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DuckTales

Developer / Publisher: Capcom
14 September 1989
DuckTales - cover art
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3.37 / 5.0
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260 Ratings / 1 Reviews
#1,695 All-time
#8 for 1989
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1989 Capcom  
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XNA 0 13388 11016 2 NES-UK-USA
1990 Capcom  
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JP CAP-UK
1990 Capcom THQ  
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XNA
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Licensed games aren’t inherently bad in theory, but a certain context to these stigmatized titles gives them their heinous reputation in the gaming landscape. They already have the perk of familiarity, and the brands that the companies tend to pick from are ones recognized by children, their most impressionable demographic. This exploitative measure by the titans of industry is always seemingly a sure fire recipe for success in their eyes. They think that recognizability will boost the base profits compared to a new, original IP and that children will be so enveloped in the comfort of interacting with their favorite media brand through gaming that they’ll neither notice or care that they compromised on overall quality. These greedy bastards fail to consider that a child’s intelligence, especially concerning something they spend a fair margin of mental energy towards, is of higher critical capacity than the consumer zombies the industry perceives them as being. Because the gaming industry insists on faltering with licensed games to this day, churning them out half-baked has resulted in dire consequences. To highlight the serious effects of a poorly prepared licensed game, E.T. on the Atari 2600 was so atrocious that it's notorious for (allegedly) causing the video game crash of 1983. If Nintendo hadn’t resurrected the interest in gaming two years later, gaming would be deader than the dinosaurs and also just as antiquated. You’d think the industry would’ve learned a valuable lesson from the E.T. meteor whose impact almost rendered gaming extinct but like a junkie, they dip back into the drug that almost killed them on a daily basis and continue to flirt with disaster. Like I previously stated, licensed games are not chained to the realm of mediocrity, despite how many rotten examples one could list to disprove my statement. If they’re given the same love and care as any one of gaming’s homegrown games with a respect for the original source material, a licensed game can resonate with any gamer past the surface point of familiarity. Arguably, the first licensed game to shed a few pounds off of the negative weight of the licensed game breed is DuckTales for the NES.

I understand that DuckTales was a revered cartoon series in its day, an adaptation of a long-running comic book of the same name. I claim to only recognize this from a distant standpoint because the cartoon predates my existence by almost a decade and I’m not willing to immerse myself in the entirety of the cartoon’s three-season duration for the sake of research. Apparently, DuckTales revolves around pioneering Disney bigwig Donald Duck’s extended family, but does not include the staple peer of Mickey Mouse in any capacity whatsoever. Instead, the focal character for this Donald Duck offshoot is his uncle Scrooge, the Scottish, anthropomorphized parallel to Ebeneezer Scrooge from the Disney adaptation of A Christmas Carol. He’s also accompanied by the colored duck triplets of Huey, Dewey, and Louie, as he’s taken legal guardianship of them. I do not know what the young girl duck’s relation is to Donald Duck or why she is helping Scrooge on his quest to travel the world and amass an abundance of treasure, but she will randomly appear as often as any of the boys in the levels. According to those who are older than me who were fans of the cartoon series during its initial broadcast, the cast of characters along with the premise of Scrooge pillaging the world of its shiniest valuables in competition with his equally rapacious mallard rival, Flintheart Glomgold, proves that the developers certainly did their homework with the source material. I’m just going to have to trust them on that.

