It’s no secret, I’m old. 35 years old to be exact. And during a majority of those 35 years I’ve spent at least some time playing video games. I started off getting a quick quarter’s worth at the random standup arcade machine in the local convenience store or at bar-table games at whatever “adult” restaurant my parents had unwisely dragged my immature ass to for dinner. Then I graduated to the actual arcade. At this time the arcade was a place of mystery and danger. It was where kids who cut school and other assorted juvenile delinquents were rumored to congregate. And the signs threatening those who were dodging school if they were caught made it seem like you could get in trouble just for being there! But, much like the atmosphere of night clubs would later in my life, the darkness, the cacophony of weird electronic sounds, and the flashing lights of the arcade called to me. I loved those arcade machines! Whether I was good at a game or just wasting a quarter on something I had no chance of success at, it was fun! So, when I discovered that there were these machines, machines with names like Atari and ColecoVision, that could bring that experience home, I wanted in on them. I got the Atari experience thanks to a 5200 my mother bought me. Now ‘Pac-Man’, ‘Pole Position’, ‘Joust’, ‘Centipede’, ‘Dig Dug’, ‘Q-Bert’, ‘Popeye’, and others were right there in my house! When Atari fever broke a few years later I wound up with Mordecai and Rigby‘s system of choice, the SEGA Master System. I remained loyal to SEGA all the way up to the introduction of the SEGA CD. I purchased one of those things on the day of release. And that was the last system I actually owned until I copped my SONY PlayStation 3 a few years ago.
Obviously games have changed over all those years. The temples of pixels, beeps, and quarters; the arcades, are all long closed and mostly forgotten. People think ‘Words With Friends’, ‘Angry Birds’, or ‘Candy Crush’, are “video games”. We’re about to see the introduction of a whole new generation of consoles. It’s a brand new world! I definitely look back fondly on the lighter fare of yesteryear. The Pac-Men, Marios, Sonics, Mega Men, Alex Kidds, Rampages, Ghouls & Ghosts, and the like. But when it comes to modern games I usually go in for the cars, guns, girls, and guts style of games championed by Rockstar’s ‘GTA’ series, ‘Red Dead Redemption’, and ‘L.A. Noire’. Last year my favorite games included the criminally under-appreciated Hong Kong Triad drama ‘Sleeping Dogs’, and the latest entry in the ‘Assassins Creed’ saga. This year I blazed a bullet riddled path of bloody revenge through the flying city of Colombia in ‘Bioshock: Infinite’. And I’m currently slogging through the fungus infected dregs of a future America with a little girl at my side in ‘The Last of Us’. I lamented on how the grim reality of the latter game kind of overshadows the possibility of actually having “fun” in an earlier article. I’m further into the game now, and certainly appreciate the gameplay, design, writing, and voice-acting, but it’s still more harrowing than “fun”. And sadly, 35 year old El Keter doesn’t have nearly as much fun as the kid who used to hit the arcade every weekend. Which is why I needed a game like WayForward’s “remastering” of ‘DuckTales’, an NES cartridge game based on the uber-successful after-school animated program ‘DuckTales’, to come waddling along and give me something good and old fashioned to have fun with!
