DuckTales
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Developer:
    • Capcom
  • Publisher:
    • Capcom
  • Released:
    NES
    • US 09/14/1989
    • JP 01/26/1990
    • UK 12/14/1990
    GB
    • JP 09/21/1990
    • US November 1990
    • UK 1991
Score: 80%

This review was published on 02/18/2017.

DuckTales is a side-scrolling platform video game developed and published by Capcom for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Famicom. It was originally released in North America on September 14, 1989, Japan on January 26, 1990, and Europe on December 14, 1990. The game was also ported to the Game Boy in Japan on September 21, 1990, North America in November 1990, and Europe in 1991. This game is based on the Disney animated television series of the same name, which premiered on September 18, 1987, and ended on November 28, 1990. While Disney had previously licensed Capcom to publish Mickey Mousecapade, DuckTales is the first Disney licensed game Capcom actually developed, as Mousecapade was made by Hudson Soft. In addition to using a similar engine, many of the key personnel from the original Mega Man series worked on the DuckTales NES game, such as producer Tokuro Fujiwara, sound programmer Yoshihiro Sakaguchi, and even the de facto creator of Mega Man himself, Keiji Inafune. Given such incredible talent, it's no wonder the game went on to sell over a million copies worldwide on the NES and Game Boy each, making it Capcom's best selling game for both systems.

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On the TV show, DuckTales followed the exploits of an old anthropomorphic duck named Scrooge McDuck and his three nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Scrooge is considered to be the richest duck in the world. His wealth is so vast that he frequently takes a swim in his massive vault of money. The main antagonist of the show is Flintheart Glomgold, the second richest duck in the world, and he's always attempting to find ways to become richer than Scrooge. Other prominent recurring antagonists include a group of criminals known as the Beagle Boys and a sorceress named Magica De Spell, all of whom are always trying to steal Scrooge's money. Despite his riches, Scrooge is constantly trying to increase his wealth by looking for treasure. That just so happens to be the premise of the DuckTales game on the NES. Basically, this game has Scrooge and his nephews traveling around the world and even outer space in search of five valuable treasures. Help the rich get richer by playing DuckTales.

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For the entirety of this adventure, you'll be assuming the role of Scrooge McDuck. It's not often that you get a video game protagonist that's so old and rich. To control Scrooge, you press left or right on the d-pad to make him walk in those directions, down to duck like the duck he is, up to climb vines, chains, and ropes, and the A button to jump. Scrooge is pretty spry for such an old duck, as he walks and jumps around at a rather accelerated pace. If you hold the d-pad in the direction of a wall or object, Scrooge will ready his cane as if it were a golf club; pressing B at that point will cause him to take a swing. This can be used to knock small objects like rocks away, potentially harming enemies in the process. It can also be used to uncover hidden items in some places. If you take a swing at something that's too tough to budge, Scrooge will briefly shake from the impact, which is cute. Anyway, the main takeaway here is that the controls are extraordinarily precise.

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This game's best feature is Scrooge's uncanny ability to use his cane as a pogo stick. Whenever Scrooge is in the air, you can hold both down on the d-pad and the B button to make him do a pogo stick jump. To continue bouncing around, you must continuing holding the B button, but you can let go of down. Unlike Scrooge's rather anemic normal jump, pogo jumps go much higher, plus you can harm enemies, destroy some objects, and open treasure chests by landing on them with your cane. As a result of that, pogo jumping is the main way you'll be attacking enemies. Even better, pogo jumping allows Scrooge to safely bounce on hazards like spikes. There's no catch to pogo jumping under most circumstances, so you can do it for nearly the whole game, which you likely will, because it's highly enjoyable and often necessary. The sole downside to pogo jumping is that it'll occasionally fail on you if done on the edge of a platform or spike, typically resulting in untimely deaths. That rarely occurs, however.

