American NES Cover
American Wii U Cover
DuckTales is Capcom's first actual Disney game, and it stands out as one of the best. At its heart, it's a fairly standard platformer. Your goal is to travel around the world - through the Amazon jungles, Translyvanian castles, Himalayian mountains, African mines, and even the surface of the moon. You can choose which levels to conquer in any order. The main goal is to go from point A to point B of a given level, killing any enemies in your way and gathering as much cash as you can find. Treasure chests are littered throughout the level, mostly containing gems worth ridiculous amounts of money or life-giving ice cream. Various characters from the show make cameos, like Bubba the Caveduck, Gizmoduck the errant robotic superhero, and the three nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie, who give out hints.
While it sounds basic, what really makes the game stand out is Scrooge's main form of attack-his pogo cane. Scrooge can use his cane to bounce on top of platforms, open chests, cross fields of spikes, or spring off his enemies' heads. It's so enjoyable that most of the time you might find yourself pogoing from one end of the level to the other. Most of the levels are designed to take advantage of the cane as well. Many leaps are impossible unless Scrooge is actively pogo jumping, and there are times where the platforms themselves are lethal if Scrooge isn't bouncing around. In some cases it's a bad idea to pogo jump, like in the Himalayas stage. If Scrooge pogos on anything other than ice, he'll get stuck in the snow and be open to attack from marauding snow bunnies. The controls are spot-on, luckily, and the platforming sections are much more fun than they are difficult.
The level design is interesting and deceptively straightforward. While it's easy to plow through each level, there are a ton of rewards for players that carefully search every nook and cranny. Invisible treasure chests appear when Scrooge passes by, often yielding more expensive loot than chests that are lying in the open. You can even find bonus stages where Gyro the inventor tosses down diamonds from an airplane. Many of the hidden chests can be used as platforms, enabling Scrooge to jump into the status bar and find well-placed secrets. There are also times where the game may have you make a suicidal jump, only to find a cache of 1-ups and treasures. If you get enough cash by the end of the game, you'll even get a better ending. Considering the game is fairly short and easy, it adds a lot of replayability to explore every nook and cranny of each stage.
Graphics-wise, the game is quite good for its time. The sprites are large and colorful and the backgrounds are detailed. There's also a variety of characters taken from the DuckTales cartoon to be found in each level. They all look close to their Saturday morning counterparts, at least as far as an 8-bit system will allow. The music is excellent, consisting of upbeat tunes and chirpy themes that you might find yourself humming along to. The Moon theme is considered by many to be one of Capcom's greatest compositions from the NES era. The boss music is one of the weaker pieces, but considering how easy each fight is it'd be strange to have an overly dramatic song playing.
The game isn't without its share of flaws, however. For whatever reason, you're forced to backtrack to the Transylvania level numerous times. It's a fun level to be sure, but there's no reason to have to return to it three times throughout the quest. The game is also relatively easy, but is also prone to cheap enemy placement. Spiders are the main offenders, as they are often positioned over pits. If they manage to hit you, it's a sure bet that you'll plummet into the hole and die. There are also instances of the pogo cane "failing" on you. If you manage to bounce on the very edge of a platform or spike, Scrooge will suddenly stop bouncing and come to an immediate stop. This is especially troublesome where pin-point jumping is required. While it doesn't happen often, it can occasionally mean the difference between life and death.
DuckTales is fondly remembered by many gamers of the NES era and rightfully so. While a few minor issues slightly mar the experience, it's a genuinely fun game to play.
A ROM of the beta version was leaked onto the Internet, which contain a number of minor differences. First, the values of the treasures were drastically increased in the final. Red gems, for example, were only worth $3000, while in the final they're worth $10,000. Hamburgers were used to restore life in the beta rather than ice cream, and the drop rate for these items were much higher in the beta. Stage names were changed from the beta version, and the Transylvania stage is entirely different. The coffins in the beta version have crosses inscribed on them, while this was changed in the final version to a more mundane "RIP." Contrary to popular belief, the crosses were also censored in the Japanese release. The Moon stage's music is at a slower tempo in the beta, and the walking alien's sprite was completely changed in the final. Lastly, the conversations were changed slightly from the beta, and the conversation box was enlarged in the final version.
DuckTales was also released for the Game Boy. While the developers could have gone the easy route and used the exact same stage layout as the NES version, they instead made an almost entirely different game. Most of the stages are similar in the very beginning, but the layout becomes drastically different. Access to the underground area in the Amazon is entirely different, and the Transylvania stage is completely remixed. In some cases, the stages are actually longer and more complex than the NES version, despite being made on a weaker format. Some of the stages prove to be more difficult than the source material, which may surprise longtime fans of the NES game.
While the graphics and sound attempt to emulate the NES version, they do a poor job of doing so. The music, in particular, is terrible. While similar to the console version, it's marked by ear-splitting shrieks and beeps. The sound effects are no better, being as painful to listen to as the music. It would have been better if the developers had just created entirely new music and sound effects to better suit the Game Boy.
The Game Boy version also suffers from a few problems that were not present in the console version. The hit-detection is very spotty, allowing you to bounce on the heads of some enemies while making you fall through others and take damage. Moving platforms are perilous as it's extremely easy to fall through them at random. It's also impossible to grab onto a vine or rope while in mid-bounce, which really hamstrings some platforming sections.
This version is much weaker than the NES version, though longtime fans may want to give a shot to see the remixed levels. Had the music and gameplay issues been addressed, it's possible the Game Boy version could have been just as good as the console edition.