DuckTales (NES)

Game Review

DuckTales Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Bryan Griffin


As part of our celebration week for the 30th Anniversary of the Famicom system, we'll highlight some key retro reviews to highlight the best of what the 8-bit system had to offer. Today we have DuckTales, and don't forget to click the Famicom banner on the homepage to see our content for this special occasion.

Isn't it great when a licensed game turns out to be awesome? We are too often fooled into wasting money on sloppy attempts to bring our favourite characters into the video game world. After being burned countless times, usually during childhood when you don't know any better, you may begin to avoid licensed games altogether. Anyone that played DuckTales back in the NES days, however, knows that the risk can be worth taking. In fact, this game might be responsible for so many of us giving licensed games a chance, even after being let down by unworthy cash-ins so many times. DuckTales reminds us that it’s possible to do it the right way.

Everyone knows that platformers were very popular back in 1989, thanks largely to Super Mario Bros. DuckTales jumped on the bandwagon with several features that were common in the era, such as an invincibility power up and a generous timer for each level. It also has several unique aspects to it, such as Uncle Scrooge's ability to bounce on his cane like a pogo stick. You can spend most of a level just bouncing away, landing on enemy heads to defeat them, or reaching high places that are untouchable with your normal jump. The jumping mechanics in this game really help to flesh out Uncle Scrooge as we know him – a wily old duck. No, he can't leap from rope to rope with ease or even run to jump farther. He's too old for that! What he can do is bounce on his cane and rain total destruction on anyone standing between him and his money. And who can't admire that?

Each level has a unique theme and feel to it. The amount of detail and thought the designers put into the stages is excellent. This is how it always should be. If you're going to feature the typical variety of video game environments, you should make it fun and interesting. DuckTales didn't take the lazy way out, instead making sure that each level had its own set of unique challenges. For instance, in the Himalayas stage, Scrooge will sink if you pogo into the snow. This forces you to spend most of the level walking normally, only resorting to bouncing on the cane when you have to. To contrast that, there's the Amazon stage, where you'll almost constantly be bouncing around, dodging enemies that are running at you and reaching higher vines to climb. Transylvania features mirrors that teleport you to different parts of the stage, and a tricky "illusion wall" that may have you feeling lost until you figure out where it is. This leads to Metroid-style exploration and retracing of steps. Fitting your playing style to the environment keeps the game fresh, and without a save feature, it's nice to stay interested while you're trying to beat the game in one sitting.

DuckTales is fairly short, but non-linear gameplay adds replay value into the mix. You can choose to tackle the stages in any order, and there are a couple different paths to take in almost every level. You can even unlock an alternate ending by discovering hidden treasures and collecting enough money by the end of the game. With three difficulty settings to choose from, it’s plenty of fun to visit Duckberg more than once. The easiest setting is by no means a walk in the park, and still offers a nice challenge while giving the player a break from some of the trickier aspects. The most challenging setting sets the bar high, with more frequent enemies and a faster pace; no matter the difficulty, though, the boss battles are very easy. It’s always just a matter of dodging an attack and bouncing on your enemy's head. You would think that Magica De Spell could whip up something more threatening than tossing a few lightning bolts at you, or that Flintheart Glomgold would have more tricks up his sleeve to prevent his worst enemy from becoming the richest duck in the world.

The references to the DuckTales universe are everywhere, and the game features cameos from all the stars of the show. For instance, Launchpad will appear at the checkpoint of each level to offer you a ride back to Duckberg. Other notable characters that make appearances are Huey, Dewey, and Louie, Webby Vanderquack, Mrs. Beakley, Magica De Spell, Gizmo Duck, and a slew of others. The greatest part about encountering them is that each retains what made them a unique part of the show; you can almost hear Webby's worried voice when she tells you Huey has been captured, or Magica's evil laugh that leaves her trembling with evil delight just before she disappears. Uncle Scrooge himself is the greatest example of this, and he maintains his distinct attitude and humour for all of the dialogue.

The graphics in DuckTales are excellent, bright and colourful, similar to other Capcom titles of the time. A true testament to this is that the game still looks good enough to be entirely playable hiccup-free over twenty years since its release. These aren't the most advanced graphics the NES is capable of, but they don't have to be; if the goal was to evoke the feeling of watching an episode of the TV show, Capcom succeeded. It's in 8-bit form, but it's the Duckberg we all know and love.

