- Street Date:
- August 13th, 2013
- Reviewed by:
- Brian Hoss
- Review Date:1
- August 19th, 2013
- Game Release Year:
This is for the downloadable PSN version and not the collector's pin package version, both versions are identical aside from packaging.
Just when it seemed like Disney had put the kibosh on any Disney-related video games not entitled 'Disney Infinity,' Capcom came out of nowhere to announce that the NES classic 'DuckTales' was making a comeback of the HD variety. This was to be no simple re-skin; however, as the visuals would eschew the 8-bit look in favor of a unique 2.5D hybrid. In fact, much about the classic game would be different. Not just different in level design and difficulty, but as different as a game now filled with cut scenes, unlockables and achievements can be from its platformer roots.
Not only did Capcom promise a HD remastering of 'DuckTales,' but they even teased to reunite new "luscious hand-drawn" and animated characters with the "surviving voice actors from the landmark Disney Afternoon TV series." In that respect, Capcom and developer WayForward Technologies sought to do more than just reintroduce a beloved platformer. In one move, they promised a product that would single handedly tear both Nintendo cartridge and 'DuckTales' right out of Disney's vault and onto not one but four platforms.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
In 1989, Capcom released a classic realization of one Disney's hit programs, 'DuckTales.' Playing as Scrooge McDuck, players found not only a platformer of the early 'Mega Man' quality, but an all around classic game with its lauded music, secrets and non-linear gameplay. Fast forward to 2013 and 'DuckTales: Remastered' returns almost Phoenix-like from the ashes, or more appropriately like a rising Phoenix with the all the charm of a 'DuckTales' episode.
Sadly for this reviewer, the end result is fundamentally flawed. On the surface, the game's two greatest strengths, the nostalgia factor and incredible character visuals can mask those fundamental flaws, but those flaws are nonetheless there, intrinsically linked to those two strengths.
Those who fondly recall the original NES game probably know how tactic the connection was to 'DuckTales.' The original gameplay features an erroneously colored Scrooge McDuck, who pogos around on his cane in order to find and collect five worldly treasures, including one on the moon. Never once in all of the 'DuckTales' cartoons did I witness Scrooge pogoing off of a space squid in order to pick up some ice cream. That original game though, was like playing 'Mega Man' lite. The solid platforming and non-linear play meshed perfectly with simple visuals and brilliant music.
Much of this gameplay is retained, however, the game's signature mechanic of pogoing has been tweaked to allow automatic pogoing, which can be toggled on and off in the options and pause menus. Still, the new game adds a typical tutorial level, which is just the first of many changes that make the game feel much more linear than the original.
The change in the level designs, that now all have delineated progression objectives and lengthy, linear end-level areas, robs from the original game's tight feel. The new in-game cut scenes, which feature Scrooge trading dialogue back and forth with an array of 'Duck Tales' cohorts further dampen the original, 'Mega Man'-like game tempo.
Less troublesome is Scrooge's tendency to quip during play, but like cut scenes, his quips get tiresome. As for the cut scenes, they range from bothersome to funny. But with the new difficulty given to each area's boss among other motivations, it is normal to play through a given area a few times. For me, it became automatic to pause the game and skip the cut scenes after a single viewing, and even a few times on first viewing just due to habit. Part of this is due to my dislike of some characters more than others.
The tougher bosses are one part of the game's odd difficulty. In short, it seems that WayForward felt compelled to replace the original game's precision-based progression with the occasional cheap pit, backtrack, or relatively pointless hidden diamond.
Lest my rose-tinted glasses blind me too much, the original is unlikely to dazzle gamers new to its gameplay. Pogoing around empty areas of the level in the hopes of finding diamonds is unlikely to entertain most gamers, and the game is overall lesser in its execution than various other platformers whether it is Mario or Simon Belmont making the jumps. With that in mind, the remastered version is also unlikely to jump to the top of anyone's favorite platformer list. But favorite Disney game... maybe.
