There isn't a single NES game I think I've heard more nostalgic ramblings for than DuckTales. From its excellent music to its simple but challenging gameplay, DuckTales is one of many examples of a glut of fantastic Disney-licensed games developed and published by Capcom. With the murmurings of fans being louder than the drone of cultish screams from that barn just down the road from me, Capcom decided to appease nostalgia-heads and, in turn, celebrate this fantastic comic and cartoon series.
For those unfamiliar with DuckTales, the show tells the story of Scrooge McDuck, a predictably miserable miser of an old duck for whom money means everything. In his quest to own all of the riches in the known Universe, Scrooge uncovers lost cities, pillages and plunders old tombs, and generally disrespects the dead by going through their trash. This makes Scrooge McDuck both a detestable feathered old asshat but also a fun character to explore.
The NES game is widely considered excellent. It was released right when DuckTales was at its highest point in popularity, and it stays quite true to the source material. It doesn't hold your wing (er, hand) but instead plonks you down into a set of difficult stages as you search for a great treasure. The formula that the game follows could be considered almost flawless and timeless, which is why when remaking a game like this, you don't, let's say, "stray too far".
"Remastered" is an inaccurate name for this particular game, because it implies that WayForward possessed any kind of mastery when producing it. A harsh comment perhaps, but when you're remaking a game with traditionally linear levels, you don't throw in Metroidvania elements (unless you are WayForward). I've played many games created by WayForward, and there's always that "problem" that gets in the way of the enjoyment. Double Dragon Neon has the cards, Adventure Time would hardlock the PS3 requiring you to pull the plug out of the wall, and BloodRayne Betrayal's famous problem was all of the awful trashy game in its entirety. Basically, WayForward is great at creating bare-bones games that are visually quite impressive. But with coding done by monkeys, and the QA by Rowfer the apathetic office basset hound, the whole thing falls apart.
Then again, what kind of decent staff can you get in California, anyway? You can't test games AND get a tan, can you? It's one or the other!
Let's solve a mystery — why this game sucks.
DuckTales' problem isn't the aforementioned Metroidvania elements; I can almost live with those. No, somebody at WayForward thought it would be a GREAT idea to stop you every five seconds to bombard you with slow moving spoken dialogue sequences. Great, you managed to get some original show cast members to provide voices, even managing to coax Alan Young and June Foray into reprising their roles instead of just watching Family Feud re-runs.
But should you have? No, really, should they have?
The game allows you to skip these, but you can only disable the sequences altogether after beating the game. So I have to sit through a Saturday morning cartoon in order to play a video game? Some of us have limited time you know. Just include the cutscene skip as an option from the beginning. I don't mean pause and skip, as you can do that, I mean outright "skip all". You could even make a jab at people and call it the "impatient option", but for the love of Mrs. Cauldron's cookware, just give us the option!
And for what, what do these sequences include? Average quality voice acting, rarely funny jokes, and forced diatribes from the vindictive "Unca Scrooge". He spends a minute blasting Launchpad McQuack, and then as soon as things are going well, will call him the best pilot ever. Nice to see the budget went on the voice acting, and not towards hiring a scriptwriter.
The presentation is decent. I think in terms of background visuals and the foreground animated characters, the game looks fairly good. A little bit of the animation seems exaggerated (I don't think the game needed quite so much follow-through on Scrooge's idle animation), but on the other hand, some of the enemies have an almost Disney quality. The bunnies in the Himalayas look like they could have come straight out of Bambi.
Where the gameplay visuals are good, the menus are simplistic and bare. The text for subtitles is white on a black box, no textured text box or decent looking visual effect. The font used is that Indiana Jones font, which makes the game look tired and lazy. I don't get a spelunking feel, I get a "half the staff were out spelunking instead of being in the studio" feel.
Or re-write history by making a better game.
Gameplay is where I believe this stays truest to the original. There is a lot of (in my opinion) unwelcome but well-implemented exploration this time around, with an area in a stage being blocked off until you find all the keys or stones or coins or parts of Fenton Crackshell's Gizmoduck suit (good grief). Luckily, these sections aren't that annoying to deal with. I actually enjoyed some of them. But they're not in the original game, and I think players who are expecting "Remastered" to be like the original in all aspects will be thoroughly disappointed by this change.
After collecting a key or coin or gem or piece of suit, the following minute long cutscene takes me out of the game and makes me angry again. Boo! I don't care what I picked up, just flash "one of three found" on the screen and I'll be on my merry way!
Scrooge can move and jump, and he can bounce using his cane as a pogo stick. He can also bash rocks and other obstacles with his cane, but he has to be up close to them. Therefore, your pogo move is your best form of defense. Once you've got the movement arc down, you feel like a pogo master! We'll just defeat this bunny here and— "Hey Launchpad, you overgrown child, what's the progress on the plane?" "It's almost ready, Mr. Scrooge, I'm just tinkering with the... whoops!" "Ah ye blitherin' nincompoop, me own wean could fly better than yoo!"
At least the game gets bonus points for having "didnae" and "doon" etc. in the subtitles.
As you're exploring, you may bump into Mrs. Beakley, the nanny of Scrooge's Manor, who gives you cake and ice cream. Excuse me, Bentina, but what ARE you doing ON THE MOON exactly!? No, actually, that seems like a fitting place for you. So where's Mr. Beakley these days? In a trash bag, perhaps, or SEVERAL trash bags? And here you are, worried about feeding an old man sugary treats... ON THE MOON. You're just hiding from the feds, aren't you!
Each area is topped off with a boss battle, which I can safely say, is something I always feel WayForward gets right. Boss battles are not easy, and they're lengthy too; I can appreciate both things. It's a wonderful way to bring each section of the game to a close, and with infinite lives, you can keep trying over and over. At least that's one archaic thing they dropped, buh, extra lives.
If you quit out of a level, you have to start over from the beginning. There are no autosaves within stages, even during quite blatant area transitions. It isn't the nineties, and I'm a man with a limited schedule.
There's a lot of things to complain about with DuckTales Remastered. Fans of the series will be pleased, if they're not fans of the original game, I think. As for the score, it's how many seconds there are between the start of the first level and a cutscene.