Disney's DuckTales (NES)

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Written by  :  Mumm-Ra (410)
Written on  :  Oct 19, 2004
Platform  :  NES

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A great game released even before the beginning of such strict control of Disney products.

The Good

Duck Tales is a very nice game for NES. The story is very simple: the player takes control of Scrooge McDuck, a Scottish old duck, who claims to be the richest in the world. Like every self-made duck, he lots of friends, but also have lots of enemies.This is the the part of the story everyone who is familiar with Walt Disney and Carl Barks works knows. In this game, Scrooge is on a quest to find some valuable treasures, hidden in places such as Amazon, the Transylvania, African Mines, the Himalayas and even the Moon! Simple, but effective, huh? OK, let's see it.

First, the game has a great appeal. It featured the Duck Tales, which were very popular for the time because of the TV series. And it is always very nice to have Disney characters starring 8-bit and 16-bit games because their traces can be easily recognized. Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Scrooge McDuck and other characters have big heads (in comparison to the rest of their bodies) and people can immediately recognize them (have you ever stopped to think why Mario, Alex Kidd and Sonic have big heads?).

Well, the game is still appealing even now, after the Duck Tales are gone. Scrooge McDuck, the great star, is a timeless character. He has courage and taste for adventure. And NES is the only console to have a Scrooge McDuck game.

Of course, there wouldn't be this kind of appealing if the graphics were crap. They are really good for the time, much better than the great majority of other 1989 games. Disney characters, which the player, playing the role of Scrooge, meets all the time, are instantly recognizable. The sprites, though simple, are colorful and cartoonish and the animation is good (the movements flow very well), although there was not much control of Walt Disney Studios as there is now (meaning: expect good quality for NES standards, but never perfection). The enemies are different in each stage and are all as detailed as the main character (unlike most NES games). Backgrounds, as in most great NES games, are nice, but, as NES did not have much processor power to develop lots of graphic elements on the screen, were not really amazing. Expect colorful graphics, but be aware of the limited NES graphics capabilities.

The Duck Tales theme song is present on the title screen, but different tunes fill Scrooge's adventure. All of them are pleasant, but none remarkable. Nobody would ask for the soundtrack album. The music doesn't call much attention to it. To sum it up, they are a good accessory for the game itself. It certainly creates atmosphere and that's important: when a boss enters the stage (such as Magica the Spell or Dracula Duck) the music changes! Sound effects are nice and varied, a rarity for NES.

OK, graphics and sound are nice, but what is really impressive about this game is the fact that its creators payed so much more attention to the game itself than to the technical aspects which, although not irrelevant, are not the definitive criterium to analyze it. Graphics and sound are good, but they were made to be a great company for the gameplay first and, second, to amaze the players. In just a few words, this game is pure fun!

Gameplay is REALLY nice. People at Capcom developed this game to be as pleasant as it could. And they reached their aim. The game is very nice to be played. It had a very good use for the NES 2-button gamepad: one of the buttons jumped and the other one did nothing alone. But it was the button of movements, to be used combined with the other one or with the directional pad. And it made the game very simple to be played. It requires some practice and may not be very intuitive, but works very well. Also, it has to be said: gameplay is not completely original. It borrows many aspects from Mega Man, the most popular NES game from Capcom. But some elements are original and even this fact doesn't take the charm of the game.

The stages were full of secret passages and hidden rooms. One of them, Transylvania, had almost one surprise per screen. They were not hard to be found; in fact, it was easy to discover a secret passage. There are five stages and you can visit them all again to collect more treasures and increase your amount of money. You can go and come back any time. Just have fun! This shows the concern about quality and real entertainment the staff at Capcom had when producing this game.

Because of its gameplay qualities, Duck Tales is a game of great replay value. You can play the game hundreds of times and then discover a new secret room (you will probably discover them all quite quickly, but there are always new aspects of the game to be perceived). Or try to collect more money then before, breaking your own record (which is the aim of the game, after all).

The gameplay is so nice Sega used many of its elements to produce Castle Of Illusion for Master System in 1991. This game, also based on a Disney character (the player used Mickey to save Minnie in a much more dramatic storyline), followed the same style as Duck Tales. Well, let's see. Mickey's movements were based on Scrooge's (one button for jumping and one generic for doing anything else, but would not work alone). While Mickey could climb stairs, Scrooge would climb ropes. Mickey could grab blocks and Scrooge used his pogo stick to move them (the movement was the same: generic button + directional pad). Mickey would use his bottom to beat enemies while jumping. Scrooge could use his stick to do the same (also, the same movement: press the jump button and the other one while jumping). Also, Castle Of Illusion would feature a similar gameplay, with hidden rooms and the possibility to choose in which stage to start. OK, Castle Of Illusion is a terrific game and all this stuff doesn't spoil it, but it has to be recognized that if the Mickey mouse game is excellent because of its gameplay, so is the Scrooge one.

Also, there are three difficulty levels to choose from, which is always good news: the game can be played by beginners or more advanced gamers.

The Bad

Alright, the storyline is not very nice. Stories are never nice, but this game deserved a good one. At least it is simple and sincere: Scrooge searches for treasures all around the world and even on the moon. They don't totally spoil it inventing some tragic event happening suddenly... the story here is much more honest the way it is.

Graphics are nice, but the background is too simple and empty sometimes (such as in Amazon - the forest deserved more trees than pictured on the game - or the Himalayas). The sprites are also too simple sometimes.

It can also be said that stages are too short. Although there are lots of hidden rooms and the stages are somewhat complex, the game is really short. You can reach the end of each stage very quickly, in about half an hour or even less if you don't care about collecting diamonds and other treasures. Also, there are just a few stages. Five stages with the same backgrounds! And one of them is repetitive (you play Transylvania twice just to meet Dracula Duck at the end of the second time).

Finally, the game can be too easy for some, despite the possibility of choosing the level of difficulty.

The Bottom Line

Duck Tales is one of the best titles ever released for NES. It is involving and entertains a lot. A nice and pleasant game to play. It has nice graphics and sound, simple controls but a complex gameplay. And as the game is not difficult and is short, it is worth a try. Pure fun!