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“Like is like a hurricane, here in Duckburg...” Hearing the infamous theme song when DuckTales Remastered was announced earlier this year at PAX East brought smiles to many people from fans of the original game, the cartoon, and of course me. The original NES game was one of the most requested to be remade with HD graphics, but it did not seem like it would be a reality until the announcement was made. Luckily Capcom joined forces with Disney along with WayForward at the helm as the developer for such a special game like this. For those who don’t know who WayForward is, they made games such as Shantae, Contra 4, and last year’s Double Dragon Neon, so they are no stranger to making some of the best 2D games and the perfect developer to remake DuckTales. Does DuckTales Remastered solve a mystery and rewrite history?
The original NES game did not really have that much a story other than Scrooge McDuck and the gang traveling to various locales and collecting certain treasures. One of Remastered’s main reasons for its existence is to flesh out a storyline with cutscenes and voice acting by the original cast from the cartoon. Unfortunately, these cutscenes pop out numerous times and disrupts the game’s pace a lot. For instance, every collective piece you have to get to unlock the next section of a level has a cutscene and these scenes feel unnecessary. Sure, it is nice to hear the original cartoon’s voice cast in this game to the point you’re experiencing an interactive episode (even Alan Young returns as Scrooge), but the story could have been presented in a better way. At least these can be skipped when you seen them more than once.
What is unchanged for the most part is the classic gameplay from the original and WayForward was able to nail it in DuckTales Remastered. Scrooge’s infamous pogo jump is back in full force whether at a hold of one button or the “hard pogo” method for purists. DuckTales is simply a two button game as Scrooge uses his pogo stick to defeat enemies and transverse through treacherous obstacles. While the game controls mostly fine for the most part, especially for me, there will be times where you’ll be fighting them because the pogo sometimes does not come out. This can be an issue for certain platforming sections and even the final sections of the game, which is indeed new compared to the original and something I won’t spoil. Besides those minor issues, playing Remastered felt great even for those that never played the original and luckily there’s a prologue tutorial to get accompanied with the gameplay mechanics.
The structure is also unchanged as well as players can select any of the five stages in no particular order after playing through the tutorial section. The Amazon, Transylvania, African Mines, Himalayas, and The Moon look great in HD form and while they’re not exactly the same levels from the original, the concepts are still the same. Even the bosses have some new tricks on their sleeves for this version to make them actually feel like boss battles. Tons of hidden goodies can be found from more money, health upgrades, and treasures as the money can be spent in the game’s gallery to unlock concept art, music from both this remake and the original, and more art from the television show. The old school gaming conventions still apply here in DuckTales Remastered and it may turn newer players off as they can end up frustrated replaying entire levels over again because they ran out of lives. The occasional cheap death may happen here and there if you’re not careful, but once you get to used to the level layouts, this game is not as hard as you think.
DuckTales Remastered, despite its short length like the original to the point you can beat it in a single sitting, does have multiple difficulties and the differences are noticeable. Easy gives you a map to use on the pause menu if you’re lost and you only take a half a heart of damage when hit. From Normal on, the damage is a full heart, but you can still collect health upgrades. There are less health upgrades on Hard, but plenty of extra lives are hidden throughout the levels. The three difficulties are fine and if you game over, you return to Scrooge’s office to replay an entire level again. The unlockable Extreme difficulty is basically the NES game with limited lives and health as if you game over, it is back to the title screen just like the original. Multiple playthroughs through these difficulties are encouraged because of gallery unlocks and achievements/trophies, so there is enough replay value for this $15 HD remake.
Of course this would not be a HD remake with its graphics and WayForward was able to nail the visuals exceptionally well. As mentioned earlier, it looks like you’re playing through an actual episode of DuckTales with the characters looking exactly like their cartoony incarnations. Scrooge is actually wearing his signature blue outfit instead of the red one from the original. I love the animations a lot in Remastered as well as Scrooge moves fluidly just like the cartoon. The levels themselves also look great along with the enemies and bosses. The framerate is mostly consistent until some moments of the final sections. Most people remember DuckTales for its music and the remake does not disappoint with the remastered soundtrack. The new Moon theme sounds as good today as it was back in the NES era for instance. The voice acting is also fine for the most part by the original cast, but the writing can be hit and miss when it comes to the jokes.
Once it was announced earlier this year, DuckTales Remastered felt like one of those special projects we don’t get a lot these days with Capcom and Disney actually joining forces. Sure, WayForward did a great job with the development of this HD remake, but I have a feeling it was up to Disney to greenlight something like this and luckily they believe there’s still something special with DuckTales. It is one of the better HD remakes I played this whole generation, but there are still some flaws. The oversaturation of cutscenes do disrupt the overall gameplay pacing, but I guess they had to make such a short game longer somehow. The controls can also be a little troublesome with the pogo jump not coming out at much needed times. Also, the old school philosophies may turn newer players that never played games in the 8-bit era off as well. Despite those flaws, I had a great time playing through DuckTales Remastered and even nostalgia alone makes this worth getting on either the Playstation Network, Steam, the Wii U’s eShop, or Xbox Live Arcade (out next month) for $15.