The music is wonderful, and each stage has its own track that subtly adds to the experience. The score of the Moon level is futuristic, the Amazon is upbeat and adventurous, and Transylvania is creepy and haunting. That of the Mines stage is fairly uninspired, but it's the exception in an excellent track list. All of this is beside the trademark theme song from the show that's played at the title screen – it's just as fun to hear in an NES game as it is from your TV.


If you need to scratch your NES nostalgia itch or you also loved DuckTales as a kid, this game is for you. The gameplay is unique and extremely fun, the presentation is excellent, and the characters you know and love are intact; non-linear exploration and an alternate ending will have you coming back for more. Uncle Scrooge is just as cranky and loveable now as he was twenty years ago, and this would be an instant buy should it ever come to the Virtual Console. The game is kept from a perfect score by its easy boss battles and relatively short length, but it’s still one of the best examples of an excellent licensed game around.

From the web

User Comments (64)



Zach said:

This was one of my favorite games as a child. Great review, Bryan.



Tasuki said:

I loved this game as a kid as well. I remember when I first saw it an issue of Nintendo Power. I saved every penny I got from Birthdays and allowences and any other way I could get money at the time for this game. By the time Christmas came around I still didnt have enough but to my surprise I opened up a wrapped Nintendo shaped gift to find Uncle Scrooge looking back at me.

Sadly though I beat that game 3 days later by getting both endings. Still a great game and I still have it to this day now only if I can find a working NES lol.



Cipher said:

Is this game ever going to come to the Virtual Console? 'Cos I'd love to play it.
And for some reason, I have an overwhelming urge to shout Barbra Streisand at the top of my lungs...



Corbs said:

This was a great game. And a great cartoon for that matter.



StarBoy91 said:

Wow, this review was a complete surprise! And what a good surprise it was. Good review, Bryan, and welcome to NintendoLife (assuming you're new).
I've enjoyed this game ever since I purchased it at GameCrazy six years ago. I do concur, it is just as fun to hear the theme song in the NES as much as in the series. I need to watch the cartoon again (good thing YouTube uploadds classic cartoon episodes).



Tasuki said:

@Cipher: I dont think so cause of the Disney License. I dont think Capcom has it anymore so that may be a problem.



sykotek said:

This is one of the best games of all time. The Amazon theme is playing through my head as I type this.



StarBoy91 said:

This game's always had a Mega Man feel for me; maybe due to its nonlinearity; maybe because of the way the screen slowly scrolls when it comes to meeting a boss; or gradually scrolling when you go up or down; or maybe it was the fact that $crooge McDuck's sprite looked similar to that of Mega Man's (to me)?
Even so, this game's still a blast. Moon Theme FTW!!!
I wish I knew the secret as to how $crooge can be able to breathe in space without a space suit.



MetalMario said:

I have this old cartridge lying around forever. I love it and would have given it a 10, really.

V. C. Now.



NintyMan said:

As soon as I saw this, the moon theme started playing in my head, and I'm listening to other music right now! I never played this game, but the music alone makes it sound pretty awesome. I wish this was on VC, but it doesn't have licensed games, so that's a bummer. If only licensed games were more like this game...



StarBoy91 said:

DuckTales is the only game from Capcom that I own for my NES. Which Disney game for the NES should I try next, I wonder? Mickey Mousecapade (even though it was developed by Hudson Soft, but published by Capcom in the West, from what I looked up)? Darkwing Duck? DuckTales 2? The possibilities are endless!!
I'd say The Little Mermaid, but I have the Game Boy version of the game.



Shiryu said:

I really REALLY need to remix the moon theme of this one... makes mental note for "Shiryu's Arcade Volume 2



kurtasbestos said:

I never got to play this game, but I played the crap out of DuckTales for Gameboy. I hear they're basically the same, but still... I wonder what I was missing.



StarBoy91 said:

Is it just me, or are the colors in the screenshots lighter than they're supposed to be? When I play the game, it's not as bright as the screenshots here show them to be.



B-ry said:

Thanks for all the great comments guys! This game is so fun. I want-need the soundtrack so bad. Amazon theme ftw!

I'm definitely reviewing Mickey Mousecapade at some point, and Rescue Rangers if I can find it. I remember it being really fun too.



WaveGhoul said:

Chip 'n Dale is another classic! Loved both Ducktales and Chip 'n Dale growing up. Sadly the sequals weren't up to snuff.



Bikeage said:

I remember my buddy calling our nearby Target every day for a month asking if Ducktales had arrived yet... I don't think games necessarily had widespread concrete release dates back then, and a licensed game that was actually good was a HUGE deal.



Capt_N said:

Never owned, but rented a few times. Great stuff! This does need to reach the VC.



