Nostalgia can be a dangerous thing. I don’t think scientists have quite discovered what part of the brain is responsible for the gooey warm feelings that come with nostalgia, but once they do I plan on having that part immediately excised from mine. I’m always afraid to go back and check out games I loved when I was a kid because it turns out that I was a shockingly bad judge of quality when I was five. I found my belly button fascinating, so anything with moving pictures pretty much won the title of best thing ever. DuckTales is something I remember fondly from my youth, but when Capcom announced they were making a remake of the NES classic, I was both legitimately excited and vaguely apprehensive that this would become yet another example of a game buoyed only by people’s nostalgia blindness and poor long term memory. Fortunately, this is one example of a game with a reputation and fanbase that is owed to something other than simple nostalgia. DuckTales Remastered is an entertaining remake of the NES classic and provides a solid platforming experience by any standards.
Fans of the original will be excited to know that DuckTales Remastered is largely faithful to the source material. The biggest change, obviously, comes from the enhanced visuals and improved presentation. The hand drawn graphics are bright and vibrant and look like they come straight out of a cartoon. In fact, each of the levels feel like their very own episode of one thanks to the addition of the various fully voiced cutscenes throughout the levels. These are definitely a nice touch (made even better by the fact they somehow got the original voice actors back for their roles), but they can get a bit wordy and pull you out of the game just when you get into a rhythm. Younger audiences and fans of the cartoon will definitely get a kick out of these, but there was part of me that just wanted to skip these entirely so I could get back into the action.
Despite this new coat of paint, you can tell that this is truly DuckTales. This is my favorite kind of remake, as they don’t try to do too much with the original source material and allow its brilliance to shine through all the bright shiny new features they’ve tacked on top of it. There are brand new introductory and final levels, but fans of the original will fondly remember all the others. The meat of the game comes in the form of the five levels from the original, and they can be tackled in whatever order you see fit. Level design is very well done, with lots of secrets to find and hidden treasures to discover. A lot of the levels have been tweaked slightly to allow for a bit more of a focus on story, and each level usually requires you to explore it fully to find several objects that need to be collected prior to the end of level boss fight. The new addition of a map helps, and will eliminate the confused wandering (and subsequent cursing and resorting to drawing some maps on the back of your homework) that came with a lot of the old NES games.
Gameplay is strong, and still fairly unique despite all the years that have passed since the original. This is a platformer at heart, and the controls and scheme are as tight and fun as they were way back in 1989. The unique bit comes from Scrooge McDuck’s cane which doubles as a bludgeoning utensil when near certain breakable objects and a pogo stick that allows him to bounce through the levels. Replacing an old man’s cane with a pogo stick usually results in a broken hip and a lawsuit, but Scrooge has mastered the art of pogo stick travel. The pogo stick is still really satisfying and entertaining to use, and there is no better feeling than chaining four or five pogo stick bounces together on the heads of enemies and never stopping to even touch the ground. The only really frustrating bit comes from segments that force you to jump from rope to rope, including one horrendous segment at the very end of the game that had me tearing my hair out. While the rest of the game controls well, the few times this mechanic crops up always feels awkward and more sticky than it needs to be and is the lone smudge in an otherwise shinning example of good gameplay.
The boss fights are another strong suit, throwing out unique and challenging encounters that do a nice job capping each level. Visually, they are clever and seem straight out of an old DuckTales cartoon, ranging from a snow monster to the king of round underground creatures to “OH GOD IS THAT A GIANT MUTANT RAT?” It takes time to learn and adapt to the patterns each boss uses, which might prove frustrating to someone who shows up with their last life and loses, but fans of old NES and SNES games shouldn’t find anything thrown at them to be unfair. Even if I lost at a boss fight all it made me want to do was jump right back in the level and try again.
DuckTales Remastered also retains the fun challenge that comes with many classic NES titles, though it is nice enough to throw in a baby mode for individuals looking to just experience the platforming. Extreme mode is insane, giving you three lives at the beginning to get through the entire game. Lose those lives and you will need to start over — not just the level, but the entire game. This is a true challenge only for the most hardcore of platforming enthusiasts and general crazy people with an immunity to frustration and at least two extra thumbs. Easy baby mode lets you take half damage and even if you do lose your lives you can restart from the nearest checkpoint, so even the most novice gamers should be able to see this through until the end. Normal and hard modes find a nice balance between these two extremes, and the game does a nice job being challenging without feeling cheap or frustrating.
DuckTales Remastered manages to give a classic game a new coat of paint but still bring back all those warm happy nostalgic feelings from the original classic. There is no attempt to rewrite history (DuckTales, Woo-Ooo!), and DuckTales Remastered is as faithful an remake as fans could have hoped for. It is a short romp and the $15 price tag is somewhat steep for the amount of content you get, but this is a wonderful throwback to the NES era of gaming. I was afraid that if I removed the nostalgia blinders that DuckTales would join so many classic games in my “what the heck was wrong with me” shame pile. Fortunately, this is one of those games that stands up well to the test of time and is still worth playing today. Just because you can’t hum the entire DuckTales theme song doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy DuckTales Remastered. It does mean you’re a terrible person, but that is another subject entirely.
Version Reviewed: Xbox 360