Some wise person once said it's best not to revisit your dearest childhood memories when you're older as you may be in for a disappointment. This cannot be more true than when it comes to video games. Yet there are exceptions to the rule however, and DuckTales was one of those 8-bit games that is actually enjoyable when dusted off and plugged into the NES 20 odd years after the fact.
Back in the day I was a Sega gamer, so while Castle of Illusion and Quackshot are closer to my heart, DuckTales was one of those games you jump on the opportunity to play when at a friend's house. Not to mention the cartoon that was a favourite of mine from when I was starting school up until the show ended after four years.
But a remake or a HD-makeover poses some new questions. It's not enough that the original still holds up. How much do you dare alter in order to modernise and make it suitable for a new generation of gamers who may not be used to the precise skills required to make it all the way to Dracula Duck?
Well, first of all you can set the pogo jumping to automatic which simplifies things, then there's an easy mode that pretty much throws cakes (health) at you every step of the way, and to top it off infinite lives. Try, die, try... until you make it to the end. It's actually a fairly good way of opening up the game to a new generation and once you graduate you can take on the harder difficulties and try your hand with manual pogo jumping.
If you're unfamiliar with how long an NES platformer usually lasted back in the day, you may be surprised to read that this game can easily be finished within an hour (in fact there are silly speed runs of the NES version using glitches where the game is finished in less than ten minutes, but I doubt you'll find those in the Remastered version). But that's the beauty of it. Set the difficulty to normal and you'll realise that it will take some practice until you manage to complete each of the five principal levels.
The enhanced chiptunes, the beautiful animations, are things that should be mentioned as positives in the remake. But there are also small aesthetic choices I'm not to happy with. There are now voiceovers, and while I understand the concept of keeping it simple and true the barely animated characters just come across as weird with voices added. I find myself skipping over the cutscenes for this very reason. The narrative isn't all that great to begin with, although, it's nice to reconnect with Fenton, Bubba, Launchpad and the rest of the cast. When I say it isn't great, it's still great by 1980's Saturday morning cartoon standards, but... We'll just leave it at that.
Most boss fights are tweaked or entirely redesigned, and there are also some levels like Himalaya where the level design has been altered. Nothing feels out of place, however, and the decision to make the boss fights stand out a bit more is a good one. A tutorial level has been added and you're able to swim around in Scrooge's vault.
To be fully honest I felt a bit rusty playing DuckTales. The old moves don't come to me as naturally and simple things like grabbing onto ropes sometimes caused me trouble. I guess it's the nature of the digital inputs rather than the analog feel we're used to in modern platformers. The level design in general is one factor that most likely makes DuckTales an evergreen. The fact that the levels (for the most part) aren't a simple case of making your way from the left to the right, but that you have to locate items and that you're somewhat free to get these in any order you see fit definitely adds to the experience and sense of adventure.
While I think true nostalgics are better served playing the original on NES there has been a fair deal of love and effort put into this HD-release, and it lands somewhere in between an emulated HD-experience and a fully fledged re-imagening. Older fans will enjoy it as will a new generation of gamers.
We reviewed the Xbox 360 version of the game, that version of which isn't due out until September 11 (as a result of Summer of Arcade we presume).