Ducktales Remastered [Review]

I think I'll grab onto some ORIGINAL Ducktales, thanks.

Ducktales Remastered

As far as remakes go, it sounded to me like Ducktales Remastered was going to be exactly what I wanted. All WayForward and Capcom had planned to do was give an old favorite NES game a new coat of paint and infuse it with the animation and voices from the cartoon I grew up watching. I really didn’t think anything could go wrong, but mixing the storytelling techniques of a cartoon show and the gameplay of an NES game causes certain problems. The solid NES game from my youth is still intact underneath all this new stuff, but there’s really nothing here that’s worth playing Ducktales Remastered over the original Ducktales.

I have often said that all I want in a remake is a new coat of paint, updating the graphics to more modern standards to help make the game a bit more enjoyable for a new audience. It’s the gameplay I loved, but with a whole new look so the kids don’t look at me funny when I try to show the game to them in a dark alley while wearing bedsheets and an old box. Ducktales Remastered does pretty much just that, taking the NES sprites and animating them with a look straight out of the cartoon. They move just like in the cartoon, and all the animations are super smooth because of it. Watching Dracula Duck swirl his cape as he comes to life, or even just seeing the regular enemies on the moon float up and down looks beautiful.

The backgrounds and locales have nothing on the animated characters, but they still do look nice. The 3D animation in them looks almost out of place, but if you’ve played Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, you’ll know that it’s not that strange. The locations from the original NES game are rendered with a lot of care, adding some nice background objects like huge paintings, distant ruins, or spatial events. The 3D has nothing on the cartoonish animations of the characters, but having 3D backgrounds made the characters pop out all the more. Were this game to have taken an approach where everything was animated in the same style, like Super Paper Mario, the character animations might have gotten lost in all the similar background animation. With the characters standing out so much against the duller 3D backdrops, though, you can really savor every bit of their detail and movements. Besides, the backgrounds look nice anyway in their own way.

Ducktales Remastered

The music is nice, taking the original themes and building on them in interesting ways. Even so, for Jake Kaufman (the man who worked on Double Dragon Neon and Contra 4), I can’t help but feel that these songs were quite limited. They sound nice, but they stick very closely to the original arrangements of the songs, feeling very safe for a composer who normally does brilliant work taking tracks and making them his own. Given how important the soundtracks was to the original game, I have the feeling he was told to stay very close to the original scores, working that nostalgia over as hard as possible. I’m actually a bit disappointed in it because of that, though, as I really felt that Kaufman could have done some amazing work with the iconic songs of the game. It’s still pleasant to listen to and a fine tribute to the original, but when I saw Kaufman’s name attached I expected a lot more.

Then again, it feels like the whole game was kept limited to the original as well. When I first saw someone playing it at PAX and saw the in-game map, I thought that the levels were going to be expanded to the point where someone would actually need the map to get through. Unfortunately, the levels are laid out pretty much in the exact same way the original was. Every frame has been recreated in 3D with the gorgeous artwork, but it is still the exact same game you played twenty some years ago. If you had a good feel for the game then, odds are good you’ll know exactly what to do now.

They did make one change to freshen the game up in that they added a few more collectibles into the game’s maps. They’re mandatory to reach the end of the level, but they’re not exactly well hidden. The game uses its map feature to show you where each of them are, taking out any of the fun I might have felt at exploring these old locations again. In case that wasn’t bad enough, the items are typically directly in your path when you pass through a given area — meaning you’re basically handed everything you need to get through the level if you just go everywhere. They feel like a pointless addition, one the game could have done without.

Ducktales Remastered

The worst crime in the game appears when you pick one of the items up. Every time you grab something you need, you get a little cutscene. Now, if you loved the cartoons you might be thinking that the cutscenes were a nice touch, and they probably should have been. It was great to see all of the old voice actors reprise their roles for this game; digging out Alan Young and June Foray. My problem is that these cutscenes play too frequently. In the Amazon level, there are eight collectibles, and every single time you grab an item, Scrooge will babble on for a minute or so about what he’s doing, talking over the radio with Launchpad. Now, the Amazon is not very long (Go watch a speed run if you don’t believe me), so I was getting stopped for a minute of cutscene about every two minutes of gameplay, if that.

