Saturday, March 2, 2013

DuckTales (NES) Review

Written: February 28th-March 2nd, 2013
Year: 1989 | Developed and Published by: Capcom

Disclaimer: Spoilers... sort of
Oh, hey!  It's Huey, Louie, and Louie!  ...uhm,
which one's Dewey?  =/
DuckTales!!!  =)  Who doesn't enjoy watching and reading about the many adventures and exploits of the classic Carl Barks (1901-2000) character Scrooge McDuck?  One of the countless animated shows I grew up watching was of course the DuckTales animated series, and I remember liking the show a lot (I still do today), and I still enjoy reading the comics that center around him every now and then (even though they're Italian).  The show enjoyed a good run from 1987 to 1991, garnering a feature-length movie in 1990 (DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp) as well as a few video game adaptations; this one included.

Climbing on vines!
I first experienced this game back in 2004, sometime after I bought my NES console.  It was the twelfth cart I bought for the system, and I remember having enjoyed it a lot back then.  Years later, after having recently replayed it, one cannot help but ask: has this game aged well?  And is it as timeless as the show itself?  The plot centers on Scrooge McDuck, one of the richest ducks in all Duckburg, who discovers that there are five incredibly valuable treasures located in different segments of the world.  However, there are obstacles and enemies that are guarding over the treasures of old, but the bad news is that there a few other treasure hunters searching for the treasures as well.  Will Scrooge obtain these legendary treasures and become richer than he already is?  Let's find out!

Transylvania is a spooky setting!
The five treasures are located in the Amazon, Transylvania, the African Mines, the Himalayas, and up on the Moon.  DuckTales shares a structure similar to Capcom's NES Mega Man series, and the protagonist Scrooge McDuck has got decent play control.  Like the aforementioned video game series, you can decide whichever stage you can start in, adding some non-linearity to the game.  Scrooge can move, duck, jump, climb up ropes and chains, and he can attack with his cane.  Holding the down button at the same time as the jump button will let you use your cane as a pogo-stick; you can also use this technique to bounce on spikes without sustaining damage.  Any time you stand next to a a big item (like a coal-filled cart and a big suit of armor for example), you can swing your cane at it to reveal either diamonds for points, pastry, or even a ghost (in Transylvania); you can even launch a rock or projectile at an enemy or in front of you this way.  The fact that you can only attack from above an enemy might sound disadvantageous at first, but with a little practice it won't be much of a problem.  After reaching the final portion, a guardian will be awaiting your arrival.

Bounce on green duck monsters!
While they look a tad aged by today's standards, the visuals displayed here are colorful, detailed, and very bright considering it's an 8-bit game.  Each area looks unique, and the visual structure is quite varied.  The Transylvania stage looks cool and befittingly spooky, what with all the gray asphalt, the coffins and suit of armors placed around, and the mysterious mirrors and cool curtains that adorn each wall in the background.  The Himalayas is also a nice-looking stage, where it begins outside with the bright sky and all the snow below you, but then once you fall down to the segment below the snow, you'll see a neatly ice-patterned wall with some icy foregrounds and slippery floors here and there.  One other example I'll talk about is the Moon, where it takes place in outer space (where somehow every non-alien character is capable to breathe); outside it will be filled with stars, but the bulk of the stage takes place inside a UFO, where it looks all futuristic and highly advanced.  The characters are neatly designed as well, like the main character Scrooge McDuck (who looks like he has similar in-game design to the 8-bit Blue Bomber, face- and size-wise); his pilot Launchpad McQuack; his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie; young female duck Webby Vanderquack; the maid/grandmother-figure to Webby Mrs. Beakley; and Bubba makes an appearance one time.  The enemies and bosses look decent, too, especially Scrooge's arch-nemesis at the end.

"Help!  I'm stuck!!"
Sound-wise, it's pretty good too!  =)  Even though it's not quite as powerful as the 16-bit sound samples that would eventually follow with the SFC/SNES console, the 8-bit soundtrack proves to be a satisfying delivery.  The music helps to blend in an atmospheric feeling to the experience.  The Himalayas theme sounds ever-so playful, the Transylvania music successfully imposes a chilling and dark feeling in that exposition, the Amazon theme is lighthearted, and the African Mines theme sounds atmospheric.  Of course I cannot talk about this game's music without discussing the popular Moon theme, which sounds adventurous and epic at the same time.  The boss theme is okay, and the map theme is also okay.  Oh, and aren't you glad they composed an 8-bit rendition of the title theme?  XD  The sound effects are well-chosen, and at times they can sound funny; like the xylophone-like sound that plays whenever Scrooge climbs up or down a rope, chain, or vine.

