In 1989, Capcom set a high standard for licensed platformers when they released DuckTales (woo oo)–sorry, I couldn’t help myself. With DuckTales Remastered, they’ve teamed up with WayForward (the team behind remakes such as A Boy and his Blob and Double Dragon Neon); but can they replicate the same magic that worked 24 years ago?
Wayforward puts forth a valiant effort with Remastered as they crafted a faithful recreation of Capcom’s non-linear classic. They’ve taken all of the content found in the NES original and amplified the experience with extended level layouts and new gameplay objectives. Armed with only his cane, Scrooge McDuck is in search for money and treasure across five themed levels — African Mines, The Amazon, The Himalayas, Transylvania and The Moon. Just as the original you can explore these levels in any order as you use McDuck’s cane to hit objects, or as a pogo stick to reach high places or pounce on enemies for a takedown.
Along the way, you’ll meet a colorful cast of characters, including series regulars like Launchpad McQuack and McDuck’s nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Some of the original actors lend their voice to the obnoxious script – including 93 year old Alan Young (Scrooge McDuck,) and Terry McGovern (Launchpad McQuack). Though I applaud the attempt to expand the story, the steady disruption of cutscenes reaches a fevered pitch when your constantly subjected to repetitive rants from McDuck or his long, drawn-out conversation with other characters over minor plot details. Not only do these plentiful scenes disrupt the pacing (thankfully they can be skipped), but they add very little to the experience and seem to exist for the sole reason of padding the game’s length.
As far as presentation goes, Remastered shines in that department. Each of the hand-drawn character sprites have a bevy of animations that make them look like they stepped out of the DuckTales cartoon, but it’s a shame the backgrounds didn’t receive the same love as the 2D artwork. Whether you’re exploring the Amazon jungle or the brown-laden African Mines, each location tends to look a bit unfinished and rushed, and the polygonal style seems especially out of place when compared the impressive artwork. It’s often difficult to tell where the 2D Scrooge will collide with a 3D foreground object, and lighting issues in the game’s underground areas display some platforms practically invisible.
WayForward’s in-house composer Jake “virt” Kaufman handles the soundtrack for Remastered and does a great job of capturing the spirit of these classic themes. Just don’t expect groundbreaking remixes as overall the score plays it a little too safe–including the new tracks that were added for the two original stages. A neat feature is the option to turn on the original 8-bit tunes within the main menu’s option screen, which is a really nice addition if you’re not a fan of the remixes.
In addition to remixing the soundtrack, WayForward attempts to add variety to Remastered with remade boss encounters. During these moments the artwork is gorgeous, but these fights are overdrawn and bosses take too many hits to be defeated. Being defeated after a minutes-long boss fight is even more disheartening, forcing you to trek through the entire foregoing level and recollect its many required collectibles before you’re allowed a rematch.
One of the unusual design choices in Remastered is the decision to introduce required objectives in each stage. Levels that could be finished in minutes in the NES version now take exponentially longer, thanks to requiring you to explore every inch before you can beat it. Thankfully, all of the required objects show up on a pause screen map, so you’re not wandering around clueless. Its design also suffers from an exorbitant amount of cheap collisions with enemies and obstacles alike, and even when using the new simplified pogo-attack option, controls aren’t always responsive. Often times I’d find myself getting ready to bounce onto an enemy only for the action not to trigger, resulting in me taking damage or sometimes even losing a life.
Though it’s still challenging, the game can easily be beaten in little under two hours. Afterwards all you have to hold your interest is an Easy, Normal, Hard, and Extreme Mode, with a few unlockable pieces of art and music and swimming around in Scrooge’s money vault.
In the end, DuckTales Remastered packs a lot of the charm of the 8-bit game, but after the iconic, chiptunes theme song ends; that warm glowing nostalgic feeling you had quickly fades away.
Editor’s Note: DuckTales Remastered was reviewed using a PS3 copy of the game. If further investigation reveals any differences between the 360, PC, Wii U and the PS3 edition of the game, this review will be updated to reflect those differences.