There is a well-known phenomenon in the video gaming world where a licensed game will be adapted from a much larger franchise, and it will inevitably flop. It’s been happening for decades now, with such notable titles as Atari’s 1982 stinker E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and more recently with the ill-fated Aliens: Colonial Marines, a game that never even saw release on the Wii U because of such poor performance on other consoles. But even with franchising, there is always hope. They may be few and far between, but there are some diamonds hidden deep within the rough terrain of licensed video games. One such game is Capcom’s NES gem DuckTales, and now we’re lucky enough to receive a remake for current generation consoles appropriately titled DuckTales: Remastered.
Not only is DuckTales: Remastered a fixed up version of a classic "Metroidvania" style platformer, but the team behind the project are the rising stars at WayForward, led by Matt Bozon. Building off of the 8-bit adventure, WayForward has decided to stick with the formula that made the original game so appealing, then build upward and outward from there. Rather than completely redesigning the stage maps, it has instead decided to use the same maps with adjustments made to allow for larger levels that can’t be immediately rushed through. In other words, those familiar with the ogirinal stages will definitely recognize the paths that they’re walking, but there’s plenty more to see and explore along the way. That being said, there are also some completely new stages added to expand the game. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a solid answer on how many new stages there are, or what the locations might entail.
As a Metroidvania game, there is much emphasis on exploration and collecting. Thankfully, depending on which difficulty level you choose to play at, a mini-map can be accessed in the start menu or on the Wii U GamePad’s touchscreen, a feature that was frustratingly missing from the NES release. And for those of you wondering: yes, you can choose to play the entire game off television on the GamePad’s smaller screen. Another infuriating aspect of the original was the inputs required to perform Scrooge’s signature pogo-cane jump. Rather than having to hold down the B button, the Down arrow, and a left or right direction, now the move can be performed simply by holding B. For die-hard fans, however, WayForward has generously – and hilariously – included the option to choose “hard pogo” controls, reverting back to the original hand-crippling option. It’s obvious that, despite being an updated game aimed at a new generation of players, everything was designed with fans of the original in mind.
An extraordinary amount of care and effort was put into making this a “remastered” game, and it really shows. All of the stage backgrounds were rendered from paintings, creating exquisite canvases to traverse through. The characters themselves — lacking in the soft painted design and going for a crisper cartoon look — are stunningly detailed and smoothly animated. Both the environments and characters come together to form a juxtaposition that is absolutely gorgeous. Just as with the visuals, the audio design is also an achievement in its own right. Not only was the soundtrack completely rearranged and rerecord, but all of the surviving cast members from the television series return to lend their voices to the game. Alan Young — the man behind player-character Scrooge McDuck — will be celebrating his 94th birthday this year. Talk about commitment to a franchise.
DuckTales: Remastered feels like a natural fit on the Wii U, jumping several generations ahead from its original release to land squarely on the newest home console from Nintendo. While our play time with it was limited, it’s clear that development is moving in the right direction on this one. There is much love in the world for the NES version, but we can all rest assured that Capcom’s classic is in safe hands with WayForward.