If only 'DuckTales: Remastered' had managed to deliver the original version alongside the new one, then its various differences could be more easily forgiven.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
Now we are talking. I mentioned before how incredible the character visuals are and that is a serious understatement. Both famous 'DuckTales' characters, and the odd enemies that are thrown about the game are stunning. They are stunning in both freeze frame and in animation. Just seeing a single character animate against a background for the loading screens is enough to give pause. It would have been easy to charm with a 16-bit pixel art style in place of the original, but those hand-drawn characters stun in 1080p. And yet, the game falls into a classic trap, made all the worse for just how excellent all of the characters look. The environment is meant to be 3D and make for a 2.5D platformer, but most of the time, the level visuals fail to impress. What's worse than the simple poly areas are the scanned-in backgrounds that are often completely devoid of detail. WayForward and Capcom will sell you a song about staying true to the roots of the cartoon or something, but I suspect a combination of budget limitation of both time and money as well as someone's misguided expectation that the game somehow be 3D is to blame. Of course, the original game was mixed in my eyes, with level interiors like Transylvania and the UFO classic in that NES fashion, while level exteriors like the Amazon, bordered on truly ugly. Nevertheless, that does not excuse the state of the new game. If only they had treated the background with half of the care rendered to the characters.
One area where the simple, banded background does work is Scrooge McDuck's money bin, which is one addition that works perfectly without disturbing the rest of the game's gameplay.
The game's item pickups, such as the treasures and health items and diamonds are also 3D, and are another good example unnecessarily and unfortunately 3D art is used.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Much like other aspects of the game, I do not actually think of the original game's soundtrack as pure gold. Outside of the main theme, level select, Moon level, and one or two others, the original game's music tends to be, dare I say, overrated. And yet, it is still preferable to this remix version. The new music mimics the old, and is in that way sometimes good and usually tolerable, but is also often quite busy and full of unnecessary flourish. Though there is one part of game without either music or dialogue, and it is eerie, so I may be being harsh on the music. The sound effects, on the other hand, are pretty much excellent, with enemy deaths nailing that nicely updated vibe. I have mentioned my luke-warm feelings for many of the cut scenes and it may in part be because the game cuts all music to allow character dialogue alone to be heard. With several long dialogue exchanges, usually with near static characters, this lack of music seems like a mistake. Overall, the classic music, which can be unlocked but only to play in the extras screen, is an option the I imagine many are sorely missing.
It is hard not to think of the game as being harder than it should on normal difficulty, which I regretted playing on. Getting a level or two beat and getting the extra HP helps, but it is clear that WayForward/Capcom wanted players to feel like the game was much longer than the original. Due to achievement/trophy limitations for downloadable games, there are not that many of those motivations to replay. Many of the extras are also underwhelming. Those players especially motivated can try to get collect enough money to ascend the leaderboards, but I cannot help but think of the original game's quick and pleasing experience, especially when factoring how often I was skipping cut scenes.
Even with those considerations, I look forward to replaying the whole or part of the game at various points in the future. Just wanting to jump into the Moon level for a few minutes is likely to result in a few hours of play every once in awhile. Too bad the game makes you backtrack to Fenton mid-level...
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
Another addition is the game's unlockables, which could be considered Bonus Content, but also really factor into the Replay factor. They serve not only to allow you to spend the money that you pick up, but also help the developers share some of the game's various assets. Most of this is too dry to really interest even serious fans, but the character art unlocks actually feature the 8-bit versions (where applicable) alongside the remastered ones.
Ultimately, 'DuckTales: Remastered' attempts to draw in both fans of the original game and fans of the series, along with a secret desire that those unfamiliar with 'DuckTales' at all will be intrigued with its 2.5D style and frequent cut scenes. At the same time, the original game is kept away in an almost defensive manner.
For me, the execution and nostalgia are enough to overcome the game's deep flaws, but both its successes and failures should provide a cautionary blueprint for any future similar remasters.
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