To assure that DuckTales wouldn’t sink into the cesspit with the rest of its maligned licensed game contemporaries, the development job was given to Capcom, one of the most well-regarded third-party video game developers of the NES era and even today. Half-assing a licensed game with Capcom at the helm was out of the question, for a lackluster release with their name printed on it would be detrimental to their stellar reputation. Even though I’m sure adapting a western cartoon in the interactive medium was an alien prospect for the Japanese company, Capcom evidently made the wise choice to stick with what they excelled at. The following screen after selecting a difficulty option in the main menu that sees Scrooge sitting at a comically-sized computer will signal the first clear indication that Capcom crafted this game. Popularized by their iconic Mega Man series, the levels in DuckTales can be completed in a non-linear fashion (except for the African Mines which needs to be unlocked with a key obtained from the Transylvania level listed above). The levels are an eclectic mix of fun, kooky themes as the ones from any Mega Man title, loosely inspired by the varied climates of real world locations. The Amazon is a humid jungle where Scrooge channels his inner Pitfall Harry swinging on green vines, Transylvania is the interior of a gothic Eastern European palace akin to Castlevania, the African Mines are rich with healthy, brown soil, and the lofty elevation of the Himalayas makes for an appropriate snow level. Lastly (or so if the player chooses), the celestial outskirts of The Moon are pure, 8-bit bliss in every sense. What seems to meld these levels together in some sort of thematic cohesion is the fact that these areas are infamous for allegedly housing unspeakable fortunes in their deep catacombs, and most of the intrepid excavators have perished in their attempts to find it. Scrooge is obviously too foolishly covetous to heed to the warning.

Besides the excellent presentation and diverse level themes, the true magic of the levels in DuckTales is how surprisingly rich their designs are. Upon selecting The Amazon as the first level to at least attempt, entering a cavern and ascending back to the surface after evading some hanging spiders eventually came around full circle back to the underground entrance. I was genuinely confused, for most 2D platformers of the pixelated eras tend to trek the player down linear pathways with the primary caveat of surviving the enemies placed as deadly obstacles along the way. Any alternate routes provided to the player ultimately lead to the same destination. The levels in DuckTales are far too small to justify offering a map, but their intricacies still interest me in seeing it charted out with some semblance of gaming cartography. Transylvania plays with the surreal sublimeness of mirrors for means of teleportation around the castle, while Scrooge must retreat back from the straight path on the Moon and return with a gadget that blows away a rather obtrusive piece of the orbital rock to kingdom come. The game will also reward the player charitably for discovering hidden passageways with additional diamonds and health items. As for my awkward scrape in the Amazon, climbing up one of the vines instead of swinging on them as my gaming experience trained me to do brought me back on track. The extent of labyrinthian level design here in DuckTales wasn’t even a pervasive trend with gaming’s original 2D platformer properties.

Another reason why providing a map in DuckTales would be unnecessary is because the player will ideally become familiar with the layout of the levels organically through repeated visitations. Still, I wouldn’t classify DuckTales as an example of the typically onerous “NES hard” label. If games like Ninja Gaiden and Contra are diamonds, DuckTales is a firm Zircon. It would probably alarm many to learn that DuckTales provides zero continues after the player exhausts all three of their lives, a rather steep disciplinary tactic for the game to implement. However, I’m not clamoring for a password system because DuckTales balances the austerity of a typical NES game with plenty of perks to avert one’s untimely fate. Ice Cream and cake literally rain down from the sky to heal Scrooge, a diabetic’s nightmare coming to life that relieves the Scottish duck of his wounds he cannot afford not to subside. Because health items are constantly generated by what is practically divine intervention, DuckTales is perfectly accommodating to stave off the strict penalties of failure.

Even with health items stocked aplenty, this aspect of the game design in DuckTales does not guarantee that the player will easily skate through the game. One finicky facet of DuckTales is the controls. Despite his advanced age, Scrooge manages to compete with all the other platforming characters competently in terms of mobility. In fact, Scrooge’s pogo technique where he hops on enemies from above with his cane was such a distinctive ability for a platformer character that Scrooge could patent the maneuver and reap royalties from all future games that would ape it. Knowing Scrooge, he’d do it in a heartbeat. What a character that is obviously spry and nimble needs with a walking cane in the first place is a mystery to me, but I digress. While pogoing off of enemies is a unique thrill, the issue is that it is Scrooge’s only means of offense. Scrooge cannot bat his fine piece of woodworking anyways but downward in the air. Boulders and other debris can be swung upward like Scrooge is swinging a golf club to hit enemies from afar, but these are only in convenient circumstances when the game provides such supplementary objects. Being restricted to the pogo move in most scenarios makes for awkward encounters with a good handful of enemies, getting damaged unfairly when all Scrooge needs is the ability to swipe his cane like a sword.

