DuckTales: Remastered (Wii U eShop) Review
I am taking a stab in the dark here – but I’ve got a feeling anyone who is my age had one of those games that always seemed to elude them. You know the type – your parents rented it for you once, you played it while on holiday in a hotel or something to that effect. But despite your love for it, for some bizarre reason, it never entered your collection. For me, DuckTales for the NES was that game, and I have never had a chance to complete it because I never owned it. I don’t even know why, but that’s just how things went. DuckTales: Remastered – collaboration between WayForward Technologies, Capcom and of course, Disney is therefore my first chance to finish DuckTales and find out just what all the fuss was about. I knew I liked it – but this was a long time ago and things may have changed. So how does the game hold up today?
It feels like a bit of a misnomer to question whether DuckTales: Remastered holds up today, since the game has been reworked in almost every way possible. Essentially, the game’s structure remains the same however. Scrooge McDuck wants to amass even more fortune, and travels to several different locations across the globe to collect treasures that will increase his net worth. To be entirely fair, the original 1990 NES game wasn’t exactly brimming with a structured narrative, so what’s offered here isn’t anything particularly substantial for the story buffs. But the team has to be commended for adding in dialogue and scripted sequences that give context and motive for the characters throughout each level. It’s a fantastic way to keep things “up to date” with modern conventions of the genre while still keeping things faithful to the original – something remakes and remasters rarely do correctly.
The gameplay itself remains relatively untouched from the original game. You can still move around, you can still bounce off surfaces and objects using Scrooge’s trusty cane and your goal is still to collect several treasures from a variety of locales. The game itself controls very well – Scrooge doesn’t feel like a floaty mess and almost every navigational mishap you encounter doesn’t feel like the game being unfair of you, but rather a mistake that you yourself can correct. The design of the levels remains almost unchanged from the original versions – but more confident players can master jump cancelling (ie. Pressing the cane button at the right times to cancel and restart jump animations) to get through areas quicker and with less damage. It feels just right – like a perfect balance between a game for the hardcore players and the newcomers. Purists can switch around the cane button to mimic the original game, if they wish, which means two button presses are required simultaneously rather than one. The game does little to utilise the Wii U functionality – instead just mirroring the on-screen content on the GamePad. Off-Screen TV play is a nice feature, but if that’s not your thing the map can be displayed on the GamePad instead.
Of course, there are a notable amount of changes as well. First off – every level has been retooled to provide a less linear experience. For example, in the Amazon level, rather than just travelling from point A to point B, Scrooge must explore the level for coins to unlock the door to a secret temple. This encourages further exploration and lengthens the game much more substantially than expected (the original game could be speed run in less than ten minutes, I doubt this could happen with Remastered). Cutscenes have been implemented throughout the game too, in an effort to pad the game out and provide greater narrative direction for the game. While some might find these unnecessary, they can easily be skipped – so both audiences playing for different reasons can get what they want most out of DuckTales: Remastered.
Quite possibly the most drastic (and welcomed) change is in the boss battles. These have been completely redesigned from the ground up – utilising the same concepts from an artistic design standpoint but significantly changing the way they play out. They’re also incredibly difficult at times – something that I absolutely hated with the New Super Mario Bros. games was that they were too easy, and DuckTales Remastered remedies this with challenging boss battles. Besides the boss battles themselves, the whole game also is slightly unforgiving as well. While it’s noteworthy to mention that there are more checkpoints throughout the levels due to their expansion, it’s also worth mentioning that losing all your lives sends you right back to the beginning of the level to start all over again. Considering that a lot of moments in the game can take a life off of you in one hit, along with the fact that only one extra life is found per level – the game can be incredibly frustrating should the player not be so good at platformers.
The difficulty of the game contributes significantly to its overall length, though it’s important to highlight that your mileage may vary depending on your proficiency in this genre. Our final playthrough on Normal mode lasted roughly six hours, though we died completely at least once on each level (and thus, had to restart). Completion of the game allows players to replay the unique opening level again (in which Scrooge travels through his bank) and play on either Hard or Extreme difficulty levels. Collecting gems during the game also can be used to unlock concept art, character art and all kinds of other goodies that any DuckTales fan would eat up – including artwork from the television series. It’s an incredibly meaty package of material – though admittedly one that only the most diehard of DuckTales fans would be able to appreciate.
The most obvious change with DuckTales: Remastered would be the game’s completely redrawn graphics. The team has done an absolutely fantastic job and has to be commended – the artwork not only matches the current “Disney” style for already existing characters, but enemies and bosses are also drawn with a similar style. Nothing seems out of place here, which is incredibly encouraging. Animations aren’t as smooth as they could be, but this may be an artistic choice to stick to the trademark Disney cartoon look. Characters visibly animate to indicate their intonation during cutscenes too, bringing more life to the characters than ever could be done on the NES. The environments themselves are great too, if not a little bit basic looking at times – its clear most of the effort here went into the sprite work.
DuckTales: Remastered also pays incredible respect to its soundtrack. Every single track in the original NES game has been recomposed and modified ever so slightly to give it a modern sound while not diminishing the identity of the original tracks. The result is something so recognisable and so “at home” with players that it’s beyond apparent that the team was respectful of the original game when approaching the project. The voice work is obviously brand new too, and features solid performances from all the original actors – including an aging Alan Young who, needless to say, still has it.
DuckTales: Remastered is, if you didn’t already realise, one of the most respectful remasters that I’ve played in recent years. The vibe and the feel of the original game are still here, but the game has been modified and tweaked ever so slightly to bring it into the modern day with few growing pains. The unforgivable difficulty levels as well as the (relatively) short story length are what will ultimately bring it down form being a perfect remaster of an incredibly popular game. It’s hard to say whether DuckTales: Remastered would be the game for you – but with so much work going into this remaster to the point where it feels and looks like a brand new game, the price tag doesn’t seem that steep. If you’re a DuckTales aficionado ad love everything about the series, or even just the game – this is an absolute must buy. If you’re not, but enjoy challenging, aesthetically pleasing platformers that don’t overstay their welcomes there’s a good chance you’ll still enjoy DuckTales: Remastered. Just make sure you visit Scrooge’s vault at least once for instant nostalgia.