When it was announced that Peter Cullen was returning to voice Optimus Prime in Michael Bay’s 2007 iteration of Transformers, it was big news for fans who grew up with the infallible Autobot leader. When it was announced that Kevin Conroy was going to reprise his role as the Dark Knight in 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum, fans who grew up watching the 1992 Batman animated series were elated (and throwing in Mark Hamill as the Joker only made them more antsy).
Fast-forward to 2013, and we find that WayForward Technologies has been trusted to remaster the beloved DuckTales NES game—and 94-year-old Alan Young hopped on the chance to voice Scrooge McDuck one last time. It wasn’t just Young, though—ALL of the original voice actors for the DuckTales cartoon were onboard for DuckTales Remastered! Fans who grew up watching DuckTales were ecstatic, just as the fans who enjoyed Peter Cullen and Kevin Conroy were, and it’s the fans who grew up watching (or playing) DuckTales, I think, who are going to be the one’s most excited to play DuckTales Remastered.
In an interview with Siliconera, Rey Jimenez (the producer of Ducktales Remastered) mentioned that each of the five areas main areas in the game were designed to feel like an episode of the cartoon. As a huge fan of the NES version of DuckTales, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the nostalgic 8-bit sprites being replaced by hand-drawn animations. After spending just over five hours beating the game, however, I can see that it makes sense for what WayForward was trying to accomplish the new style—and It might’ve been more of a problem if they didn’t devote the core of DuckTales Remastered to this concept, but they did, and it helped craft a completely different experience.
The animation in Ducktales Remastered is right on par with what you’d expect from WayForward Technologies—fluid, detailed, and executed in such a way that it really did make me feel like I was in control of an episode of one of my favorite childhood T.V. shows. Go ahead—jump in one of those carnivorous flowers in The Amazon area, and look on with awe. Oh, and it’d be foolish of me to not mention the gorgeous, hand-painted-matte-on-3D-geometry backgrounds that garnish instead of pollute the game’s environment (that one’s for you, Kaufman). Unlocking the background art in the gallery section makes these all the more admirable, too.
Some have already expressed their irritation towards the constant in-game banter that “interrupts” gameplay, but with the option to skip past any cinematic in a matter of seconds, not to mention my partiality towards hearing Alan Young’s sharp-tongued humor, it never detracted from the experience. Although the characters might seem unfamiliar to millennial gamers, the humor is timeless, and the puns are gold (perhaps even worthy of a place in McDuck’s Money Pit).
Among my favorite additions to DuckTales is the stellar remixed soundtrack by Jake Kaufman, and a story that explains why Scrooge McDuck is hunting for treasures—and an awesome, re-imagined faceoff with… well, you’ll have to discover that for yourself. I can guarantee you, though, that you’ll want to show up to the final stage’s boss with at least three lives and full health.
On that subject, combat itself is still reliant on Scrooge McDuck hopping around on his cane, and the controls used to utilize the cane can sometimes be finicky, but not enough to steal more than a few hearts from you. I beat the game on normal with little to no problem. Hard mode is next, followed by extreme difficulty, which I expect to beat in order to unlock all of the bonus concept art, music, and so on.
DuckTales wasn’t a AAA hit on the NES, and you shouldn’t expect it to be a AAA title today. The NES had obvious limitations, after all—it couldn’t use the kind of rich voice work that DuckTales Remastered brings to the table, nor could it afford to expand on the motives of Scrooge McDuck’s treasure hunting adventures. It’s in this sense that DuckTales Remastered represents the best of what the original DuckTales game could have been, while maintaining the simplicity that made the game special in the first place.
When you start up DuckTales Remastered, you can hear the original 8-bit title theme underneath Jake Kaufman’s brilliant remix—and I think that serves as a proper metaphor for how I experienced the game from beginning to end. The spirit of DuckTales is still there, but it’s got a new face—and a wonderful one at that. Taking something good and making it great, that’s what I’ve come to expect from the WayForward team.
This love letter to the olden days of gaming was made by the biggest fans DuckTales, and by people who understand what made those platformers so addictive. It’s not for everyone, but for those who want a taste of the old, I can’t help but recommend it.
Food For Thought:
1. I mentioned some time ago that I hoped Capcom would trust the blue bomber brand to WayForward, and maybe if this is successful, we can expect to see that hope become a reality! (Just think of Kaufman remaking all of Mega Man X’s music)
2. You can choose to play through the game with the original, 8-bit soundtrack—but only after you beat the game (on any difficulty) at least once.
3. Do yourself a favor, and before you select your first venue for adventure, go into McDuck’s safe. Jump from the top, and enjoy the detail put into bringing McDuck’s character to life.