Fortunately, all of the bosses in DuckTales are accommodating to Scrooge’s offensive restrictions. At the end of each level, fighting a boss will earn Scrooge the primary treasure. Because each of the bosses, ranging from the yeti to the giant rabid rat, leave themselves vulnerable by halting momentum after hopping around, they should be dispatched easily. Unfortunately, the consistent ease of boss battles extends to the final one against Duckula and Glomgold. My dissatisfaction stems from the second portion where Glumgold reveals himself and Scrooge has to race him to the “ultimate treasure” on top of a towering column because all Scrooge has to do is touch it and the game is complete. While we’re on the subject, the entire final section after completing all of the levels in DuckTales is quite underwhelming. A message from Glomgold states that if Scrooge wants the treasures back, he’ll have to return to Transylvania, catapulting Scrooge back to the Gothic manor. I assumed that the final boss and level were a completionist bonus and that I overlooked some sort of hidden artifact that unlocks the route to the game’s true ending. Instead, the last section is sincerely just traveling through Transylvania once again without any alterations whatsoever. Referencing Mega Man again, Capcom is the king of crafting fittingly epic final levels in their games, but DuckTales managed to falter nonetheless. A stressed development time could be the culprit, perhaps.

DuckTales isn’t merely a rare example of a licensed game that succeeded. DuckTales is one of the shining examples of a 2D platformer game that cements the legacy of Nintendo’s first foray into the console market. Does it still exhibit some unflattering jaggedness associated with this early pixelated era of gaming? It certainly does but to its credit, all of the highly regarded original IPs of the time are just as guilty. While on equal par with the other NES classics on its negative aspects, what makes DuckTales stand out above its peers with more gaming credibility is its exquisite level design and its tasteful approach to the difficulty that numerous NES games struggle with. A plethora of fresh mechanics that DuckTales helped popularize changed the course of gaming for the duration of the sidescroller generations, and the fact that these innovations came from a licensed game is truly a marvel to behold.
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Catalog

DM091 DuckTales 2024-06-09T23:06:41Z
2024-06-09T23:06:41Z
3.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
SauloCav DuckTales 2024-04-18T13:59:32Z
2024-04-18T13:59:32Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
FrostSonium DuckTales 2024-04-15T06:40:24Z
2024-04-15T06:40:24Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
zurrange DuckTales 2024-04-10T00:30:16Z
2024-04-10T00:30:16Z
2.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
kafeis DuckTales 2024-04-09T18:47:40Z
2024-04-09T18:47:40Z
2.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
RikuNeto DuckTales 2024-03-17T13:53:59Z
2024-03-17T13:53:59Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
eliottstaten DuckTales 2024-03-14T07:40:00Z
2024-03-14T07:40:00Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
jmatthewg DuckTales 2024-03-13T05:57:35Z
2024-03-13T05:57:35Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Anatommy DuckTales 2024-03-12T12:29:00Z
2024-03-12T12:29:00Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Gibbous DuckTales 2024-03-06T16:43:11Z
2024-03-06T16:43:11Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Jetboxx DuckTales 2024-03-06T05:27:54Z
2024-03-06T05:27:54Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Luminostre DuckTales 2024-02-07T14:17:03Z
NES • XNA
2024-02-07T14:17:03Z
3.0
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Player modes
Single-player
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1x Cartridge
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Also known as
  • Disney's DuckTales
  • わんぱくダック夢冒険
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  • slib 2020-12-25 19:55:54.850704+00
    I prefer Rescue Rangers nowadays but this is one of those games you just replay every few months or so. Just a fun experience.
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  • PhrostByte 2021-11-29 00:48:58.585821+00
    Moon theme just gets me every time
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  • Gayvyn 2022-06-24 11:39:54.709807+00
    Should i play the remake or the og
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    • modernvvonder 2022-08-01 22:35:54.802683+00
      remake is kinda soulless unfortunately, still fun, but aesthetically this blows it away
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