DuckTales Remastered Review

The well-loved, NES classic from the late '80s gets a modern makeover. But not all of its new features help improve upon the original.

Review by Jaz Rignall, .

Jaz Rignall Editorial Director

I reviewed the original DuckTales on NES over two decades ago and thoroughly enjoyed playing it, rating it a very solid 90%. So, of course, I was hugely interested to see how this "remastered" version would span the decades – and just how the developer would tackle the tricky task of bringing the game up-to-date, while making sure it keeps its original looks, feel and atmosphere. Turns out WayForward did a decent job, but in the process has managed to create some new issues that the original didn't have.

If you've played the original, this is like the proverbial bike. A couple of seconds of, "ummm...." and then, "ah yes! Pogo cane ahoy!"

As you'd expect, DuckTales Remastered has had a spiffy modern makeover, and it's mostly good news here. The all-new graphics and sound are contemporary, yet still trigger all the right visual and aural memories. The stars of the show are the characters and enemies, which look like they've been lifted directly from Disney cels. The backgrounds, however, are a little less impressive. The best ones have a hand-drawn quality about them that matches the character art perfectly, but some feel a little bland and workmanlike. What's missing are little graphical touches and effects that would otherwise make them feel vibrant and bring them to life, rather than them simply looking like wallpaper. Nothing is terrible, but just feels a little inert.

However, I have no complaints about the music: it takes cues from the original NES chiptunes, but mixes in today's sounds to bridge the decades between old and new very effectively.

Gameplay-wise, the modern retrofitting is a little less obvious, which is a good thing. It initially feels very similar to the original, but as you play through, you begin to sense there has been a fair amount of fettling of the physics, a streamlining of the level layouts, and a simplification of the enemy AI. It's all positive stuff, resulting in a game that progresses in a more linear, predictable and easy-going fashion than the original. It also helps to make the game more approachable and fun. However, the new training level/hints, while welcome and probably quite necessary in today's spoon-fed, flatter-the-gamer world, feel clumsy. Yes, help is always welcome, but there is a certain point where it can feel patronizing, and unfortunately DuckTales Remastered reaches it, and then trundles some distance beyond it.

[Additional comment added for clarity] I believe the act of playing a game and discovering what to do can and indeed should be fun and enjoyable - but that opportunity is taken away here. Instead of getting the chance to figure things out for yourself, you're instead told very heavy-handedly what to do. I think having the prompts on a timer, or hidden until the player pressed a button to see them would have been a better move. Those who don't want to be spoon fed could have had the joy of discovery, and those who had difficultly would have the help they need.

The sprites - yes, remember when moving objects were called sprites? - are top notch. The backgrounds, however, vary a little in quality. Most feel hand-drawn and look good, but lack detail and feel inert.

But while the help can feel annoying, it's nothing compared to the new plot and cutscenes that have been added to the game. Trying to be positive, I imagine if I'd grown up on DuckTales cartoons, the authentic voices and imagery might likely trigger some nostalgic feelings. But since I didn't, the way-too-frequent skits end up being an unnecessary and disruptive distraction, breaking up the action far too often – and aren't anywhere near amusing or entertaining enough to be worth watching. Perhaps your mileage might vary, but to me they're inane and utterly superfluous, and a real detraction from the old-school platforming.

Still, when the gameplay is not being intruded upon, bouncing around pogo-style trying to negotiate the myriad of hazards, bosses and pseudo-puzzles is just as much fun now as it was then. On easy mode, you have plenty of latitude to make mistakes – and I think most gamers with decent talent will probably be able to work their way through the entire game within a few hours. And if you have any complaints about that, play hard mode. That's a reminder of just how bloody unforgiving old games were, as you carefully make your way through a level, and then yell in frustration as you die inches away from the way-too-spaced-out checkpoints and have to do it all again. That's some nostalgia you probably won't welcome.

In the end, DuckTales is an enjoyable trip down memory lane – but a lane that has had a few new architectural additions that have not all been sympathetically worked into the landscape. The original appeal is still there, and it definitely maintains the character of the NES classic, but I think it deserves better. If anything new was going to be added to the game, it should have been more levels. It's clear the developer has the talent to be able to refine and improve the gameplay and level design, so why not go the full distance and follow through on that, rather than wasting time and money on something that adds little of value and substance to the game at best, and is an irritating distraction at worst.

The Nitty Gritty

  • Visuals: The characters and enemies look like they've just walked out of an animated short. The backgrounds, however, are a little uneven and feel like they needed a little more time to get right.
  • Music: Mixes classic chiptunes and modern sounds to elicit aural nostalgia while sounding brand spanking new.
  • Interface: The in-game hints are patronizingly obvious, and the new cutscenes that have been added to the game are intrusive at best, and annoying at worse.
  • Lasting Appeal: The game offers a few hours of fun on easy mode, but packs a serious challenge on hard. But it's so hard, it's not much fun.

Almost, nearly, but not quite a great update. While new looks, sounds and design tweaks give DuckTales Remastered modern appeal, spoon-feeding gameplay features and inane cutscenes peg back the enjoyment somewhat. It'll make you feel nostalgic and you'll have fun - but you'll also know that with just a little more attention to detail, it could have been truly great.

