Ducktales Remastered

Life is like a hurricane. Here in… Duckberg. Race cars, lasers, aeroplanes. It’s a… duck-blur. Might solve a mystery. Or rewrite history. (doo da doo doo) Ducktales (oooh ooooh).

Come on. You know that song is infectious. And who doesn’t want to take a trip down memory lane these days. Of course we all do, and developer WayForward seeks to bring us back in this update to the 8-bit masterpiece that was Capcom’s Ducktales by bringing us Ducktales Remastered (“DR”). The original combined a beloved Disney cartoon with (at the time) exceptional platforming action. WayForward not only intends on bringing us back, but improving what was already one of my favorite childhood games. Can they live up to the original?

My personal best in the original was playing from start to finish was about 13 minutes. This is a tough sale to modern audiences, so WayForward’s mission is a daunting one. But DR takes all of the content you remember from the Nintendo Entertainment System and jacks it up with extended level layouts and all-new goals and achievements. While this great, and WayForward does a great job of honoring and (in most cases) living up to the original, there were some definite areas where they could have placed higher priority.

DR follows the lovable, and obscenely rich, Scrooge McDuck as he goes “Indiana Jones” around the globe on a quest for five ancient artifacts. But these, of course, are just puzzle pieces leading to a much bigger, and more profitable, treasure. Scrooge’s “Swiss Army Cane” provides him a means of protection, allowing him to battle baddies using it as a pogo stick and by swinging baseball and golf club style at objects littered throughout the levels.

The most striking feature of DR is the absolute clarity in the high-res, hand-drawn artwork. The sprite animation is like butter, as in smooth and fluid, proving WayForward’s skill in modernizing an 8-bit experience that is 24 years old. (That’s right. Ducktales is 24 years old.) I personally enjoyed the rendering of the characters as well as the background art, though some will claim it’s boring and repetitive. But really, when you are remaking a game as classic as this, you cannot expect a ground breaking change in scenery. It is beautiful to me. The only drawback I saw was that there were points where I slammed into the edge of an object. I attribute this to the fact that Scrooge is 2D, while the background is 3D and it’s hard to tell the exact position at points.

While DR does bring back much of the original cast to do the voice work, such as Alan Young playing Scrooge McDuck, I am afraid this may have hindered the game more than add to it. Scrooge just doesn’t sound as… well Scrooge-y as he used to. Maybe “codger-y” is a better way to put it. Even Launchpad didn’t sound as zany and full of energy as I remembered him. The dialogue seems slow, and often times obnoxious as you are trying to advance through the levels.

This may be a result from one of the only things that I didn’t like visually about the game. The voice acting gets old pretty quick due to the lack of visual accompaniment. The dialogue sequences are represented by a limited amount of preset character animations, which quickly become repetitive. The characters also do not move their mouths with the dialogue; they don’t move at all. I know that this is keeping with the original, but not everything has to match that. Quite frankly, it detracts from the beauty of the high-definition rendering in my opinion.

The unfortunate side effect of the dialogue sequences messes with the underlying design of DR. Levels that took mere minutes in the original NES version now take exponentially longer to complete. Some of this is due to the redesigned layouts and new objectives in the game, but these all lead to more dialogue and stopping the action. It seems that the dialogue may have been done intentionally in this manner simply to pad the length of the game more than any real addition to it.

All of that said, the best parts of the games are playing through the levels that are closest to their NES origins. The African Mines no longer has an interrupted (and frustrating) path to the exit, and the Moon level survives the modernization splendidly. The other stages while not as great as these, were still fun to play through and discover what had changes. The Amazon is the only one that stands out as a hindrance as you must search every pixel of the level for some coins to help him finish the level.

Another great aspect of the game is the outstanding soundtrack, which matches DR’s high quality character art. WayForward did an excellent job of remixing the classic themes with modern compositional variety to make the music every bit as great as the original. The soundtrack is an utter success and does a great job of matching on-screen action.

Because of all the additions to the levels and game content, DR can be more challenging than its 1989 inspiration (even on the easiest of difficulties). This is a very questionable decision by WayForward as that is what made the original fun: the ease of the game. An uninterrupted flow from start to finish, which remained satisfying in large part due to skillful enemy placement, clever level layouts, and plenty of healing items along the way. In DR, even the initial Amazon level is far more difficult than it really should be, which could prove to turn people away before getting into the meat (and fun) of the game.

Boss battles are also a point of contention as they seemed to be dragged on longer than needed. These fights last a few too many cycles, resulting in all bosses taking too many hits to kill. It is an even bigger blow when you lose your last life after a boss-fight that lasted 2-3 minutes, only to be booted back to Scrooge’s office and then having to trek through the entire level again.

I have only played DR once through so far, and am fully looking forward to another play through. But during this I found that WayForward level design is superb and the game mechanics could be given a chance to gleam if you aren’t constantly interrupted by dialogue and cut scenes. WayForward certainly had their work cut out for them, and I definitely sympathize, but you can tell there is a lot of love for the material over there. Their work demonstrates a commitment to doing justice not only to the NES game, but for the original cartoon series as well. I am looking forward to playing through this many more times in the near, and far, future.

3.5 stars out of 5.