During its reign in the 1980s, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was home to many influential video games, including a large list of titles from Capcom. Among these Capcom titles include a respectable amount of games based on Disney franchises. While licensed properties are usually rushed and crappy today, Capcom could touch anything and turn it into pure gold, which is definitely what happened when they created DuckTales.
In the DuckTales NES game, Uncle Scrooge embarks on an adventure to find five of the world’s lost treasures. Each of these lost treasures is being guarded in five locations around the world: the Amazon, Himalayas, African Mines, Transylvania, and even the Moon. Uncle Scrooge receives help from Huey, Dewey, Louie, and many other close friends during his expedition; a simple plot, but one that is appropriate for Uncle Scrooge and friends.
Upon starting DuckTales, you can choose which level you’d like to play, not unlike the Mega Man games – actually, DuckTales was developed using the Mega Man engine. Each level is a masterfully crafted sidescrolling, platforming affair that is inspired by a different location; the Amazon is home to a jungle theme, while Transylvania is a large, maze-like haunted mansion. Many elements are level specific and can include things like warp mirrors in Transylvania, or the icy floors of the Himalayas; this variety makes every level feel fresh. Each level is also built to encourage exploration, most notably because of their many branching paths, and hidden nooks and crannies that store treasure. There are even a few instances where you need to visit a level twice.
DuckTales isn’t an easy game, but it isn’t exactly hard either. There are plenty of frustrating moments thanks to some brutally placed pitfalls and enemies. Uncle Scrooge also has a health meter with 3 hit points. Scrooge’s HP will deplete by one after being colliding with an enemy, and refilling his health is done by finding ice cream cones and cake.
Controlling Uncle Scrooge is easy, once you get used to pogo-jumping with his cane. If you press B and down while jumping, Scrooge will use his cane like a pogo stick, a move that is necessary to beat DuckTales. You can’t damage enemies or bosses unless you pogo-jump on them, plus there are certain hazards that can only be crossed while using this move. It’s a little tricky at first, but it becomes easier and less frustrating when you figure out that you can hold B to keep the pogo cane active. Scrooge can also use his cane like a golf club to hit objects, which is definitely as fun as it sounds.
Another huge element of the DuckTales video game is collecting treasure. Collecting treasure will add more money to Scrooge’s bank, which is basically the game’s score. Treasure can be found by opening treasure chests, defeating enemies, and even from thin air, accessed by colliding with specific spots hidden throughout each level. Finding treasure is important if you want to see the game’s hidden ending, which is unlocked after reaching $10,000,000. In fact, there are three different endings to see, and three different difficulties which give DuckTales a tiny bit of replay value.
DuckTales is also well known for having colorful, detailed graphics and an amazing soundtrack, most notably the Moon theme. However, the moon theme isn’t my favourite, nor does it carry any nostalgic value for me. I always enjoyed listening to the Amazon, Himalayas, and Transylvania themes more. Strong feelings of nostalgia also surface whenever the level select theme plays.
5/5 D-Pads: DuckTales is up there with the best platformers on the NES. It is a little on the short side, but its level variety, challenging platforming, and unique pogo cane gameplay make it stand out when compared to the rest. Also, few games seem to hit every element out of the park, but DuckTales does with fun gameplay, gorgeous graphics, and a rocking soundtrack. A must own for anyone’s NES collection, and a must play for fans of platformers in general.