4 /5

DuckTales Remastered Review Jaz Rignall The well-loved, NES classic from the late '80s gets a modern makeover. But not all of its new features help improve upon the original. 2013-08-15T01:01:00-04:00 4 5

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Comments 18

  • Avatar for Kirinn #1 Kirinn 5 years ago
    I *did* grow up watching DuckTales, so I'm curious whether I'll find the cut scenes more enjoyable. (Though I hear you can just skip them with the start button regardless.) I was hoping for a slightly cheaper price point to cram in my current budget, though, so I may wait for a sale.
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  • Avatar for Jaz_Rignall #2 Jaz_Rignall 5 years ago
    @Kirinn Yeah. You can skip them, but the problem is that they happen so frequently, they break up the action and ruin its flow. It's like dealing with pop-up ads while reading a really enjoyable article....
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #3 jeremy.parish 5 years ago
    Oh lordy. That nonsense was bad enough in Mario & Luigi. I'm totally happy to pass on this one. I just picked up the Game Boy Duck Tales ports for about the cost of this game, and I have a feeling I'll like them a lot more... even if the graphics only come in four shades of dirty green.
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  • Avatar for YoyoMcDingdong #4 YoyoMcDingdong 5 years ago
    Deleted August 4000 by Unknown
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  • Avatar for Jaz_Rignall #5 Jaz_Rignall 5 years ago
    @YoyoMcDingdong Having played some of that already, I have high hopes. It really felt spot-on. Still original, but just fettled enough to bring it bang up to date. Here's hoping!
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  • Avatar for justinfinkbeiner65 #6 justinfinkbeiner65 5 years ago
    @Kirinn The WiiU and Steam versions are $15, not sure about XBox360/PS3 versions, not the $20 the side bar says.
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  • Avatar for Jaz_Rignall #7 Jaz_Rignall 5 years ago
    @lonecow I think s/he will probably like the cutscenes!
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  • Avatar for darthhouser #8 darthhouser 5 years ago
    I for one love the cut scenes. I know I'm in the minority, but as someone who cherishes my childhood memories of coming home from school to an episode of DuckTales every day for years, this takes me back. I'm guessing I'm the audience Capcom had in mine, albeit it turns out it may have been even more niche than the basic nostalgia for DuckTales was already going to be....
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  • Avatar for anusface #9 anusface 5 years ago
    @jeremy.parish I seriously doubt you will enjoy the Game Boy DuckTales games more than this. She said right in the review that this was a super-fun gameplay experience, just not a stellar one. The Game Boy DuckTales games are ... lacking.

    The GameBoy's library has not, as a rule, aged well. Though many gamers still swear by the original Tetris, and a few other green-tinted gems like Link's Awakening still manage to be rewarding despite their obvious technological limitations, those classics are rare exceptions. For the most part, the pre-color GameBoy library represents a thousand titles which simply can't compete with the more refined creations available for the system's successors.
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  • Avatar for MattG #10 MattG 5 years ago
    @jeremy.parish The hand-holding tutorial stuff isn't so bad and it's confined to just the opening level (a new creation designed just to teach via level design and text boxes). After that, the game shuts up about which buttons do what and turns you loose. The cutscenes do set up what you need to do in each level (collect plane pieces, gather Gizmoduck's suit, etc.), but that's about it. It's up to you to study the boss attack patterns and other challenges. No hints there!
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  • Avatar for mitchconcannon30 #11 mitchconcannon30 5 years ago
    This should be a $9.99 game. It's 15 euro which is far to much. They are just hinging on gamers nostalgia.
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  • Avatar for alexb #12 alexb 5 years ago
    I had a bad feeling that this was going to be the case when I watched the videos released a few weeks back and they frequently ground the game to a halt to have Launchpad and a very tired-sounding Scrooge blather at each other... Almost-but-not-quite seems to be the usual story when it comes to WayForward. I'm disappointed.
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  • Avatar for Jaz_Rignall #13 Jaz_Rignall 5 years ago
    @lonecow That's great to know! It's funny - I was going to talk about whether or not the cutscenes would appeal to a younger audience (and indeed question whether young kids might want to play this), but I ended up thinking that might water down the review somewhat. But it seems that's the case. I've talked to another person whose 5 year old loves playing this game and giggles at the cutscenes. In a way, that makes me very happy - a near-25 year old game still manages to resonate with very young kids, while also making their parents happy. That is a good thing!
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  • Avatar for abuele #14 abuele 5 years ago
    Pricing is not an appealling feature for me, I'll skip this one for a while. I grew up watching the show, and love the game, I still get goosebumps from listening to the moon level. But this price, I hope they release the NES version on the 3DS.
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  • Avatar for jimboton #15 jimboton 5 years ago
    I thought you could disable the map and in-game hints in the higher difficulty levels, isn't that so? If not, that's disappointing..
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #16 jeremy.parish 5 years ago
    @MattG I'm not wary of tutorials, I'm wary of forced-in story cutscenes. People were confused about this in my Mario & Luigi review, too. Excessive tutorials are bad, but excessive talking that breaks up the flow of the gameplay is just as offensive. And by all indications, including this review, that's a serious problem here.

    I'll eventually play this game, but I need a break after Dream Team. That game broke me.
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  • Avatar for MattG #17 MattG 5 years ago
    @jeremy.parish Well, yes, there is a lot of in-level talking that brings things to a halt for a moment. It's charming on the first playthrough, and the voice acting is fantastic. After Dream Team I can understand your reluctance to jump into another game with the same behavior. I've been using the Skip Cinematic option on repeat plays of DuckTales just to keep things moving.
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  • Avatar for Shamroqs #18 Shamroqs 5 years ago
    After purchasing the PC version, I unfortunately have to echo many of the same sentiments expressed in the review. It's frustrating, because the game is so close to being a fantastic remake. It just feels a bit rushed. The in-level cut scenes frequently interrupt the flow of playing through a level, which is infuriating in a game with so few lives/hearts to spare. The intro cut scenes did not bother me so much, but the pauses/remarks every time Scrooge picked something up really wore on me.
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  • Avatar for Magikor #19 Magikor 4 years ago
    Anyone else occasionally have issues with controller response? As in, pressing the button to pogo simply doesn't seem to work sometimes?
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