Also available on Game Boy and PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows via Disney Afternoon Collection
A game that I decided to play through for Racketboy's January 2018 Together Retro event, Duck Tales is a licensed platformer from back in day when that wasn't synonymous with "garbage shovelware." Interest in the game saw a resurgence a few years back when WayForward released their remake of the game (which was bloody brilliant), but those of us who played the original always knew what a gem this game was.
For those who don't know, Duck Tales follows Scrooge McDuck - richest duck in the world - on his quest to get even richer. Like, there's actually no reason for Scrooge McDuck to be the hero of the game except that he's the protagonist and everyone loves Donald Duck (unless you're playing Kingdom Hearts). Regardless, though, Scrooge is presented as the game's hero, and with his nephews making cameos along the way, it's hard not to love this otherwise scummy capitalist mallard.
The game's visuals are bright and colorful, a testament to what skilled programmers could do with the NES hardware. Even more enjoyable the the visuals, though, is the music. The soundtrack for the game is absolutely phenomenal, especially the music in the Moon level. In my opinion, the music is more nostalgic for me than the actual gameplay itself. The platforming is great, but the use of the cane both to attack and "pogo" felt really iffy to me, only responding the way I expected it to about 3/4 of the time. It wasn't bad, per se, but it didn't feel as reliable as I might have liked.
The level design is much more in-depth than most platformers of the era. There are branching paths and dead ends in the level, and it's not always clear how to get to your destination in the level. Some paths will lead to greater riches but in the opposite direction of the boss, and there's a time limit working against you all the while. It's a great use of risk vs reward, and it makes the game good for at least a couple playthroughs before you run out of stuff you haven't seen before.
Duck Tales isn't without its flaws, but it's an exceptional 8-bit platformer. The jumping is tight and responsive even if the cane controls aren't quite as tight as I'd like. The visuals are bright and colorful, and the music is an auditory delight. You can play the levels in any order, so if there's a particular level you really love, you can just pop in the cartridge and go straight to that level. I, personally, think WayForward's remake is an overall better game, but that's not to disparage the original in the slightest; it's still one of the finest licensed games on the Nintendo Entertainment System.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.