DuckTales – NES
Publisher: Capcom, Disney Interactive Studios
Release Date: September 14, 1989 (US)
Nerd Rating: 8.5/10
Reviewed by: InfiniteKnife
Bless me bagpipes! DuckTales is a classic platformer that took one of our favorite cartoons from the late 80s/early 90s and made a really well-done, enjoyable game that has really held up well through the years. I know a lot of us who grew up during the 80s/90s remember this show and I think it’s safe to say most who owned an NES knew about this game.
Scrooge McDuck is the richest in all of Duckberg and keeps his wealth in a ginormous vault that he likes to dive into for the occasional swim. Scrooge will go to many lengths to build upon his already insane amount of wealth, including placing himself (and his nephews) into life-threatening situations. As one would expect, there are some folks who want to help liberate some of that loot from Scrooge, and as a result, we have an entertaining cartoon for kids to enjoy.
DuckTales involves Scrooge going around the world to find five extremely rare treasures to make him even more filthy rich. The search takes him to the Himalayan mountains, Transylvania, the Amazon jungle, African mines, and the Moon (yes, the freakin’ moon!). Gameplay is simple and effective. Scrooge can walk and jump, but uses his cane as his main weapon. It can be used to hit small objects and send them flying which can take out enemies and knock down otherwise unreachable treasures, or open chests and other containers to reveal treasure and powerups. The other use for the cane is the pogo jump, which is the most used, and useful, ability in the game. Using the pogo to jump on most enemies will defeat them. You are also able to jump much higher and traverse terrain that would otherwise harm Scrooge if he simply walked on it. If this sounds simple, it’s because it is, and this is part of what makes the game great.
From the start, you can pick any of the 5 levels and play them in any order you wish. While progressing through each area, there are lots of treasures to pick up in the form of small and large diamonds that can be found in chests and that pop out of the air when you pass over certain spots, so it is worth it to jump around (jump up jump up and get down) liberally to maximize your score. Your score is displayed in the form of total money collected, and the amount you have by the end of the game can have an effect on the ending.
Characters from the show including Huey, Duey, Louie, Webby, and Bubba turn up in situations where they need to be rescued from an enemy (like the Beagle Boys) or an environmental hazard. Once rescued, they offer a tip on completing the level or access to a different area. At certain points, Launchpad McQuack comes along to give you a lift in his helicopter, and Mrs. Beakley gives treats that restore health.
The level designs offer some variety in textures as all levels are in different areas of the world, and a few have different elements to change it up like the mine cart area of the Transylvania stage or the snow that gets you stuck if you pogo on it in the Himalayas. Each level has at least one secret area that has bonus treasures and powerups including temporary invincibility and adding to Scrooge’s maximum health. There are 3 difficulty settings, but they are largely the same save for differences in the amount of health items found and the lack of invincibility powerups in Hard mode.
I would say that the boss fights in each level are easier than the levels leading up to them, but they still offer enough variety that each one doesn’t feel exactly the same. The final boss fight against Dracula Duck is a bit disappointing because one would expect a final fight to be the most challenging and it wasn’t much different than an earlier one with Magica de Spell.
Anyone who has played DuckTales will tell you that the music is one of the most memorable things about it, and even playing today, the soundtrack is an absolute pleasure to listen to again in all its 8-bit glory. My personal favorites are the Moon and Transylvania, but all are memorable and just listening to them as you play is reason enough to keep coming back to replay the game.
Overall, DuckTales is one of the more nostalgia-inducing NES titles from my youth and it’s still a lot of fun to dust off and play through. It only takes about 1-2 hours to complete, so if you never got the chance, “Curse me kilts!” try it out!
P.s. – In 2013, a remastered version of DuckTales was released for next-gen systems featuring new graphics, level designs, and dialog voiced by the actors from the cartoon show. Check out The Cubist’s review here.
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