That’s unacceptable in just about any game, but in a remake of an NES game, it’s downright vile. NES games are about pure gameplay and keeping the player moving and doing all the time. Ducktales Remastered continually breaks the momentum that the original possessed by tripping you up with a cutscene every few minutes, making it impossible to get into the game and enjoy it to any degree. Just as I was about to start having fun and enjoy my game, someone would have a conversation, and then I’d have to wait for them to shut up so I could settle back into the game again. This happened so often and so quickly that I never felt like I got to actually get into the game at almost any point, keeping me constantly and consistently annoyed.

I should have been able to enjoy the game, too. The combat had stayed pretty much the same, bringing back the pogo cane attack of the original. For whatever reason, having to hit a button again to hop on top of an enemy’s head felt, and still feels, great. The game’s controls with this attack lend you the ability to do some really neat maneuvers, allowing you to ping from one enemy to the next while bouncing across obstacles with ease. It feels a lot more controllable any of the Mario games I’ve played, lacking the floaty feeling that comes with the jumps in those games. I never got tired of it when Ducktales Remastered wasn’t constantly interrupting me.

Being able to do that attack well makes the game a bit of a joke, though. The enemies often don’t have any complicated patterns or abilities, often just running in to die. The bosses have thankfully been tweaked to provide a little more challenge, but still not that much. Many of them have a move or two to make them more interesting than they used to be, often only having small windows when you could hit them, but the patterns still aren’t anything you couldn’t learn by watching them do a thing or two.  A few bosses like Magica de Spell had more extensive move sets, but the rest of them show the strategic ability of Toad Man from Mega Man IV. It’s nice that they tried to make the bosses harder, but they still felt flat and easy.

Ducktales Remastered

They did add in one more level, Mount Vesuvius, at the end (since the original game copped out and just sent you back to Transylvania for the last level). When I got here, it felt like what I’d been waiting for during the entire game. The level was actually challenging, something that required me to try to avoid damage. The enemies and bosses felt like they’d been laid out to give me a hard time, forcing me to act with some precision. The music and level design were also completely new, showing a flair for the feel of the original game while still creating something different. There are also nearly no interruptions for cutscenes, making the game flow seamlessly almost the entire time. It was fantastic, and it felt like I’d finally reached the game I’d wanted to play when I bought it.

Then it’s all over, and all you can do is swim in your amassed wealth in your money bin. It’s a cool addition, but you can’t really do anything with it so you’ll get tired of it fast. I felt like you needed to actually be able to do something there for it to be worthwhile, and never bothered with it again after the initial dive. You can spend all that money you’ve picked up on concept art, music, and other stuff if you’re interested in seeing some of the stuff on how the game got made, but doing so will require a couple of forays into the field to afford them. If you really like the game, it’s a nice addition.

You can also increase the difficulty if you find the game too easy like I did. The difficulty just seems to reduce the amount of hits you can take, getting to the point where the game develops a Contra-like difficulty… or at least it would if you didn’t respawn nearby every time you died. With limitless lives (or at least I never died enough that I was told I’d run out), this means you’ll just need a little patience in order to get through on the highest difficulty. I barely ever got hit in the game anyway, so it feels like the difficulty levels don’t add much value.

I liked looking at Ducktales Remastered. It’s a lovely reminder of how much I enjoyed the cartoon as a kid, but it’s also a reminder that I’m a grown man, now. I don’t much like all the bad, childish jokes and I have better things to do than listen to Scrooge and Gyro ramble on about nothing for the third time when I just want to play the game. There is a solid game buried under all the stuff that was added to enhance it, but all this game showed me is how good that original game was. With no interruptions, solid music, and fun gameplay, there is almost no reason not to play Ducktales over its modern remake. The graphics might make it more appealing to a new audience, but with the constant interruptions, it actually takes away from the good parts of the classic game, making for a remake that’s inferior to the original.

Joel Couture
Joel Couture
Joel Couture

MASH Veteran

A horror-obsessed gamer, Joel is still spending his days looking for something to scare himself as much as Fatal Frame. Even so, he has ridiculous action games and obscure gems to keep him happy in the meantime. A self-proclaimed aficionado of terrible retro games, he's always looking for a rotten game he hasn't played yet, and may be willing to exchange information for candy.

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