Looking back to the start of the 90s and progressing forward towards the end of the 16-bit era, it’s actually surprising how well some of the licensed Disney video games turned out to be. I have fonder memories of such games as The Lion King, Aladdin and Mickey Mania on Super Nintendo, along with Sega’s own take on Mickey Mouse with the fantastic Castle of Illusion on Mega Drive, than I ever did for some of the current gen titles, such as Epic Mickey and the movie-to-game releases of their recent blockbuster films. Nostalgia can be a rude awakening to someone’s precious memory of a game, because of this, I haven’t gone back and played those old Disney games for quite some time. The guys at WayForward want to help keep my happy DuckTales memory alive, so how has nostalgia treated Scrooge McDuck and his three acre bank vault?
DuckTales Remastered says it all in the title. This is the original game with some alternations made to it – just like how movies are given the same fate with their remastered releases. There are some good and bad additions to DuckTales Remastered that I have mixed feelings about. One of the great additions is the new graphics. Everything, from the backgrounds to the characters, has been given a new coat of paint and it looks fantastic. Seeing the characters animate has its charm, and those sprites are sharp, thanks to the high resolution. The 2.5D modelled environments have a hint of cel-shading to them to give a cartoon vibe. While these aren't as detailed as the 2D sprites, each of the infamous five (six with the finale) levels are nicely done thanks to the little touches that go on in the background. Watching the lightning explode with bright light and casting shadows in the Transylvania level or seeing the torches lighting up the Amazonian caves is an appealing sight to behold.
Graphics aren't everything, so it’s good to know that this remastered title also updates the music and adds the inclusion of the original voice actors from the TV show. The developers know how to hit that nostalgia feeling with its soundtrack, because it purposely throws the original 8-bit DuckTales theme right at you on the main menu. I had to stop and listen for a couple of minutes as all the memories of the TV show came rushing back to me. How can you not get a little excited when you hear this theme tune? “DuckTales, Woo-hoo!” The remixed tracks manage to capture the 8-bit essence of the original and modernise them with 21st century sounds – no, that doesn't mean dubstep.
What I wasn't too keen on was the inclusion of the cutscenes. I don’t mind that they used the original voice actors; in fact, that’s damn awesome that we get to hear Alan Young as Scrooge McDuck again, but the problem I have is that these cutscenes are thrown into the gameplay when the player is right in the middle of the action. I’m fine with them at the beginning and end of stages to give a plot, but why do I need to have the game stop and have Scrooge talk to Launchpad about what is on this rare coin I just found? It completely interrupts the flow of the gameplay with its unwelcome intrusiveness. Thankfully, a quick press of pause and then pressing a button skips these scenes, which is something I did often after seeing them once.
WayForward has slotted in add-ons to the level structure, such as having a tutorial set before the level select screen that popped up after you started in the original DuckTales. There is also an altered last level that can be highly frustrating for people who hate vertical scrolling platform sections where you’re forced to move constantly. When it comes to the gameplay, DuckTales Remastered remains faithful to the NES title. The five levels on offer remain similar to the NES version’s level design. Although, you’ll often find that some sections are extended, such as the mine cart section in Transylvania, or how the boss fights are given more depth, doing more than simply flying around an area . Every level offers something special to that theme. The Himalayas don’t allow you to pogo on the ground, because Scrooge becomes stuck in snow, which requires the player to jump out to carry on moving. Littered around each level are plenty of hidden jewels and secret passages to find. This is a game that is jammed with secrets, to the point where you think something funny is going on when a jewel doesn't magically appear and fall down after a few seconds of jumping around an unexplored section.
Difficulty is something DuckTales Remastered doesn't shy from, and it remains just as challenging as the original game. Sometimes its difficulty is genuine, in which the mistake was the player’s fault for not watching the enemy pattern and jumping at the wrong time. On other occasions it can feel cheap, especially when you seemingly hit the enemy with your pogo stick, but somehow you’re docked a heart piece because the game’s code thought otherwise. The stages aren't long, but you can easily spend ages trying to finish them if you aren’t careful since Scrooge only has three hits and three lives. If you lose them all in a stage (easily done with them bottomless pits), then you’re sent back to level select and you have to do that level again. It shows how modern games have moulded us into softies with their constant checkpoints and hand holding. While it’s nice to have that, it’s also good to have a throwback to the old days when games were about learning what’s in front of you, adapting and becoming good at it.
I can’t see many people who grew up only knowing what a virtual gun is accepting the shortness and difficulty curve of DuckTales Remastered. Modern gaming is different, so I feel that this is for fans that loved Scrooge McDuck’s worldwide adventure. And for those people, well, you are in for a mostly good time, as you've been served a remake with charming visuals and faithful gameplay created by developers who appear to be big fans of the original, but couldn't quite keep their hands off injected some modern storytelling to upset the balance of the game.