Tougher than the toughies, and smarter than the smarties!
(Note: This article is part of the Disney Afternoon Collection review set, in which all games included in the package, as well as the package itself, get a review of their own.)
DuckTales (1989, rereleased 2017 as part of The Disney Afternoon Collection) is a sidescrolling platformer that also happened to be the first licensed game developed by Capcom. It not only ran on the Mega Man (1987) engine, but also had team members of the blue bomber working on it, with production led by Tokuro Fujiwara (藤原得郎), character designs by Keiji Inafune (稲船敬二) amongst others, as well as the ingenious musical compositions by Yoshihiro Sakaguchi (坂口由洋) whose soundtrack might be one of the key reasons why this game is so fondly remembered.
Similar to the TV show of the same title and the Duckburg comics, the game features Scrooge McDuck travelling the globe in search for treasure to enrich himself. Along for the ride are Della Duck’s children, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, together with some of Carl Barks’ more popular side characters – the engineer Gyro Gearloose, the witch Magica De Spell, Flintheart Glomgold (who is lesser known to European audiences because of John D. Rockerduck), and the Beagle Boys. The game additionally features several new figures that were introduced in the animated series, such as the pilot Launchpad McQuack, the maid Mrs. Beakley, and her granddaughter Webby Vanderquack.
For the most part, the game fits right in with DuckTales, thanks to Disney providing a lot of reference material as well as Capcom’s artists being top of the class. Fans of the classic series will therefore have no problems recognizing the many characters of the show. Despite the 8-bit graphics and 16×16 pixel tile size, the entirety of DuckTales even looks really cartoony and colorful. Nevertheless, here and there, some things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be. Scrooge, for example, wears a red overcoat in the game, just like he does in the comics, but in the cartoon show, which this game is based on, he wears a blue one. Finally, the Beagle Boys wear white shirts with red pants in the game, even though they ought to dress in red shirts with blue pants instead. But these are minor details that shouldn’t dampen anyone’s enjoyment at all.
The Mega Man influences are clearly visible in the way characters move and even on the level select screen. The five stages – the Amazonian rainforest, a haunted Transylvanian mansion, the Himalayan mountain range, as well as the Moon???? – can be played in which ever order one likes to and, in the sense of the show, all feature lots of hidden areas, secret treasures, together with shortcuts that are not only a blast to uncover, but give the choice to either play it safe or take the riskier routes. Amassing a lot of coins is also not just a highscore thing, since DuckTales rewards daunting adventurers with three different endings, all depending on the contents of Scrooge’s wallet. Lastly, if a location should prove to be too daunting, talking to Launchpad will bring the billionaire duck back to the level select screen.
As mentioned, character movement is based on Mega Man. Scrooge, for example, always moves at top speed with a limited jump height, but can change directions while airborne. However, unlike the blue bomber, he can’t shoot but instead relies on his walking can to pogo jumps on enemy heads or hurl rocks at them. What’s more, Scrooge can also duck, an ability that the other Disney Afternoon games were going to inherit from him later on. Overall, the walking and jumping animations are highly satisfying and the controls too feel tight until they suddenly don’t.
Probably due to the nature of the NES and the engine, Scrooge McDuck sporadically right out refuses to do what the player intends for him to do and just squats instead of pogo jumps. Another issue is that the cane’s hitbox feels too small; there will be times where one is sure that they hit an enemy, but will get hurt instead. Lastly, the boss enemies feel a bit underwhelming when compared to contemporary boss battles. They are all about the same size as the protagonist and use very similar fighting styles. Surprisingly enough, that is the only time where the game shows its age, as it more than makes up for that through its level design and musical presentation.
Overall, DuckTales holds up really well and is definitely worth playing for anyone into platformers or speedrunning. The game is currently available as part of The Disney Afternoon Collection together with another five other titles for the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One, and Steam. The bundle itself costs U.S. $ 19.99 or your regional equivalent.
Thank you for reading my article and thanks goes out to JOBNED1 fortSR for uploading a png of the NES DuckTales logo to the spriters resource. It was incorporated in this articles’ header. If you like, please do feel free to leave a comment. There’s no need to register or login. Also, all screenshots shown here were taken by me during my playthrough. You can also follow my reviews on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/curator/8839524-Gaos-Corner/ Have a nice day.
Links to the other Disney Afternoon Reviews
- Gao Li Reviews The Disney Afternoon Collection
- Gao Li Reviews Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers
- Gao Li Reviews TaleSpin
- Gao Li Reviews Darkwing Duck
- Gao Li Reviews DuckTales 2
- Gao Li Reviews Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers 2