Now, it should be noted that being I was a SEGA guy I didn’t play a lot of NES titles back in the day. Yeah, I’d get my Mario in whenever I’d visit a Nintendo-owning friend. I played ‘Metroid’. The appeal of ‘Zelda’ always eluded me though. And who gave a shit about ‘Ninja Gaiden’ when you had ‘Shinobi’? Anyway, the point is, I wasn’t necessarily familiar with the vast majority of the Nintendo catalog. And I certainly never played the original NES ‘DuckTales’. I was, like most people of a certain age group, a fan of the cartoon. But I have zero nostalgia for the game, which was apparently a fan favorite. I was sold on the “remastered” take on the 8-bit classic solely by the video promos showcasing what appeared to be gorgeous hand-animated 2-D characters inhabiting an amazingly rendered 3-D recreation of the fowl-filled world of the ‘DuckTales’ ‘toon. All it took was a quick glimpse of those videos, and the co-sign of my Nintendo-owning (yes, she still has an NES and and Atari 2600) housemate m. Cody (who has insisted I also mention the fact that she’s already beaten ‘The Last of Us’) who apparently was a fan of the NES title, and I added ‘DuckTales’ to my “must buy” list. The fact that it would only cost $15 on the PlayStation Network Store only sweetened the deal. And trust me when I say that once purchased, the deal, was in fact sweet. Not only do the graphics bring the original game’s sad pixelated take on the characters to smooth, beautiful, colorful, fully animated life, but the original voice actors deliver all the dialogue, both throughout the game’s several platforming levels and during the cut scenes which flesh out the admittedly thin story, lending even more authenticity for fans of the show.
More important than any of that though is the fact that the game is just pure fun to play! I’ve seen a few reviews of the game go negative because, while the audio and visuals were given a complete makeover, WayForward left the gameplay, along with the old-school control mechanism, largely intact. Oddly, this has resulted in complaints of it being both too easy and too hard, as well as allegations that projects like this are fueled solely by nostalgia, particularly nostalgia for things probably better left in the past. Personally, I have no nostalgia for the original ‘DuckTales’ game. I don’t have an axe to grind here. I thought the remastered graphics were pretty, and when I played it I had a shitload of fun. This could be a brand new ‘DuckTales’ title and I’d have the same reaction. Yeah, you just sort of hop around a lot, collect loot, and bop enemies on their heads. It’s a simple, incredibly good-looking game and I haven’t had as much fun playing another game in a very, very, long time. And I think what keeps it so fun is the fact that it remains so pure to a different era of gaming. I know, there are developers, particularly indie developers whose bread and butter are games that visually and stylistically hearken back or pay homage to bygone eras. Two of my favorite recent titles, the hand-animated side-scrolling fighter ‘Skull Girls’ and the “Metroidvania”-style platformer ‘Guacamelee’, do just that. But both games, while lusciously designed and fun in their own way, miss the mark ever so slightly by utilizing game mechanics that cater to modern gamers by relying on a bunch of overly complicated combos that make simple tasks more difficult than they need to be. Sticking to the basics helps keep ‘DuckTales’ fun until the very end.
Seriously, what more do you want? The game is friggin’ gorgeous! The music is incredible! The voice-work is phenomenal! The gang—Scrooge, Huey, Dewey, Louie, Webby, Duckworth, Ms. Beakly, Launchpad, Gyro, Fenton/Gizmoduck, Bubba, The Beagle Boys, Glomgold, and Magica—are all here! It is nothing but fun! And it only costs $15 in the PlayStation Store! It’s an easy must-buy, both for folks who loved the original, and people who just want a taste of what console gaming used to be like, without sacrificing their high definition graphics and surround sound in the process. And honestly folks, I really hope ‘DuckTales’ is the start of a whole new trend of “remastered” titles that bring classic gameplay into the modern milieu with updated graphics and sound. I hear they’re already working on Mickey Mouse’s ‘Castle of Illusion’, a SEGA title that actually engenders genuinely warm feelings in the heart of this aging gamer, and from what I’ve seen they’re doing some really interesting things with it. Is it only a matter of time before we get an upgraded Mega Man, or Sonic? Nintendo’s been rehashing Mario and Donkey Kong ad infinitum for years already. How about remixed takes on ‘Gauntlet’, ‘Golden Axe’, or ‘Altered Beast’? Just make sure you bring back whoever it was that screeched “WELCOME TO YOUR DOOM!” in the original. Personally I think a genuine arcade classic like ‘Rampage’ is a prime candidate for an update. Just think of what modern graphics quality could bring to the squashing and eating of all those screaming civilians! Oh, there I go again with that bloodlust…