Despite Nintendo's refusal to acknowledge the Duck Hunt character in Super Smash Bros. until long after the 3DS version was released, we all knew that the duo – or trio – were in the game. What we didn't know at that time was that Duck Hunt was due to release on the Wii U's Virtual Console, and now it has. The question is whether it has aged well.
For those who don't know how Duck Hunt works, you have to point at the screen and shoot ducks down from the sky in three shots or less so that your trusted hound can pick them up and display them to you. Once you've shot or missed ten birds you'll progress onto the next round, which increases the speed that the ducks move and periodically brings in other colours that move in different patterns. If you fail to meet the minimum number of successful hits – displayed by a blue bar underneath the row of duck icons – it's game over and you'll have to start all over again.
You have three game modes to choose from: Game A which launches a single duck at a time, Game B which will launch two ducks simultaneously – although still with only a three-shot limit – and Game C which replaces the ducks with clay pigeons and removes the dog altogether.
If you're playing by yourself you'll probably want to play Game B, as it features the most interesting movement patterns and presents more of a challenge, but if you happen to have someone else nearby you can thrust a second Wii Remote into their hands for some light multiplayer action. The second player can interact on Game A by controlling the single bird in an attempt to make the player with the 'gun' fail in their efforts. This is actually more engaging than perhaps it sounds, as you can really ruin someone's day by quickly dashing off in a direction when they least suspect it; this makes Game A much more interesting for the main player in the earlier levels. Game C is a more predictable mode, as the clay pigeons follow an obvious trajectory and are quite easy to hit. You can still make the game harder by removing the crosshair, but it's still nowhere near as enjoyable as the other two modes.
The major difference between this version and the original is, of course, the controller - the original NES Zapper is not supported (obviously!) and instead we have to make do with a Wii Remote, preferably in some sort of plastic shell that makes it feel like a real gun. You can use the Wii Zapper, but it's a very bulky item and doesn't lend itself terribly well to the gameplay, although it does provide more support from the second handle.
This version allows you to have a crosshair displayed on screen, which reduces the difficulty significantly but is almost a necessity with the different technology that's behind the game this time around. You can turn the crosshair off if you like by pressing any direction on the Wii Remote's D-Pad, and instead the crosshair will only flash up when you take a shot before fading away. This makes the game significantly closer to the original and ramps up the difficulty to levels that many may not wish to tread, but it's nice that the option's there for those who are more experienced.
Despite these options, the game is somewhat bite-sized due to the limitations of its original system. This is the case with many NES titles on the Virtual Console, and although it's common knowledge amongst gamers, it should be stated that you're not going to get a modern experience from this title. Having said that what it does offer is beautifully refined and simple, and when the bargain-basement price tag is taken into account, this game is worth it and then some.
Duck Hunt is a shooting game in its rawest form. The gameplay is simple and engaging, and there's nothing beyond a chuckling canine to distract you from your quest for total duck domination. The option for removing the crosshair and the intact two player mode are hugely welcome and make the experience more substantial than it would otherwise have been. That being said, the single player modes are a huge amount of fun and the porting process hasn't removed any of the enjoyment that can be found. The clay pigeon shooting mode is still a bit dull compared to its brothers, but it deserves its place nonetheless. Duck Hunt is a must-have for any light-gun enthusiasts to relax and unwind with, and will entertain all ages this Christmas period and beyond.