It’s been two decades since the adventures of the penny-pinching Scrooge McDuck and his feathery flock came to a close. These long dormant heroes have been championed for a return this summer, thanks to the folks at Capcom and WayForward; a move which will leave some baffled given such an extensive timespan. As such, it’s tough to pin down exactly who the target audience is for DuckTales Remastered, a reworked version of the NES classic that undeniably made a splash in its day.
Developer: WayForward Technologies
Platform: Steam PC, Xbox LIVE Arcade (Reviewed), PlayStation Network, Nintendo eShop
Release: August 13th 2013
Fans currently frothing at the mouth can download this updated effort and gleefully soak in the nostalgia, but gamers below the age of twenty – and those who care little for the likes of Huey, Dewey and Louie – will need convincing before handing over their nickel and dime.
There’s no denying the fan service that has been delivered by the developer, with each stage having been crafted with the utmost love and respect for the source material. The art style is fantastic, featuring well-animated characters that go far beyond the sprites of old. Everything is bright, atmospheric and filled with hidden gems waiting to be discovered. You’ll get a real sense of exploration as you bounce your way to victory on Scrooge’s pogo cane, knocking foes flat and collecting gems in the process. You’ll need your wits about you on the normal setting (which can be crushingly hard at times), so you might want to play on Casual to learn enemy patterns without the fear of a Game Over – a rule that applies more to the boss battles, each having been granted new tricks and an increase in combat time.
Scrooge will face a number of characters from the show, dodging their strikes and landing hits in the usual way. These fights can be quite creative in how they use the simple jump mechanics, and their reliance on routines mean that they can be understood and perfected with patience. The game can be downright mean on occasion; with platforms that hang overhead to knock you down from a jump, plus a few instances where death seems all too unavoidable on the first few tries. It’s an old-school issue however, and one that side-scrolling fans should be well accustomed to. Regardless, DuckTales Remastered is nothing if not accessible with its platform-hopping gameplay and stage select screen.
All of the show’s original voice actors return, with fresh writing that provides context where originally there was none. The problem is that no one ever cared why Scrooge was exploring for artefacts, nor why he could breathe on the moon. Now we’re given overly long and strangely laboured dialogue, with such examples as the chewing of gum and constant interruptions in the Amazon from Launchpad. Thankfully, this can all be skipped (which you’ll be tempted to do on your first playthrough), but it’s a shame that the script and its delivery fall as flat as they do. DuckTales Remastered tries too hard to construct a deeper story where one just wasn’t needed – yet it still fails to go beyond the predicaments of ‘my nephews have been kidnapped!’ or ‘I need to collect three page pieces to progress’.
The stages themselves are vibrant enough to entertain to their conclusion, plus each can take a while to master as you hunt for the items needed. You can spend gems on a selection of pencil renders and background concepts, though they cost enough to sap your funds dry in a flash. It’s also strange that the game requires you to unlock most images in each category before progressing; don’t expect to move straight to the more interesting items, as you’ll have to purchase a hundred pictures you didn’t want first. There aren’t any rewards beyond this, but the game is at least enjoyable enough to warrant a second playthrough down the line. Expect it to last no longer than five hours on the default difficulty, though you can expect a good few retries from the tough boss encounters on a higher setting.
The enemies themselves range from duck-eating plants to respawning apes (and that’s just in the Amazon level), and many of them have their own weaknesses that can be used to your advantage. As mentioned, the platforming aspect can be a stiff challenge not least because of the pathetic jump animation between chains and vines. Of course, Scrooge is no spring chicken, but that doesn’t make things any less frustrating when he falls to a swift end. Swear as you might on occasion, the game retains its charm right through to the final, newly added level thanks to its reimagined blend of 2D art and catchy tunes.
As a throwback to a bygone era, DuckTales Remastered uses nostalgia to great effect and will surely appeal to the fans who recall it fondly. Scrooge and his great-nephews haven’t made the transition to Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network unscathed though, with voice work that is admittedly true to the show, but also full of needless rambling. Despite its child-friendly presentation, we’re not convinced that DuckTales has been aimed at the youth of today. Instead, this has likely been targeted towards players who can look back and appreciate the past. The show may have died out long ago, but there’s still some life in the old duck yet.
8.0 – Great. An enjoyable experience, fans and newcomers of the genre will be entertained. Any noticeable flaws are largely outweighed by the positives.