I want to begin this review by calling out WayForward Technologies for doing something that no other developer has done, at least lately. It seems that every time I’m convinced that they could not possibly impress me any more than they have already, I turn out to be wrong. Take a look my history with them. This is the company that made Contra respectable again with Contra 4 on the DS. Then they were able to make one of the funniest and most enjoyable parodies of the late 80s and early 90s arcade scene with Double Dragon Neon. And now they have taken on what I consider one of their biggest challenges yet, resurrecting what many consider not just one of the best licensed video games ever made, but possibly one of the greatest NES games of all time: Disney’s DuckTales.
When I heard that they were remaking DuckTales for this generation’s systems, I was ecstatic. As you all know I love a remake when it’s done right, as in the case of Bionic Commando Rearmed, Streets of Rage Remake, or the previously mentioned Neon. But if it’s done completely wrong and destroys any relation to the source material, I’m looking at YOU, Ubisoft Singapore and what you did with Turtles in Time Re-Shelled, it ends up leaving a sour taste in our mouths.
Thankfully, DuckTales Remastered falls in the category of getting everything right. While it won’t win any young gamers because of staying true to its "Nintendo Hard" roots, classic gamers will fall in love with it right away.
Here the story is fleshed out a bit compared to the NES original. The Beagle Boys break into Scrooge McDuck’s vast money bin and attempt to steal a painting. A quick tutorial lets Scrooge master his two main attacks: the pogo jump and cane swing. Eventually Scrooge catches Big Time Beagle in the act, and finds the painting hides a map which points to five areas, each holding a extravagant treasure: The Amazon (with the Scepter of the Incan King,) Transylvania (with the Great Coin of Dracula Duck,) African Mines (a great diamond,) the Himalayas (the Great Crown of Genghis Khan,) and everyone’s favorite, the Moon (housing the Green Cheese of Longevity.)
And that’s when the DuckTales experience we all know and love is brought to the 21st century. We control Uncle Scrooge as he traverses the stages to locate the great treasure in each area. But here the experience is more fleshed out and requires a bit more exploring to proceed. For instance, in the Amazon stage, Scrooge must locate eight special coins to create a light bridge to enter the Incan temple, and on the Moon, a remote control originally was required to summon Gizmoduck to open the Green Cheese vault. But now three pieces of his armor need to be located and returned to his alter ego, Fenton.
References to the classic game are plentiful in the remake. For instance, in the original game’s African Mines stage, there was a locked door that required a key. However to get the key you had to go back to Transylvania, which was a bit of an inconvenience. Here, there is a key to control a mine elevator, but thankfully it’s in the African Mines stage with no backtracking required.
Also, there was a statue in the Amazon that required Uncle Scrooge to pay $300,000 to proceed. That statue is still here, but now a couple well timed pogo jumps will destroy the statue, and even goes as far as paying Scrooge back for his investment in the original game! Too bad it didn’t include interest, because after nearly 25 years that would be quite a lot!
Remastered even goes as far as explaining some of the most belief-suspending moments, such as how is Uncle Scrooge able to breathe on the Moon. It turns out here that Gyro Gearloose created a taffy called Oxy Chew that allows him to breathe. Yes it’s silly and asinine, but at least it helps resolve such issues.
Thankfully one change has come in the game that was needed. Those who played the original NES game knew that after Flintheart Glumgold steals all the treasures at the end, Scrooge must return to Transylvania to recover them. But now, Transylvania has been replaced with a brand new stage fitting of a remake.
But the way it is, everything is fitting in such a great game. All the visuals are reminiscent of the classic title, provided with a beautiful coat of high definition and 2.5-D gameplay. Never before has DuckTales ever look as good as it does here, even the cartoon!
Capcom and Disney, as well as the WayForward team did everything they could to make this look, and feel, like an actual episode of the Disney Afternoon series, and what better way could they do it but by bringing back all of the surviving cast members from the cartoon. Terrence McGovern, Chuck McCann, Russi Taylor, and even both Alan Young (as Uncle Scrooge) and June Foray (Magica De Spell,) who are in their mid 90s, all came back to voice this game. And in doing so, it truly feels like the cartoon has been brought back. Now that is what I call commitment!
But the biggest credit for the game has to be keeping the amazing soundtrack as true to the original as possible. We are, after all, talking about a soundtrack that features one of the most iconic songs in gaming history with the Moon theme. Needless to say Jake "Virt" Kaufman had a huge task, and thankfully he more than met the challenge. The soundtrack on Remastered is phenomenal, and yes that includes the Moon theme. Virt even went as far as including segments of the Moon in the other stages, but prevented it from sounding repetitive, and yes that earworm that is the DuckTales theme song is back in all its glory. Then again, we are talking about the same guy who made the best soundtrack of last year in Double Dragon Neon. The soundtrack is so good that I am actually listening to it as I write this review. There is also an option for the real purists to play the classic 8-bit soundtrack as well, so they are not left out.
In addition, there are tons of items to unlock such as art from the characters, pencil sketches, and even art cels from the TV series, all bought with gems from the game. So yes, all those gems are not just for points anymore, as are the special hidden treasures you find when playing the game in Hard mode. That’s right, the Hard mode feels close to the NES game, and beating it opens a special Extreme difficulty that includes a special message for true fans of the NES game at the end, if you can fight your way to it.
However, the Extreme mode is brutal. There are no continues at all, no going back to Duckburg after losing all your lives, and you cannot save your progress. Even more, you are forced to use the original game’s pogo attack, known in this game as "Hard Pogo," which requires you to press down and X or B (on the 360) as opposed to just holding the buttons as before. It will take a while to get used to these controls, especially on the tricky Xbox 360 D-pad.
Nonetheless, at $15, I can’t recommend DuckTales Remastered any higher. The series is nearly 25 years in the making, and WayForward Technologies have gone above and beyond to make fans of the original DuckTales feel more than at home. I have finished the game three times already, and will always go back for more, and I hope everyone else purchases this game too, so that Disney and Capcom know we want more titles like this.
Maybe they will also bring back Rescue Rangers and Darkwing Duck! But then again, Jim Cummings (the voice of DW) wants to bring him back anyway.
Pros: EVERYTHING that made the original NES game great has returned! Top notch presentation from beginning to end. A return of all the surviving voice cast, plus one of the best remastered soundtracks ever by Virt! Tons of unlockables, including a return to the NES soundtrack. A new beginning stage, as well as a new final stage after recovering all five treasures. Gorgeous hand drawn characters in an HD setting.
Cons: The fact that some "professionals" claim this game is boring and its only strength is its nostalgia value. The "Hard Pogo" mode, which can be turned off, is just that, especially on a 360 controller.