Platform: PlayStation 3 (PSN), Xbox 360 (XBLA)
Wii U (eShop), PC (Steam)
Release Date: August 13, 2013
(Sept. 11 for XBLA)
ESRB: E for Everyone
This review is based on the PlayStation 3 version of the game
The original DuckTales game for the NES is perhaps one of the best known and most beloved games based on a license. So strong is the nostalgia fans have for it that many would declare it to be one of the very best platformers of its time, only rivaled in superiority by Super Mario Bros. and a few others. Based on a modified version of the engine used in the Mega Man games, DuckTales had a unique gameplay premise - protagonist Scrooge McDuck would use his cane as a pogo stick both as a way to defeat enemies and to reach higher areas in addition to traversing dangerous terrain.
Now, some 24 years after its original release, Capcom and Disney Interactive have teamed up with WayForward to develop a recreation of the original game with all-new, HD art and design as well as other modernizations such as voice acting and even story elements. But this isn't just DuckTales the way WayForward wants to do it; Remastered is incredibly faithful to the original, thankfully.
Right from the get-go, WayForward pays homage to the original game by opening up the title screen with what sounds like the original NES theme but is actually a remixed version. Upon starting, you're thrown into the game's brand new tutorial level, which not only serves as an introduction to the gameplay, but to the story as well. Scrooge's money bin is once again broken into by the Beagle Boys, and it's up to him to stop them. From there, a treasure map is found, and Scrooge, along with his three nephews, Huey, Louie, and Dewey; his niece, Webbigail (or Webby, for short); and lovable (but clumsy) pilot Launchpad are thrown into an international search for five lost treasures across five very different locations.
Similar to the Mega Man games DuckTales' engine is based off of, you're able to select which of the five levels you'd like to go to in any order. And in an attempt to modernize certain aspects of the game, certain areas are expanded on and added to in each level. In fact, all but one level have a subplot that must be dealt with, usually involving a fetch quest where Scrooge must find a number of unique items before moving on (more on that in a bit). Only one of the levels really felt a bit tiresome in this regard (the Amazon), but the rest made it feel as if the fetch quest lent to the natural exploration of the level instead of wandering around aimlessly.
While much of the platforming is pretty straightforward stuff and relatively "unimaginative" compared to many of the modern games today, it's still quite a bit of fun, and there are some interesting level designs that make good use of your skill with Scrooge's cane, especially the new final level that was added. Another thing you'll be on the lookout for in each level are diamonds (big and small) and rubies, which can either be found in treasure chests dispersed throughout the level or by walking in certain spots and having them appear out of thin air. By collecting them, they'll add to your money total, which you can then use to buy art and music outside of levels to view and listen to in the Gallery section.
As mentioned earlier, in each level is a new story that ties the events and the level's boss together. In a way, each level plays out almost as its own cartoon episode, with the beginning setting up the plot, different cutscenes dispersed throughout, and the boss battle tying things up and resolving the plot. WayForward even thought of clever ways to explain strange bosses such as the Moon Rat and the Terra-firmie King. It's also a joy to see secondary characters like Bubba Duck, Fenton Crackshell/GizmoDuck, Gyro Gearloose, Flintheart Glomgold, and others make appearances and contribute to the story.
There's no shortage of voice talent in the game as well; in fact, DuckTales Remastered reunites much of the cast of the original TV show, including voice-acting legends Alan Young as the greedy but lovable miser Scrooge; June Foray as antagonist Magica De Spell; Russi Taylor as Huey, Louie, Dewey, and Webby; and Terry McGovern as Launchpad. Such talent really lends to the authenticity of the whole experience, even with Young and Foray in their '90s now. As for the music, composer Jake Kaufman introduces some new arrangements of the old, classic songs from the original game that help bring them into the modern age, including the beloved Moon theme, which is absolutely done justice here.
If there's one thing that truly shines above everything else, though, it's the game's outstanding visuals. WayForward went the extra mile in recreating and re-drawing all of the original assets in HD, with the backgrounds recreated in 3D, and the characters and enemies all beautifly hand-drawn in 2D. They even contracted Mike Peraza and Rick Evans, who worked on the original TV show, to work on the backgrounds and layouts, showing extra care and attention to ensure that everything is as authentic as possible. The only downside in the visuals department that I would mention is the lack of lip-synching to the voices; it's understandable why it was omitted (since that would require much more time and animation) but it's still a shame, if only a small one. Fortunately, the characters do a fair bit of pantomiming when they talk, so the illusion of them speaking is still there to a degree.
In all, it's hard to imagine another developer (perhaps save for Nintendo) who has gone above and beyond when remaking a classic game. Whereas other developers might have gone for the quick and easy route, simply recreating character models and calling it a day, WayForward went the extra mile in striking a fine balance between paying homage to the TV show by adding new material, and honoring the original game by keeping most of what made it so great. It isn't perfect in every regard, and the gameplay is far from innovative in this day and age, but for anyone who was a fan of the show and the original game, DuckTales Remastered is like revisiting an old friend. It's well worth visiting for both those who are nostalgic for their youth and for anyone looking for a fun and charming platformer.
+ Animation and visuals are top notch, beautiful
+ Remixed songs from the original game are quite catchy
+ Game genuinely feels like a series of DuckTales cartoons
+ Almost all of the original voice actors return and do a fabulous job
- Story scenes can get bothersome during repeated attempts to beat a level
- Platforming is a bit basic beside some of the more difficult areas
- Game is still short (around 3-5 hours on first playthrough)
Overall Score: 8 (out of 10)
DuckTales Remastered is a must-play for fans of the old show and NES game. The gameplay might not feel as fresh nowadays, but it still holds up and feels as charming as ever, especially with the addition of newly animated and voiced cutscenes.