animation is simple but effective. The backgrounds however are lacking, and although it looks nice I have to say that it is a bit repetitive. There is a not a lot a variation within each stage and the stage art definitely becomes bland after a while.
The aim of each stage is simple, collect a certain amount of pieces spread throughout the level, the stages are small and mostly linear meaning that most of the time you are traveling in a straight line to your next objective. There are numerous enemies themed to each stage (for example you will be fighting ghosts in Transylvania) and for the most part these enemies are simple and easy to avoid. Scrooge McDuck fortunately has his trusty pogo stick which you can use to bounce on the enemies heads and to destroy blocks to earn money and regain health. At the end of each level is a boss fight, the bosses are visually impressive but unfortunately follow basic patterns and do not put up much of a fight. They do escalate in difficulty towards the end of the game but not to the level at which you could call them challenging.
As almost all enemies are very predictable, it mostly means that the game is not a challenge at all. In fact the game is painfully easy to play. On easy mode you get unlimited lives which means that you can bounce around without a care in the world, breezing past enemies with ease. However, this highlights a huge problem with DuckTales Remastered, when you bump the game up to Medium difficulty the game becomes a frustrating experience and Scrooge can only take a couple of hits with his limited number of lives. When you run out of lives you have to start the whole stage over again. This is similar to the original and I have to commend WayForward for trying to stick to the NES version but today that system does not work. They should have included a ‘NES difficulty’ option in the menu for people who wanted to play like that and made medium something a bit more forgiving. Currently there is no middle ground here and therefore no challenge on easy or annoyingly hard in medium.
This crushing difficulty really highlights another huge problem in the game which is the controls. When life is so precious and hard to come by you expect the controls to be fluid and intuitive. I am sorry to say that this is not the case in DuckTales Remastered, so much so that the bad controls even effect the difficulty of some sections on easy mode. The pogo jump is often unreliable at the most crucial of times and I experienced many occasions where I lost a life when my pogo jump failed to work, leaving me helpless and falling into an abyss. There are numerous sections in the game where rope-climbing is necessary. This is difficult for me to put nicely, so I won’t even attempt to… this game has the worst platforming controls of any game I have ever played. The final level of the game involves a timed platforming section that is the single most frustrating experience I have ever had and the rope-climbing requires incredible precision using controls that are the complete opposite of that.
Thankfully the game is short. You can expect each level to last about 30 minutes (assuming you don’t die at the end and have to start from the beginning again) which means that the game won’t ‘entertain’ you for more than about 3 hours. Although the platforming is highly infuriating and repetitive, there are some sections that are genuinely enjoyable, throughout the game there are mine-cart sections in which you have to duck under obstacles and jump over gaps in the track, this is very reminiscent of the fantastic Donkey Kong Country and provides a welcome break from the normal gameplay. There is a particularly enjoyable boss fight against arch-rival Flintheart Glomgold that takes place on a plane, it involves hitting bombs away whilst bouncing on enemies landing on your plane. This goes to show that there could have been a competent game somewhere in here, but I believe they sacrificed enjoyment and quality over attempting to satisfy previous fans of the original.
One aspect of the game that is good is the music. Although simple and understated, the orchestral themes of each level are nicely done and will quickly ingrain themselves into you consciousness. Of course there is the main them, a classic tune that has unfortunately been tainted by it’s association with this remastered version, however the song itself is still fantastic and the game must be given some brownie points for that.
Between each stage, you can visit you vault and swim through your vast amount of riches or you can use the money you have collected in each level to buy character art, concept sketches and others like that. Once you’ve finished the game there is not much more to do. The replay value is low and there is no reason to revisit the game once again. Considering that the game is three hours long it would have been nice to have had something else in the package, maybe they should have included the original NES version to play as well as that would have justified the price a bit more.
DuckTales Remastered is a kids game at heart, which makes it surprising that they would remaster this game at all for numerous reasons. First off, the kids who enjoyed it back in the day have grown up now and their tastes have changed since they were children, meaning that DuckTales will not be as amazing as they remembered. Secondly, kids today do not know what DuckTales is because the cartoon is barely shown at all on TV. This means that no kid will be nagging their parents to buy them this game. Finally, kids today will not have the patience for this game because videogames have changed. They have become incredibly easy and much less punishing. I do not believe that a child would be able to have fun playing this anymore.
Overall it seems that this game has been made for no-one. The bad platforming and short length makes it an unfulfilling experience that angered me more than it pleasured me. There are moments of brightness hidden within and super-fans of the original may find some enjoyment at the novelty of a remastered version of their favorite NES title but apart from that I have to say that DuckTales Remastered is a universally disappointing game.
DuckTales Remastered releases on August 13th on PSN, Wii U and PC and September 11 on XBLA. Let me know in the comments what you think about the game and your thoughts about DuckTales in the comments below!
This review is based on a digital download copy of the game for XBLA provided by Capcom.