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Five stages await you in this game, and like Mega Man, a stage select screen allows you to play them in any order. Each stage takes place in a different part of the world, such as the jungles of the Amazon, the icy Himalayan Mountains, Dracula's castle in Transylvania, African mines, and even the surface of the Moon. The goal of each stage is simply to nab the treasure at the end. While the stages are usually pretty straightforward, they all contain varying degrees of nonlinearity in the form of branching paths and secret passages. For instance, the Amazon jungle stage has an optional underground area you can explore. Every stage also usually has a defining feature, like the snow in the Himalayas that Scrooge can get his cane stuck in, the teleportation mirrors in Transylvania, the mine carts in Africa, and so on. A few characters from the show also appear throughout the game, such as Scrooge's nephews, the robotic superhero Gizmoduck, Bubba the caveman-like duck, the nanny Mrs. Beakly, and the inventor Gyro Gearloose. The only negative here is that the game forces you to revisit certain stages multiple times, but they're fun and short enough for that to not be too big of a deal.

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Bosses guard the treasures at the end of each stage. Some of the bosses are also characters from the TV show, like the aforementioned Magica De Spell, who transforms into a vulture and flies around the room. Another boss is a slime king that rolls around the room like an armadillo. Then there's an abominable snowman boss that causes snowballs to fall from the ceiling by slamming the wall to create earthquakes. Unfortunately, the bosses are a tad too simple, even for a simple platform game. Almost every boss comes down to waiting for it to attack, then pogo jumping onto its head; rinse and repeat until defeated. Even on the higher difficulties, most of the bosses are total pushovers. This is more of a blessing than a curse, though, because besides lacking a save feature, the game has no passwords or even continues. If you lose enough lives to get a Game Over, it's straight back to the title screen for you. Therefore, the game's relatively low challenge level sort of makes up for that.

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Besides the main treasures at the end, stages are absolutely littered with secrets. There are countless treasure chests just waiting to be plundered everywhere you look, and they usually contain diamonds of varying sizes. Hidden chests and diamonds also often appear when Scrooge passes by, rewarding players that thoroughly explore the environment. Sometimes you'll also find power-ups, like ice cream cones and cakes that replenish Scrooge's health, items that increase his maximum health capacity, dolls that give him extra lives, or coins that grant him temporary invincibility. Launchpad McQuack, Scrooge's pilot, will be waiting around in some stages. If you talk to him, he'll give you the option to return to the stage select screen, allowing you to replay the same stage to get even more treasure. You normally can't replay stages after completing them, so this lets you get some extra goodies. This is important because every diamond and treasure has a monetary value, and you get a better ending for having more cash by the game's conclusion. This adds more replay value to the game, as you'll have to know the stages inside and out to get enough money for the best ending.

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As one would expect, there are some differences between the NES and Game Boy versions of the game. The most prominent and obvious difference is that the Game Boy version lacks color and has a smaller resolution. However, there are other differences, like the design of the stages being remixed. This was likely done to better adapt the stages to the smaller screen, but some of the layout changes seem a bit arbitrary. The different stage layouts aren't necessarily bad, though. What's bad is the sound. While the Game Boy port of DuckTales tries to accurately replicate the music of the NES version, it doesn't do a good job. Some of the sound effects are particularly grating on the ears. On top of all that, the Game Boy version suffers from poor collision detection, causing you to fall through some enemies and platforms. Unless you're a diehard fan of the game and want to see the remixed stages, there's not much of a reason to play the Game Boy version over the NES original.

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There's a good reason why DuckTales on the NES is fondly remembered by many, and that's because it's good. It's got great graphics for the time, some of the best music ever composed, very precise controls, and pogo jumping. The pogo jumping alone is enough to justify the whole game, but there's more! There are also secrets galore, which provide ample motivation for ample exploration. This coupled with the multiple endings adds a nice bit of replay value, because you'll have to formulate strategies on how to best loot each stage in order to get the necessary funds for the best ending. DuckTales is a swell game.

Word Count: 1,597

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