Link79 said:

I have this in my closet somewhere. Sadly I never finished it. I may have to go dig it out. Was Ducktales 2 just as good?



outrun2sp said:

A true classic this game. One of the best uses of a disney license even though it was too easy.



Rensch said:

I have the Game Boy version which is quite fun. I like the non-linear feel of it. The fact that this is from the same studio (Capcom) who did Mega Man shines through. I heard the NES version is far superior though.



avalanche said:

I received this game for Christmas shortly after getting the NES, and played it to death. Managed to find the sequel used - about 15 years later - but never really got into that one.



SolarJetman said:

I would have given this game an 8... it really is too short. Only 5 or 6 levels, if I can recall correctly. Also, I don't feel it's in the same class as some of Capcom's other NES games, like Bionic Commando, Strider, Willow, and the Mega Mans.



D33G said:

I've heard a lot about this game, so now I know the truth. It's great.



outrun2sp said:

Game boy version is easier to control. You dont need to hold down at the same time to pogo.

I think both versions are equal.

Great music for transylvania.



Zeldaterasu said:

I loved this game when I was a kid! I wasn't any good at it and never finished it but it was still fun! Just another reason why I miss my NES...



Sneaker13 said:

I never played the NES version (love the GB version though). Hope it will be released on VC sometimes. Love the music in the Moon world. Legendary.



TheLonelyGamer said:

This game was great, love the soundtrack too. To be honest, I actually enjoyed the sequel more, probably because of the controls, they're better than the first, though DuckTales 2's soundtrack is alright, not like the legendary soundtrack of the first one.



Punny said:

Great show. Great game. Where the duck is the Virtual Console version?



StarBoy91 said:

The characters are very great and very likeable. R.I.P. Carl Banks (1901-2000), you wonderful creator of $crooge McDuck, and the Beagle Boys, and so forth.



PSICOffee said:

Man this game is fun, why can't all licensed games be this way and match Capcom's quality!? I want to get the sequel to this in cart form and the other disney capcom games as well like Chip n Dale. So far though Little Nemo is my favorite of the bunch.



StarBoy91 said:

Hi, Serhio, welcome to NintendoLife. It seems like pretty much everyone that's played this game (myself included) holds it in high regard.



dizzy_boy said:

capcom made really good games for disney.
shame that disney dropped them, because disney`s own published games are poor in comparison.



arrmixer said:

Definite classic. I loved the series and the game when I was kid. Also TMNT was also a classic for me.



ricklongo said:

I did enjoy this game as a kid, but, as far as Disney adaptations went, I liked Rescue Rangers and (especially) Darwing Duck better. If I could replay them, I'd see if my opinion has changed. These really need to come to the VC!



gusmento01 said:

I still have the original cart which I play from time to time, the easy and normal can be finished with little effort but the Difficult mode it's insanely hard.



Beta said:

Never been able to try this out as I'm not that old, but I can;t wait to play the remaster! I didn't play the game, but the cartoon was a huge part of my childhood.



Dpishere said:

I used to play a DuckTales game for the NES at my Grandparents' house, just not sure if it was the first or second one. Either way I had many good times with it and am looking forward to playing the remastered DuckTales game.



hYdeks said:

True classic! I absolutely love this game! Hopefully if the remaster sales do well, we'll see the first chip n' dale game have a remake as well. Maybe even Darkwing Duck or something else will come out of it as well



Tasuki said:

One of my favorite NES games. I still have my cartridge to this day and I am planning to pick up Ducktales Remastered as soon as it becomes available.



element187 said:

Agree with this review. The game was almost perfect back then... I haven't played it since 1989, so I'm looking forward to the remake next month.



Ren said:

an absolute classic from the days when capcom ruled the land. Chip and Dales is the other standout Disney one for me, it's similar but playing both chipmunks is really cool. The music is also amazing in all these titles. thanks for the review. Also, wasn't there some kind of tease about a re-release/ update of this game or something? I got all excited that this would have mention of that.



unrandomsam said:

This is one of the few NES games that are still quite good to play. (It is not a port of an arcade game and it stands on its own).

Think it will sell well dunno whether it will sell well enough for Capcom though.

Don't like the idea of the control scheme being changed though that was one of the best parts of it. (Usually when something is not made the default it gets less effort put in.)

Should be played with a wiimote (Closest thing to a nes controller).

I would be perfectly happy with this version as long as it was the 60hz version.



allav866 said:

This got a 9/10, and I agree with that, but I can honestly say the Remastered edition is much better! I can't wait for the review.

Leave A Comment

Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...