Sing it with me now:
DuckTales, Wii U!
The PS3/Xbox 360/Wii era of consoles brought us many retro revivals, whether it was from classic games on Nintendo’s Virtual Console service, long-lost arcade classics like Konami’s X-Men and The Simpsons or full on reimaginings such as Ubisoft’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled. One of the most surprising remakes that was both announced and released just before the PS4 and Xbox One arrived on the market was DuckTales: Remastered, an updated take on the beloved Capcom NES based on the Disney animated series. Instead of handling the remaster internally, Capcom handed development duties off to WayForward, who couldn’t have been more of a perfect choice for essentially bringing a cartoon to life if you’ve played, or even just seen, some of their previous efforts like A Boy and his Blob or Batman: The Brave and the Bold. With DuckTales: Remastered, WayForward not only crafted a heartfelt recreation of a cherished NES game, but also paid a great deal of respect to its source material, making a game that plays like an NES game and feels like a lost episode of DuckTales and it’s simply not to be missed.
DuckTales on the NES was light on plot: Scrooge McDuck sets out in search of treasure through various locations around the globe and the moon to make himself richer than what he already is. One of the strengths of Remastered is how it adds much-needed context to the whole adventure, starting with a new tutorial level to familiarize those who haven’t finished the NES game on the hardest difficulty without dying. The Beagle Boys stage a robbery on Scrooge’s world-famous vault, but instead of going for diamonds or jewels, are focused on stealing just one painting. Upon foiling the robbery, Scrooge finds out that hidden within the painting is a map that points to long-lost treasures and Scrooge, along with his pilot Launchpad McQuack, his nephews Heuy, Dewie and Lewey, niece Webby and others set out in the search of adventure and treasure.
The stages in DuckTales: Remastered share the same themes and basic layouts from the NES original: The Amazon, Transylvania, African Mines, Himalayas and of course, the Moon, but as opposed to being mere levels to be beaten, each feel like an episode of the cartoon series. This is due in part to the addition of cut-scenes and story to each of the five stages, complete with all the returning cast from the series, including the late Alan Young who sounds just as vibrant and energetic as Scrooge here as he did when he was recording dialogue over twenty years and June Foray who tragically also just passed who voices Magica De Spell. The best thing about the story, other than getting to hear the cast bring these characters to life again, is that it gives incentive for players who are intimately familiar with these worlds reason to explore them again. In the Amazon level for example, you can’t reach the temple until you find hidden coins that unlock it and Launchpad can’t fly you to the boss of the Himalayas until you recover the parts of his plane. Helping greatly is WayForward’s trademark 2-D work that brings Scrooge and the cast to life with stunning 2-D animation that make this look like a cartoon brought to life, which is about par for the course for WayForward’s output.
One of the complains about the new cinematic take on the NES game is that once you experienced the story once, it’s something that slows the game down a little when you’re replaying it and was completely unwanted for those who just wanted a one-to-one creation of the original game. The option was always present to skip all cut-scenes, but it still gave the game a start/stop feeling that kills the pace of the action. Since release the game has been patched with a much desired mode that takes out the cinemas entirely, so if you played this back in 2013 and haven’t since, it may be time to pick this up again. A downside of this patch is that without the context of the story, it’s easy to forget that you have to collect things before you progress in the levels and for those who pick this up for the first time and turn this mode on first, they may be confused as to why they can’t progress further in a level or to a boss when they could in the original.
On the easy and medium difficulties there’s a map that can be accessed in the pause menu that will tell you where all the objects are hidden that you need to obtain, so whether you’re playing with the story or without it, there’s some assistance for you if you need it. One of the reasons why I invested in the Wii U copy of this game, other than I wanted a physical copy on a Nintendo platform like the original, is that I was curious to see if this map would show up on the second screen. Sadly this game has no second screen functionality other than it can be played off the tablet, so if that’s important to you and you still have your Wii U, that’s the only difference between this and the versions on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.
In DuckTales, the player as Scrooge McDuck interacted with the world with the character’s cane, whether by using it as a pogo stick to jump on spikes or enemies, or using it as a golf club to hit rocks at enemies high in the air or out of reach treasure. Remastered has the exact same mechanics and those who have played the NES game will have no trouble adapting to this remake. You can choose to keep the classic controls where you have to hold down in conjunction with the Y button to initiate your pogo jump, or you can opt to have the simplified controls from DuckTales 2 where you just hold the Y button and Scrooge will do the same action. In 2013, I scoffed at the option B controls and stuck with the layout from the original, but after finally getting to play DuckTales 2 as part of the Disney Afternoon Collection, I much prefer just hitting Y to initiate the pogo jump. You can’t go wrong either way as both options offer tight controls, so it really comes down to a matter of preference.
Discounting the need to track down a few collectibles to proceed, all the stages in DuckTales: Remastered are more or less flawless recreations to the NES game with a few additions and moved power-ups to keep things interesting for those who have played this game to death. New to this version is a completely new level at the end that offers a much more satisfying conclusion than simply retreading through the Transylvania stage for the third time. You won’t even have to go back to that stage a second time either as the key to enter the African Mines is found within that stage. The soundtrack is a great modern update on all the songs you’ve had stuck in your head for decades now, and if you’re not a fan of it, you can choose to turn on the 8-bit versions at any time in the option menu.
Quite possibly the greatest new addition to DuckTales: Remastered are the redesigned bosses. DuckTales is a great NES game, but it’s boss characters were never really that challenging, which is not the case with Remastered. Each boss is the same as the NES game and all are toppled by hopping on them with your cane, however each are now far more complex, multi-layered encounters that will test your reflexes. The best of the bunch are the statue enemy at the end of the Amazon and the overhauled Count Dracula Duck battle at the end of the sole new level. The latter has a terrific pay off that’s far more of a white-knuckle challenge that will test your DuckTales skills than simply climbing a rope.
Collecting treasures in the NES version of DuckTales was simply to increase your score or maybe get a moderately better ending at the end. DuckTales 2 added a between level store that allowed you to buy extra lives, continues and additional health and Remastered falls somewhere in the middle of the two. You can spend the money you find not on things on things to help you in the game, but rather bonus content like concept art for the game, the show, and songs from the soundtrack that you can listen to at your leisure. Items, especially those at the bottom of the extras list, are rather pricey and you’ll never be able to unlock everything in one play through of the campaign. As your purchases carry over each time you start a new file, this adds incentive to do things like play on higher difficulties for more than just the additional challenge.
DuckTales: Remastered is an example of how to do a remake of a classic game, capturing the feel of the original source material and adding just enough new to make this feel like more than a simple retread. Fans of the show will appreciate the added story and voice work, and for those who just simply want to play the game like they did in the NES without the extra frills, they can now do so. With an extra level, redesigned bosses, gorgeous visuals, a loving recreation of the soundtrack and plenty of replay value, there’s very little reason for veterans or new comers not to have DuckTales: Remastered in either their physical or digital library.