By EMMANUEL LOPEZ
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Nostalgia’s a funny thing. It’s easy to reminisce fondly over afternoons playing video games (after homework was done, of course), while glossing over stuff like the awkwardness of middle school.
That’s both the gift and curse of Ducktales Remastered, a remake of the 1989 NES game Ducktales, which in turn was based on the 1987-90 cartoon of the same name.
Developer WayForward does a tremendous job preserving the feel of the Nintendo Entertainment System original, while giving it a 21st century makeover. The blocky 8-bit sprites are now wonderfully drawn characters set in beautifully designed backgrounds. Much of the original voice cast from the cartoon is back for Remastered and it’s delightful to hear crotchety billionaire Scrooge McDuck’s Scottish accent again.
After a brief tutorial level, Scrooge McDuck — along with Huey, Dewey, Louie and the rest of the Ducktales crew — is off in search of five rare treasures scattered in places as diverse as the Amazon rainforest to the moon. As with the original, they can be tackled in any order, with two brand-new, original levels that became available after the first five are completed.
Like any old-school 2D platform-jumping game, the premise is simple — navigate the hazards of each stage and defeat the boss at the end. Using Scrooge’s cane as a pogo stick provides a wrinkle, letting him jump higher and defeat some enemies by jumping on them Mario-style. WayForward even took care to retain the distinct “boing” sound effect from the NES game.
Part of the original game’s charm was being able to take multiple paths to get to the end, something that is almost a given in modern platformers. In Remastered, however, the addition of mandatory objectives makes it necessary to explore every nook and cranny. The worst offender is the Amazon stage, which requires Scrooge to collect eight medallions before the next part of the level opens up. At least pausing the game brings up a map that highlights the location of all stage objectives.
Certain parts of each level have been reworked to accommodate this added dimension, which can lead to a Total Recall kind of scenario for those of us who somehow still remember the stage layouts from the original. Like the stages themselves, the boss fights have been re-imagined, although it only makes them more drawn out and tedious rather than breaking any new ground.
Unfortunately, the punishing difficulty of NES-era games don’t translate well in this age of checkpoints and auto-saving. The Easy difficulty takes the sting out of dying with unlimited lives, but calling higher difficulty levels “punishing” would be an understatement.
Spending an entire afternoon playing a game, memorizing stage layouts and boss patterns wouldn’t be a problem if we were all grade-schoolers again. But for a 30-year-old with a job and all sorts of grown-up hassles, the idea of having to replay an entire level when you’ve run out of lives doesn’t sound like anything that could be called fun.
Remastered gives fans of the TV series plenty of fan service with extras like concept art, character sketches and more that can be purchased with the booty Scrooge collects in his adventures. It provides an incentive to replay the game long after you’ve committed (or recommitted) each stage’s layout to your memory. Scrooge can even splash around in his Money Bin, just like the cartoon. The lack of a “classic mode” where you can play the NES original is a surprising and disappointing omission.
Ducktales Remastered trades heavily in nostalgia, treating the source material with great care while translating it to the present day. The accessible gameplay might be enough to entice new fans, although the dated gameplay may not hold their attention for very long. But for those of us who grew up with the cartoon and NES classic, Remastered is a fond and worthwhile trip down Memory Lane.
Ducktales Remastered, rated E, is available as a $15 download on PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii U. For this review, I played the game on Xbox 360, which will be available Sept. 11 on Xbox Live. The publisher, Capcom, provided a code to download the game for review.