By Leo Stevenson
Like getting together with friends and endlessly quoting The Simpsons, remembering the first time you played Super Mario Bros or the first time you ever saw Star Wars, DuckTales on NES is a virtual goldmine of nostalgia.
There's not a beat of gameplay or a note of music in the original that isn't etched into my memory. The sound of Scrooge's cane. The way he moved across the screen. The satisfying chime of collecting gems and that appetising looking ice-cream cone. It all added up up to something ethereal. An experience regarded so highly, remembered so closely that anything attempting to compare would invariably fall short. We've seen remakes time and time again. They're serviceable, fun even, but they never lived up to the original. Until now that is.
DuckTales Remastered is a labour of love. It's very much apparent while playing that the creators loved the original just as much -- maybe even more -- than I did. Every nuance of the original is lovingly preserved, whilst new life is gently inserted. A brand new narrative cleverly wraps around the loose collection of levels previously present and delivers a charming -- and very DuckTales -- "tale."
Scrooge is on a quest to find five lost treasures and further cement his place as the richest duck in the world. Not Oscar winning stuff, but definitely right in the wheelhouse of the DuckTales cartoon. It's fun, funny and light and gives purpose to the quest. The whole DuckTales gang get in on the act too and with new voice acting -- featuring the original cast -- the game comes to life more than ever.
When I was a young boy, video games were a way for me to control the cartoons I loved to watch. Now, with the power of current generation consoles that, is an actual reality. The artwork and animation in DuckTales Remastered is nothing short of phenomenal. Presented in a 2.5D style, the characters and enemies are indistinguishable from their celluloid counterparts. Scrooge, Launchpad, Huey, Dewey and Louie and the rest of the DuckTales cast are so perfectly recreated in Remastered that it's almost unfair to compare it to the original.
When something like DuckTales Remastered comes along it's a good time to stop, take a breath and reflect on the past 20 years of gaming and actually realise how far this wondrous past time has come. For all the photo-realism, rag doll physics and AI of the past few years it's telling that something as simple as DuckTales remains as fun as it was the day it was released.
DuckTales gameplay is completely unchanged. Preserved might be a better word in fact. DuckTales was considered innovative in its day for its non-linear levels, simple yet versatile gameplay and adherence to the source material. The same is true today. Despite being over 20 years old DuckTales remains one of the most innovative, challenging and fun platformers, or better yet, games I have ever played.
The levels may be a little shorter than we're used to and it may be a lot harder, but once you get in the DuckTales groove, you'll be hooked. Jumping and pressing Y -- on Wii U, X on Xbox 360 and Square on PS3 -- will activate Scrooge's pogo stick. Pressing the same button while standing up against an object will make Scrooge swing his cane like a golf club. And that's it. He can jump, pogo and whack things. Somehow, all those years ago, Capcom stumbled upon an almost perfect platforming formula and WayForward haven't tampered with it. They've applied a fresh coat of paint, but haven't rebuilt the engine and we're all better off for it.
Remastered includes all five original levels -- albeit slightly remixed -- a new tutorial level and a new final boss level. For the most part everything is as it was way back in 1989, but there are some minor changes. The levels are -- in some cases -- slightly longer or remixed to move a few things around. Old veterans will notice, but are unlikely to be perturbed while new players will simply find a coherent and logical platforming experience.
For all the things that are done right in this remake -- which is almost everything -- there are a couple of missteps and they all happen in the new last level. I don't know if WayForward were consciously trying to match the difficulty of the original, but they succeeded. And then some. The final level is really very difficult. Frustratingly so. While it's commendable to have created brand new content that retains the spirit of the original game it just slightly misses the mark.
Some elements of the final level are tweaked in such a way that they seem almost like new mechanics. At the final point of the game, it feels a little cheap to throw them at the player who -- if they're like me -- will be forced to replay them at least half a dozen times. Maybe I'm being too harsh and have been spoiled by the very advances in gaming I was decrying earlier. Perhaps games were just like this 20 years ago and I've simply forgotten. In any case, while the new content feels in many ways like the original, at the same time it feels different. Not totally bad, but not totally amazing either.
Special mention has to be made of the sound in Remastered. While the animation and art are amazing, the sound is flawless, perfect even. Each and every 8-bit tune from the original has been lovingly recreated with real instruments in such a way that they still sound 8-bit, but not. They sound just like I remember them, but better. The sound effect for Scrooge's pogo or when he's climbing is the exact sound from the NES game, only bigger and better. Everything is as it was, only brought to life, like everything else in Remastered. Even the dubstep 'wub wub' in Transylvania is welcome and had me cracking a wide smile.
Is DuckTales Remastered perfect? No. Is it a perfect recreation of a 24 year old NES game? Hell yes. DuckTales was never flawless, but that was part of it's charm. Remastered doesn't make the mistake of trying to cleanse all the mistakes of the past. Instead it embraces them and acknowledges them as part of the game's character. The new art, voice acting, story and sound only achieve what was impossible all those years ago. This is the game that would have been made if today's tech was available in 1989. It's a brilliant, fun and authentic experience that won't disappoint. I implore you to buy DuckTales Remastered and experience one of the finest games of both the 3rd and 7th gaming generations.