Given that it was aimed for kids and that it was developed by Capcom, DuckTales on the NES is a very easy game.  Though that's not to say that it's a bad thing, since it was one of Capcom's first Disney-licensed titles, so you can't expect perfection the first time around.  As fun as this game can be, one cannot help but wonder if more could've been done in the challenge department.  Getting a handle on Scrooge's cane as a pogo-stick won't take too long to master, and it's one of those games where enemy respawning is very common.  There might be some hidden chests or items should you jump in certain areas of the stage, and at the end of each stage is a guardian, which takes five bounces to each decimate (and they all have the most simplistic of patterns).  The stage layouts are basic, and the fact that it's short leaves a bit to be desired in terms of length.  There are three difficulty settings: on Easy, your health is double the amount of each dot (1 dot = 2 HP), on Normal the dots are rendered to one HP each, and Hard mode is just like Normal except there is no item that renders you invincible for a short period of time (which for some reason makes Scrooge swing his cane a lot slower).  Other than those small differences, it's pretty much the same.  The Transylvania stage has some "illusion walls", which might take a bit to find.  After having beaten all five stages, you'll be challenged to meet the main adversary and take back your treasures, and... it takes place in the same setting as Transylvania (weak, considering you'll know the exact route to take to the boss at this point).  I guess you could say I have a love/hate relationship with this game's difficulty.

In space, no one can hear you humming  this
background music!  =)
But if we look at the game as a whole, is DuckTales on the NES still worthy of being hailed as a classic?  Of course it is!  I mean granted, Capcom missed the opportunity to take advantage of what obstacles to add or diminish when it came to each respective difficulty setting, the enemy respawning can be a bit obnoxious sometimes (though thankfully it's not Ninja Gaiden bad), it's largely easy, and the game is so short it can be beaten around half an hour's time.  But if you manage to look past those blemishes, it's actually a fun game to play.  Scrooge is a character full of charm and he plays well, the visuals are finely-crafted, and the music is highly memorable (especially the Moon theme).  It was nice to see all these characters in video game format, and in a way it almost feels like you're taking on an interactive episode of the show; not bad.  At least this game was based on a Disney show that I liked, and in all the years that I've watched Disney shows I have never watched a show from them that I didn't like, not o-
O_O  Damn, when did I start disliking so many shows?!  That thought is just scary!  But I digress though; while I wish the game was longer and had some slight challenge in it, I think DuckTales is a fun game to play every once in a while.  =)  If you like the show it's based on, I guarantee that you'll like it; just do not expect it to be a huge game, otherwise you may end up being disappointed.  I recommend it!
Keep reading until you find the thank you note...
"Have you all been good little readers?  I have a special gift to reward you for your good patience! I hope you all like it, and thank you reading the review!"  =)
In the immortal words of the ever-great Nostalgia Critic: "It will never leave!  It will never leave!!"  >=(

P.S.: I would've counted Crash & Bernstein in that roster of Disney shows I personally didn't like, but I made the wise decision (in my opinion) to not watch that show with the Muppet knock-off at all, which is why it's not there.
P.S. 2: Just so everyone knows, there are some Disney shows that I feel are okay (i.e. Kickin' It, Dave the Barbarian), I feel neutral towards (i.e. A.N.T. Farm, Jessie, Shake it Up), or just could care less about as a whole (i.e. Wizards of Waverly Place, Hannah Montana).  But that's just my opinion on these shows.
P.S. 3: To each their own, different strokes for different folks.  If you like any of the shows that I highlighted that I didn't like, then good for you; they just personally didn't do it for me.
P.S. 4: In 1993 this game would get an 8-bit sequel called DuckTales 2... two years after the show ended its run... two years after the 16-bit SNES hit the market...  =/  The Game Boy version I can understand, but on the NES?  Why couldn't they have made it for the SNES instead?
P.S. 5: As lambasted as Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is, you have to admit that DreamRift paid some homage to the classics.  In one of the sketches you obtain, you can summon Scrooge McDuck to aid you and he would attack enemies like he did on the NES games.  You have to give them that, at least.

Thank you for reading my review, please leave me a comment!  =)

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