When it was first announced in March, the release of DuckTales: Remastered made everyone who remembered either the show or the NES games rejoice. In the case of the former, it was one of the most beloved Disney cartoon shows of its day, while the games continued Capcom’s trend of releasing quality licensed fare. Their licensed games weren’t just good by those standards, but by any standard. DuckTales 1 and 2, Rescue Rangers 1 and 2, and Darkwing Duck all delivered excellent gaming experiences that kids could enjoy for the licenses and older players could enjoy for the gameplay.
Like most 20-somethings with a working NES and an eBay account, I went on eBay and bought the NES game post-haste. However, playing DuckTales after not having played it in many years made me skeptical of how it would turn out. The rose-colored view was darkened a bit, as the controls were a bit iffy and having to press down to do Scrooge’s primary attack – a jumping cane stomp – made the game much tougher. The platforming was solid though, and more open level structure held up nicely. Being able to not only go left to right, but also up and down and backtracking sometimes made the game seem longer, while being able to choose a level meant you can play any stage if you get stuck on one and just go back to it. The sequel remedied some of the control issues, so I was hoping Way Forward would stick with that blueprint here. Fortunately, they did, and the game is better for it.
Beyond just nixing the requirement of pressing down (which you can reactivate if you so desire), the controls as a whole are a lot tighter than either NES game in the series. The revamped game stays true to the original while adding some much-needed changes and adding some stuff that enhances the presentation, but hurts the pace. Like the NES game, you go through about half a dozen large levels, with new expansions making them even longer while jumping on enemies with your pogo stick cane and/or swinging obstacles towards them with it by using it like a golf club.
Each of the levels has a unique look and feel to it, with enemy designs usually varying depending on where you are. The Amazon has tribal creatures, while Transylvania focuses on kid-friendly horror fights like bats and mummies. The levels are fun to play through multiple times, and rewarding to play through again since they have secrets and the more you go through them, the more money you’ll get. That money can be spent between stages on things like artwork and music, and in an amazing bit, you can even take a dip into the giant money pit just like Scrooge does in the show’s intro.
During and between levels, you get full voice-acted cutscenes using the in-game graphics to tell the story. It hasn’t changed much from the NES game, with Scrooge still going after a handful of treasures while battling rival bigwigs and major enemies, but now has a lot more context to it and a lot of effort was put into having it make as much logical sense as possible. The voice acting adds a lot and the cast does a wonderful job given that the cast that was able to return haven’t voiced the characters in about two decades, and Scrooge and Magicka’s actors are well into their ’90s, yet sounds exactly the same as they did on the show. It’s a fine example of timing working out about as perfectly as possible.
The voice work is very well done, but the implementation of mid-level talking segments cripples the pace. For a platformer, particularly one where getting into a rhythm is key to continuing tricky segments, having things grind to a halt is disappointing. It’s one thing if it’s a story section – then you can forgive it easily since it’s moving the plot along. Here, you get breaks for things like Scrooge explaining coins in the Amazon. While the small mount of fourth wall-breaking humor works, it does seem like these little bits would be better served as extras in an item-examining mode of some sort. As it stands, you can only skip these things by pressing start and bringing up a menu to turn it off. Just pressing start won’t skip, and while it’s not a huge issue, it is something I hope they address if future Disney remastered games come out.
Outside of that issue, I really couldn’t be happier with the overall package. The controls are as tight as you’d want them to be and the already-great level design is made even better with the world being fleshed out not only story-wise, but visually as well. Designing the sprites to look like the original cartoon characters makes this feel like the definitive DuckTales experience for the modern era. It’s also hard to imagine it looking much better. The hand-drawn sprite artwork is spot-on, while the bright hand-painted backdrops (designed with at least one person from the show on staff) add a lot of variety to the colors on-screen. It’s not uncommon to have an area that is heavy with one particular color scheme, like blue, orange, or even a dark green for an underground setting. A silhouette area very late in the game evokes similar stages in DKC Returns, but looks even more striking here. Character animation is smooth as well, and it’s probably smoother than what was on the show given that it was from 20 years ago, and on a TV budget at that.
The revamped soundtrack manages to fit in with the original score from the show and the game nicely, although the small amount of dubstep featured in one song is jarring. It’s not bad, and I wouldn’t mind getting the OST and listening to it from time to time because it’s got a nice mix of upbeat music and more serious fare for when you’re in darker areas like Transylvania. The cartoonish sound effects are outstanding, and it brought back some great memories of being a kid and watching cartoons as I heard giant BONK sound effects due to large objects falling on heads. The clank of the cane on a ball and chain as you send it towards enemies is also pretty satisfying as well.
While the mid-level cutscenes are distracting, everything else about the game succeeds. I went into it a bit worried after getting re-acclimated to the original, but this is a far more polished product than that and succeeds where it fell short. It controls smoothly, looks amazing, and its levels are well-worth replaying. There’s a lot of fun to be had with this and even if you didn’t grow up with the show’s theme song stuck in your head, I think it’s safe to say you’ll get its $15 asking price out of it easily if you love platformers.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
This review is based on a digital copy of DuckTales: Remastered for Xbox Live Arcade provided by Capcom.