The original NES version of DuckTales was the exception that proved the rule. Not only was it a fantastic licensed game, but it was a title that was thoroughly enjoyable even if you didn’t give a duck about the property it was attached to, allowing it to stand the test of time and be revered as one of the best games that 8-bit had to offer. Nostalgia is a funny thing, however. Is it possible for Capcom and WayForward to take something that worked 24 years ago, modernize it, and yet retain the heart of what made it so beloved in the first place? The answer, without a doubt, is yes. DuckTales Remastered is a retro revival done right.
The core of DuckTales’ appeal comes down to one simple fact: bouncing on stuff is just plain fun. Using Scrooge McDuck’s cane to pogo-jump on foes such as grumpy gorillas, monstrous mummies, and aggressive aliens--as well as every rock, spiked floor, and bit of scenery you encounter--was a joy in the original 8-bit game, and it’s still a blast now, although in Remastered it’s easier than ever since the controls have been simplified. (Don’t worry; you can opt for the classic control scheme if you’re feeling masochistic.) Springing through the environments, launching to new heights off of enemies, and searching every nook and cranny for precious gems to fill Scrooge’s money bin hasn’t lost any of its appeal over the years. Uncle Scrooge’s golf swing is intact, too, although it remains underutilized.
Complementing the excellent platforming action is a series of brilliantly designed levels. All five stages from the original game--the Amazon, Transylvania, the African mines, the Himalayas, and the moon--are back, along with a new opening tutorial level set in Scrooge’s vault and a new final stage in lava-filled Mt. Vesuvius. (The final level is an especially nice touch, because, in an uncharacteristically weak design choice, the original game’s finale simply recycled the Transylvania level.) As for the five returning stages, you can still tackle them in whatever order you’d like, and they take the majority of their design cues from the NES game.
But these aren’t merely classic levels with a modern paint job. Thanks to the addition of ample well-written cut-scenes (fully voiced by the original talent from the DuckTales cartoon), each stage now unfolds like a miniature TV episode that gives context to the adventure and brings the characters’ personalities to life, and there’s an overarching plot that ties it all together. Without a doubt, Remastered is built to appeal to fans of the DuckTales property even more than the original game did. (And if you just want to get on with the action, fear not; the cut-scenes are easily skipped.)
Furthermore, veteran players will be quick to notice that numerous changes have been made to the levels. Whereas the original game featured nonlinear level layouts and allowed you to play through the stages using whatever route you wanted, Remastered presents numerous key-and-lock scenarios that require you to visit certain points on the map before proceeding onward, resulting in a somewhat more guided approach to each stage. This is especially noticeable in the African mines, which has traded its multiple sprawling paths for a surprisingly linear design. Overall the changes aren’t detrimental, but hardcore fans will no doubt wonder why a path now goes right instead of left, scoff at the omission of moving platforms, and ask why the two hidden bonus treasures have been removed.
Even though some aspects of the original have been dropped, there are plenty of new elements to make up for them. There are now permanent health-ups for you to track down in every level (they were found in only two stages of the original), as well as occasional mini-boss fights, such as an aerial battle against Scrooge’s rival Flintheart Glomgold above the Himalayas. End-of-level boss battles have been greatly expanded, too. Their patterns are much more complex, and they take significantly more damage than they did back in the day. There’s an in-game map to aid your quest, as well; you can give it a permanent home on your GamePad screen if you’re playing the Wii U edition.
No matter which version you play, though, you’ll be treated to excellent graphics and sound. The high-res, redrawn character sprites look every bit as good as an actual Disney cartoon, boasting amazing attention to detail and WayForward’s trademark top-notch animation. (Scrooge’s dive into his money bin looks especially nifty.) The polygonal environments aren’t nearly as impressive, but they get the job done. Meanwhile, the music is absolutely superb. DuckTales has always had a catchy soundtrack, but composer Jake Kaufman has gone above and beyond with some astoundingly good remixes. Sure, the moon theme has always been a favorite, so its quality is to be expected, but the other tunes are equally irresistible, particularly Transylvania and the African mines. If you’re feeling really old-school, you can opt to play the game with the original NES tracks instead; the game even features all-new 8-bit-style music for the vault and Mt. Vesuvius.
Topping off the package are tons of unlockables--concept drawings, character sketches, artwork from the TV show, and more--that extend the game’s lifespan beyond the couple of hours it’ll take you to reach the ending. Whether you’re a Disney devotee, a retro enthusiast, or just a fan of well-crafted platformers, there’s plenty to enjoy. Though DuckTales Remastered might not live up to its esteemed precursor in every single regard, it surpasses it in others, and ends up incredibly fun on the whole. Woo-hoo indeed.
This game was reviewed on Wii U.