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DuckTales Remastered (Wii U) artwork

DuckTales Remastered (Wii U) review

"DuckTales Remastered is neither a complete failure nor the triumph it so easily could have been."

Growing up in the Ď80s, I was the perfect age to get maximum enjoyment out of the DuckTales cartoon when it debuted in 1987. I didnít know about video games at the time, but I still got to enjoy amazing adventures with Scrooge McDuck and his assorted employees, friends, enemies and family members. Then Capcom developed an NES video game a few years later, and at that point there was pretty much no chance I would ever forget Duckberg.

In 2013, DuckTales is no longer the entertainment force that it was during my early years in elementary schools, but there are a lot of people like me who fondly remember both the cartoon and the platformer titles it inspired. We asked Capcom about a return to the series often enough that the company finally relented--with help from Disney Interactive and the developers at Wayforward--and produced an HD remake. Since they were pouring resources into such things anyway, the people involved even gathered most of the original voice cast and a bunch of artists and produced enough content to bring the classic title kicking and screaming into the new millennium.

DuckTales Remastered asset

On the NES, DuckTales features five stages. Once you have chosen your difficulty setting from the title screen, you immediately dive into an adventure that sees you exploring Transylvania, the African Mines, the Amazon, the Himalayas and even the Moon. Youíre given no reason to do so, other than that Scrooge McDuck likes treasure, and then at the end of the adventure, you face a surprise foe and a quick race with long-time rival Flintheart Glomgold before itís time for the credits to roll.

DuckTales Remastered includes those original five stages, and you can still visit them in any order you likeÖ once you complete an opening stage that is really just a tutorial in disguise. The new location is Scroogeís money bin, which is perched on a hill outside Duckberg. It has been raided by the Beagle Boys, so youíll arrive on the scene and work your way through a short stage while you learn the basic play mechanics. Thereís not much to master besides the art of springing along surfaces and enemies with a surprisingly durable cane, since you control the entire game with the d-pad or analog stick and two face buttons, but newcomers will most likely appreciate the instruction and there are a few challenges along the way. In one sequence, for example, you must dodge laser beams to step on switches and remove a shield.

The five stages that youíll be able to visit after you clear the tutorial area have changed from what you may remember, though. The layouts are mostly the same, but there are extra rooms inserted throughout, and you can no longer find two spectacular hidden treasures. Shortcuts also donít work, which is quite disappointing. In DuckTales on the NES, it was fun to map your own route through the stages, particularly in the case of the African Mines, where it was actually possible to skip the bulk of the area if thatís what you wanted to do. Now thatís not allowed because the developers inserted new objectives or just reworked the map to eliminate some of the familiar options. Essentially, youíll now be taken on a guided tour, complete with a map you can access from the pause screen that includes beacons to let you know where you should probably go next.

DuckTales Remastered asset

The remakeís new objectives can lead to trouble, as well. In the Himalayas, you must retrieve parts of a fuel regulator that has been stolen, disassembled and scattered about the area by mischievous snow bunnies. If you arenít paying attention and you donít defeat the various rabbits as you come across them, you could reach the end of the area without the required parts, which means a trip back around the circuit. In the Amazon, failing to collect eight magical coins will prevent you from accessing the second half of the area until you go back and address that oversight. Such restrictions do serve the story, which now is actually rather involved and capably voiced by those reunited actors I mentioned, but itís difficult not to mourn the loss of some of the freedom that made the original NES release such a unique experience.

One change newcomers will possibly appreciate is the addition of extra extensions to Scroogeís life meter. There is an extension available in each of the five main stages, so that by the end of the adventure you might have amassed a total of eight hearts. That will make it easier to defeat the bosses, who all have gained additional attacks. The team at Wayforward did a good job of imagining the familiar foes in new ways, as well. For instance, the boss in the Amazon temple detaches from a massive statue, which you must pogo from above like you did in the 8-bit days. However, sometimes it will hop back into the background and then you must avoid being crushed by stone blocks that slide in from the sides or top of the screen. Each boss has gained new moves that make the brawls more memorable while mostly remaining faithful to their original tone. I appreciated that.

The controls also appear to have changed just a bit, and I didnít really grow accustomed to them until the end of the proceedings. Scrooge controls precisely, but his jumps gave me trouble. Leaping between mine carts, itís all too easy to simply plummet to your death if you donít hold the d-pad or analog stick in the direction you want to go for the full duration of the leap, and even clearing some large gaps elsewhere requires more effort than it once did. Worse, though, are moments when you must climb various chains. As you jump toward a chain hanging over a pit, you mostly have to press the Up button and just tilt to one side or the other, else Scrooge will fail to grab the chain when he passes it and youíll watch him plummet into an abyss. This never feels quite fair.

DuckTales Remastered asset

The last stage in the game is all-new, and the game would have been much better without the addition. Among other activities, youíll have to race rising walls of lava while leaping along chains. A slight mistake costs you a life, and the architecture is designed in such a way that mistakes and fumbles are almost inevitable, especially when coupled with control issues. The boss battle is also a great deal more involved. Iíll be honest: I only completed the game on the Easy difficulty setting, and I only managed that because youíre provided unlimited lives. On higher settings, you have a stock of lives and will be returned to your money bin if you fail, which can happen quickly with just a few missed leaps. At least thereís no longer any point when you have to begin the game again from scratch. Thatís for the best.

Capcom and Disney clearly put a lot of resources into this remake, and the original game deserved it. Unfortunately, some of the changes strip away small pieces of the former magic. The new content is at times almost sufficient to make up for such deductions, but then there are issues with the control scheme and a final stage that quickly saps the gameís final moments of the joy they should have contained. Long-time fans will still find a lot here to love, but newcomers are likely to still wonder what weíve all been raving about for so many years.


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Staff review by Jason Venter (September 21, 2013)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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