Review by Topology
DuckTales, Remade for Today's Fans
This review is mostly aimed at those who enjoyed the DuckTales NES game and cartoon, as I did, because I will not be able to objectively divorce my review from my nostalgic love of this game.
This game was made for us. And, by us, I mean we people who grew up with DuckTales, both the original game(s) and cartoon, both. I really don't think there are words for how gratifying it is to see the adventures of Scrooge in all the remastered glory that this reimagining of a timeless classic has managed to provide, but I'm going to give it a shot. I will be grading this game on the basis of its graphics, music, gameplay, story, and replayability in that order, with my final recommendation appearing thereafter.
First, the graphics. Not every game should strive for photorealism, and DuckTales is a perfect example of one such game. As a licensed game depicting a cartoon, I have almost zero complaints about WayForward's job here. It truly feels like you are watching the DuckTales cartoon, while still being very involved in its progression, as the player. Backgrounds are beautiful, and while mostly static (there are a few exceptions, here), they do an excellent job of immersing the player in the cartoon world in which the characters reside. Animations are fluid, and sprites are beautiful. They have managed to make everything look familiar, and yet brand new.
However, there are areas in which WayForward could have improved their presentation. One such example of something that could have used more polish would be Scrooge's idle animations, the relatively low number of which get repetitive rather quickly. Another example of something that could have been improved upon would be the aforementioned static backgrounds. While there are backgrounds that were animated or layered in some way, this method of animation should have been the norm, not the exception. In a world as vibrant and lively as the one WayForward sought to emulate, every such background should have been full of life. In the grand scheme of things, though, these are minor complaints. There is far more to love than there is to find issue with, here.
Second, the music. DuckTales had exceptional music even when you had to play it on the NES to get your fix, so the team that was tasked with remixing and rescoring this game really had big shoes to fill. Suffice it to say, they did not disappoint. Every song is reminiscent of its 8-bit counterpart, which is to be expected of a remake, but there has been enough new touches added to make many of the remixes arguably better than their 8-bit counterparts. Not all remixes are made equal, mind you, and some are clearly better than others, but that is not to say that there are any bad songs in this game, in my opinion. Some music is so good that I had to stop to enjoy it at the start of its respective level (looking at you, Moon Theme, and Mt. Vesuvius theme).
Third, the gameplay. The gameplay is largely unchanged from the original NES game, but that's not necessarily a complaint. Your life is denoted by the heart containers at the top of the screen, much like in a Legend of Zelda game, and Scrooge mainly defeats enemies by pogo jumping on them with his cane, though that is not the only way to defeat enemies; it is merely the most common way they are defeated. The objective of each level is to beat the boss that guards the treasure that Scrooge left his mansion to track down. Some levels are just as unforgiving as their original counterparts, but the game itself is easier in general. This is due, in part, to quality-of-life changes made by WayForward. These changes include being able to save progress in between levels, or simply being kicked back to level select upon losing all of your lives, as opposed to having to completely start over from square one. Having something to spend your hard-earned money on is a new gameplay element as well, which may lead you to make stupid decisions in certain levels while trying to unearth every hidden diamond (I sure did).
In hindsight, the most obvious gameplay difference between this game and the original NES version of DuckTales is the addition of two completely new levels. Without going into too much detail, and avoiding spoilers, these levels occur as the first and last levels of the game, and cannot be encountered outside of this sequence. The new first level is a tutorial level with a boss that did not exist in the original game, and the last level serves as a gauntlet of sorts, leading up to the (newly) climactic battle with the final boss. While a veteran player may express irritation at the addition of a tutorial level, there is little cause for concern. These additions have been handled rather well, and the game itself is better for their inclusion.
Fourth, the story. The story has definitely seen improvement in this version of DuckTales. Arguably, the biggest thing that WayForward added to this game are the cutscenes, fully voiced and all. While these are not explicitly gameplay elements, they serve as a considerable source of exposition throughout your adventures, which was notably absent in the NES version. When you played the original NES game, there was no backstory given or reason delineated for why Scrooge was doing what he was doing, other than greed (which is not entirely out of character). The cutscenes provide that important missing element, which really, was the only thing that I found wanting about the original DuckTales.
The voicework is what truly sets these specific cutscenes above other examples of cartoon-based video game cutscenes, though. The incomparable Alan Young, who is well into his nineties now, does a masterful job of reprising his role as Scrooge McDuck, and much of the original cast also returns to bring life to this amazing game. Perhaps the most important detail about the cutscenes, though, is that they are entirely optional. This stops them from getting stale for those of us that plan on playing this game several times over.
Finally, my assessment of the game's replayability. This new version of DuckTales has a relatively impressive amount of replayability. For those of us who plan on beating the game on every difficulty, there is certainly plenty to do toward reaching that end, but there is still much to do for people that are not difficulty junkies. Replaying every level, trying to find every treasure, and unlocking all of the new extras are already a tall order for most, but on top of that, there are enough Steam achievements to keep most people playing for hours on end.
DuckTales Remastered is also one of those games that players will find themselves playing periodically due to its episodic structure, which further facilitates such an approach to playing the game. In total, a new player may take around six hours to beat the game from the beginning, watching every cutscene in the process. This time is lengthened by repeated failures, but the average player should not have too much trouble on that front, as the difficulty is rather well balanced for new players and veterans alike, as long as they choose the proper difficulty setting at launch.
My final recommendation is that this game is absolutely worth the money, especially if you can get it on sale and happen to like either platformers or great cartoons. DuckTales Remastered is a slam dunk for any old fan of the cartoon and video game, as I am. Many might see this game as an attempt to cash in on nostalgia by Capcom, Disney, and WayForward, but I can safely say that there have been enough lovingly-made new additions, on top of the obvious signs of the original DuckTales, here to justify a purchase.
Scrooge, Huey, Dewey, Louie, Webby, Mrs. Beakley, Launchpad, Bubba, Gyro, Fenton, the Beagle Boys, Flintheart Glomgold, and Magica De Spell are waiting to greet you once again. What are you waiting for?
Score: 8.8/10, rounded up to 9/10 as per GameFAQs scoring requirements.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Disney DuckTales Remastered (US, 08/13/13)
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