Duck Hunt
  • Genre:
    • Light Gun Shooter
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    Arcade
    • US 1984
    NES
    • JP 04/21/1984
    • US 10/18/1985
    • UK 08/15/1987
Score: 70%

This review was published on 10/03/2016.

Duck Hunt is a light gun shooter video game published and developed by Nintendo for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was originally released in Japan on April 21, 1984, North America on October 18, 1985, and Europe on August 15, 1987. There was also an arcade version of the game named Vs. Duck Hunt that came out in 1984. The normal Duck Hunt was a launch title for the NES in North America. Later, there was a compilation cartridge made that combined Super Mario Bros. with Duck Hunt, and these were packaged with the NES console itself. Eventually, another cartridge was released that combined those two games with a third one called World Class Track Meet. Due to being bundled with the system, Duck Hunt became one of the most well known and best selling games on the NES. For a lot of people, the cartridge containing Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt was their introduction to gaming. It was a pretty good deal, because both games were amazing back then and are still enjoyable today.

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Instead of a regular controller, Duck Hunt uses a special accessory shaped like a sci-fi laser pistol appropriately known as the NES Zapper. In North America, the NES Zapper was included in the Nintendo Action Set, which was the aforementioned bundle that contained the NES and the cartridge with Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt on it. The NES Zapper was also available for purchase separately, though. Because it was bundled with the system, most people that grew up with an NES had a Zapper at some point. Nintendo also released a slew of other games that supported the NES Zapper, like Wild Gunman, Hogan's Alley, and Gumshoe. Anyway, the NES Zapper is a device known as a light gun. This mind blowing piece of technology enabled players to physically point the gun at their television screens to actually shoot stuff in the game! If that's not proof that magic exists, then I don't know what is.

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So how does the NES Zapper work its magic? Well, it isn't called a light gun due to its weight; this thing is able to detect light. When the trigger on the gun is pressed, the entire screen will turn black for a single frame. On the next frame, all valid targets that are currently on the screen will be drawn all white while everything else remains black. The Zapper then uses the contrast between the low lights and bright lights to determine if any of the targets are within its range. If the gun acknowledges that a target was hit, the game will determine which one based on how long they flash, as each target flashes for a different amount of time. After all the targets have gone through this check, everything will return to normal until the Zapper's trigger is pressed again. All this happens within the blink of an eye. Sadly, the Zapper doesn't work on any modern television sets like LCDs and plasma screens, so you must use a CRT TV for the gun to function properly.

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As its title implies, this game is about duck hunting. All action in this game is viewed from a first-person perspective. At the beginning of each round, your trusty hunting dog will sniff out some ducks, and then the hunting ensues. Ducks will fly out from behind the bushes and into the sky, where you must shoot them down with the NES Zapper. You've got three bullets per try, and if you miss with all three, the ducks will get away. They also fly away if you take too long lining up your shots. Every time ducks successfully escape, the dog will laugh at you, so you must avoid this at all costs. If you miss too many ducks, the game will be over. As the meter at the bottom of the screen indicates, there are ten ducks per round. However, you only need to kill the amount indicated by the bar to advance. Along with the difficulty, the amount of kills needed increases as the game goes on.

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While on your quest to brutally murder as many ducks as possible, you'll notice that some of them are different colors. This isn't merely for visual flair, as the differently colored ducks will exhibit different flight patterns. Generally, some ducks are harder to hit because their flight patterns are trickier. Also, the rounds continue until 99. After that, the game will loop back to round 0, where it'll start having strange glitches and stuff. Many people refer to this as a "kill screen," because you weren't really meant to get there. Therefore, the objective isn't necessarily to beat all the rounds, but rather, to see how long you can last and how high you can get your score. This was the norm for most arcade styled games back then. There's just something mesmerizing about shooting ducks in this game, though, that you won't want to stop until you're forced to. Is that sadistic?

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On the title screen, you'll be able to choose from three different game modes: Game A, Game B, and Game C. Each mode is rather self explanatory, as the game lists what the modes do right next to them. Basically, Game A and Game B are mostly the same, but the first makes you shoot one duck at a time, whereas the second tasks you with shooting down two of the feathery buggers at once. This makes Game B much harder due to the fact that you only get three bullets per try, but the rounds do go by a lot quicker. As a result of that, you can think of Game A and Game B as two different difficulties, like normal mode and hard mode. Game B is the more exhilarating pick due to its faster pacing, so if you want fast and furious fun, then that's the one to go with.

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Game C is pretty different from the other two modes. Instead of shooting ducks, you'll be shooting clay discs that are thrown into the air by a mysterious entity. Two discs will be thrown out at a time, and like with the ducks, you only have three shots to shoot them down. There are a total of ten discs per round, and like the other modes, you must shoot down a certain number of them to advance. Essentially, this is more or less the same thing, but with clay discs instead of ducks. The discs travel in more predictable patterns than the ducks, but they move faster and are smaller targets. You won't have to deal with the dog's antics during this mode, so this is a good way to get away from him. Additionally, the backdrop for this one is different, featuring mountains in the distance as opposed to bushes and trees. Game C is a nice change of pace, but shooting ducks is still more fun.

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Unless you're an animal rights activist, you'll have a good time playing Duck Hunt. The experience of shooting down a duck in this game is so satisfying that you'll want to do it forever. It does get repetitive after a while due to there not being many modes and such, but it entertains for longer durations than most of these arcade styled games. This is a fun game to pull out every now and then, especially if you have a vendetta against ducks. I bet this is Elmer Fudd's favorite game.

Word Count: 1,253

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