So Webby has been kidnapped...
Oh, wait, huh? This is an NES game in which one of the female protagonists hasn't been kidnapped? What the hell is this?! Cats living with dogs! My entire belief system has been shaken to its core!
Seriously now, younger readers might not believe this, but the Walt Disney Company wasn't always the cesspool of avarice-over-quality that it is now. Straight-to-video sequels were not always the order of the day! After the death of Walt Disney himself, they spent many years being more inept than greedy and artistically offensive. They did have a period of glory, however, that lasted from roughly 1987 until 1995, during which they were actually a respectable company. It was during this period, for example, that they produced four of their most critically-acclaimed animated features: The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. Their first serious attempt at a half-hour TV show, Gummi Bears, came and went with little fanfare, perhaps because of its stupid name (though it was an excellent show). But in 1987, Disney had a hit on their hands in the form of Duck Tales, a show which combined obscure comic book character Scrooge McDuck with Donald Duck's well-known nephews and sent them on a series of adventures all over the world and beyond, generally in the pursuit of money. Duck Tales was the true beginning of the TV portion of Disney's early 90s resurgence.
Coincidentally, Capcom became really adept at making video games around 1989, and they had an iron grip on Disney licenses. So when the time came for the NES version of Duck Tales, it was Capcom who had to make it, and they made something good. The basic plot would be pretty hard to screw up - just send Scrooge all over the world looking for money. Since they managed to do that, avoiding the kidnapped Webby trap in the process, all Capcom had to do was make a game whose mechanics were enjoyable.
I think it goes without saying that Duck Tales is a side-scrolling adventure game. It's actually quite hard not to be reminded of Mega Man II as you play it.
There are five levels in Duck Tales - the Amazon, Transylvania, an African mine, the Himalayas, and the Moon - each one containing a million-dollar treasure. As Scrooge, your task is simple: go through the level, beat the boss, and obtain the treasure, while collecting extra money along the way. The levels are all large and non-linear, allowing for and actively encouraging plenty of exploration, and are packed with hidden treasures and secrets. You can only go through each level once, though, which mostly keeps you from being able to go through multiple times to boost your money supply to the heavens.
Your weapon is Scrooge's cane, which is used in two ways. One, it can be swung like a golf club to whack around rocks and blocks and force diamonds out of coal and such. But the main use of it is the pogo jump, in which you bounce around on the cane, allowing you to both avoid damage from spiked surfaces and defeat enemies by "stomping" on them, not to mention bouncing to heights otherwise unattainable.
Along the way, you'll encounter large and small diamonds of both the red and yellow varieties, which are worth money. These can come out of defeated enemies and treasture chests opened with a smack or bounce of the cane, but mostly you'll be finding them hidden all over the place, as they appear from mid-air if you happen to pass through the right spot. There are zillions of them sprinkled throughout the levels, along with the game's other items: ice cream and cake for refilling life, and little Scrooge dolls that count as 1-ups. Also hidden away are two stars that add points to your life meter, and two extra treasures worth a million dollars each.
Characters from the TV show are also in there. The nephews and Webby show up here and there to give you hints, Mrs. Beakley can sometimes be found spreading around life-restoring ice cream, Launchpad shows up in each level to offer you a way out if you don't feel like finishing it, Gyro Gearloose is cunningly hidden, and even the two characters added late in the show's run, Bubba and Gizmo Duck, make cameo appearances. There will also be a few villains, both recurring and cameo, who will show up just in time to be defeated by you. The only characters who don't show up are Donald, Duckworth, and Doofus, because people whose names start with D can go to hell. Come to think of it, wasn't another character named Dijon added really really late in the series? And hey, wasn't there a minor female character named Gandra D.? Conspiracy!
The game has three difficulty levels: Easy, Normal, and Difficult. Normal is the basic one. In Easy, each point of your life meter takes two hits to depete, so you basically have twice as much life. I couldn't initially spot the difference between Normal and Difficult modes, and it took a trip to GameFAQs to explain to me that some life restoring items are turned into diamonds in that version. Okay.
- Great graphics that do all that the 1989 NES would allow to look like the TV show, except for a few wrong colors, most noteably that Scrooge's coat is red (as in the comic books) instead of blue (as in the show).
- In addition to great graphics, there is also phenomenal sound, especially the music.
- The gameplay is great too, including the level design.
- I'm not sure it's possible to get the best ending without cheating, but I suppose I could be wrong.
- There are two points in the game where you have to go back to levels you've previously been to. Both times, the level is Transylvania. You'd think they could have picked another level for you to visit twice.
- That's it.
TIPS & TRICKS
- You can go through a level and get all the money in it, but instead of moving on to the boss, find Launchpad and go home. Your money will be saved, and then you can go back to the level again, where all the treasure will be replaced for you to obtain again.
- Also, if you go home via Launchpad when the ten thousands digit in your score is 7, you'll get to play a bonus stage featuring Gyro.
- Jump everywhere, try to walk through every wall, and golf swing your cane at anything that looks interesting: stumps, tombstones, crates of coal... Diamonds are hidden literally everywhere. There's also one fake floor.
How inspiring to know that a licensed game that could easily have been half-assed and left at that turns out to be one of the best games in the NES's library.
Thumbs up for Duck Tales.
Magica DeSpell, motherfucker!
I think this guy was in one episode.
You know it's a Capcom game when each level has an endless stream
of a certain enemy charging from the right side of the screen.
...probably because Count Duckula was copyrighted.